Monday, December 30, 2019

Tips for Getting a Job When You Have a Criminal Record

I wrote the following story on how those with a criminal record can get a job, but these tips apply to any job seeker -- highlight transferable skills, network and be prepared to talk about what you can bring to an employer....

While more than two dozen states and 150 cities have adopted initiatives to give people with criminal records a fair shot at employment, that doesn't mean those who were formally incarcerated won't have to eventually address the issue in an interview or explain why they have an employment gap on their resume. estimates that the unemployment rate for the formerly incarcerated is about 27 percent, which is higher than the total U.S. unemployment rate during any historical period, including during the Great Depression. As a result of such a high percentage, legislation collectively known as "Ban the Box" prevents (read more here)

Monday, December 23, 2019

Employers No Longer Disqualify Those With Criminal Backgrounds

From July 2007 to July 2008, more than 10,000 people left Las Vegas as the unemployment rate in the metro area skyrocketed to more than 12 percent and home prices plunged by 30 percent. It was a grim time. Thousands of workers who filled construction jobs left the state in search of a way to survive the Great Recession.
Fast forward to 2019, and Las Vegas is once again experiencing a construction boom. Unfortunately, many of those skilled workers who left have not returned, putting employers in a tough position as they scramble to fill construction jobs that can pay up to $40 an hour.
Enter Jon Ponder. A former convict who founded Hope for Prisoners, Ponder has formed an organization that supplies construction companies and other employers (read more here)

Monday, December 16, 2019

4 Interview Tips to Help You Get the Job

If you want to be successful in finding a job after you graduate from college, be prepared to do some homework.
What? You thought your homework days were over? Not so, say hiring managers and other experts.
First, you need to make sure that you craft your resume and cover letter for each job so that you're highlighting as many of the skills as possible that the employer is seeking. Second, do your research on the employer so that you can mention in your cover letter that you're inspired (read more here)

Monday, December 9, 2019

The Greatest Gift to Give Workers This Year

By now, most people have heard of the Secret Santa.

He's the guy who passes out $100 bills to those in need. He often finds these folks at thrift stores, bargain aisles or anywhere else there is someone just trying to make ends meet. He knows they need some extra kindness at holiday time.

This year, he recruited Milwaukee bus drivers to help him pass out the money. Why? Because these bus drivers have a reputation of helping others. He thought they would make great elves, and he was right.

These bus drivers handed out thousands of dollars and raved about what a wonderful experience it was for them. They were there to see the difference they made in people's lives.

How many employees can say that about their jobs? How many go to work each day knowing that the world will be better because they swept a floor or entered data into a computer or drove a bus?

The cofounder of Fast Company, Bill Taylor, recently wrote an article called, "Do You Give Employees a Reason to Feel Proud of What They Do?"

He writes: "Everywhere you look, the competitive environment is more demanding than ever, which means that people at every level, and especially those on the front lines, have to be at their best, their most determined, every day. There’s no doubt that giving people raises can up their game, and I’m all for it. But I’m convinced that if you truly want people to elevate their performance, you first have to build up their pride. It’s much more likely that people will do things in exceptional ways if they believe deeply in what they do."

I've interviewed many experts over the years, and the one thing they can agree on is that everyone's job adds value. They may not realize it, but it's true. The person who works in a canning factory adds value because she's helping to ensure the quality stays high so that no one gets sick from the product. The bus driver adds value because he ensures that an elderly woman safely makes it to her doctor's appointment on time. The school janitor adds value because he keeps a school in good condition so that it's a positive learning environment for children.

The problem is, we often lose sight of why our jobs matter. That's why every boss should spend time throughout the year reminding each worker about why his or her job makes the world a better place. Why what they do matters, even if the job is sometimes dumb or boring.

As Taylor says, giving people more pay or bonuses at the end of the year is certainly nice, but the most meaningful gift may be simply telling a worker that what she or he does matters.

Monday, December 2, 2019

5 Holiday Gift Ideas for Co-Workers

It's that time of year again -- trying to figure out what to get a colleague for the annual gift swap (besides that giant bottle of booze in your grocery's discount aisle). Or, perhaps you want to get something for that great co-worker who has helped you out more times than you can count.

Here are some ideas for that team member on your gift list:

  1. Memberships. If your co-worker loves the local museum or zoo or wombat rescue park, you can't go wrong getting a membership so they can enjoy it whenever they need a wombat cuddle.

2. Office stuff. In a bit of irony, why not give the person in the office something from The Office? How about this Clue version of The Office:

3. Travel. Whether it's for work or pleasure, people often need something to keep all their stuff secure -- and dry. This Yeti bag may be just the thing for that co-worker who traverses the wilds of the Amazon or just needs somewhere to keep all his or her stuff while attending a conference on wombats.
4. Plants. It's been shown that greenery reduces stress, but it can be a bit difficult to go outside and enjoy nature when there's a blizzard outside. This plant is easy to grow (I have one and it has survived for the last five years with little assistance from me). It makes a great desk plant because it doesn't care who stares at it all day.

5. Charity gifts. If your co-worker makes it clear that he or she does not want anything for sustainability reasons (or simply because she is super picky and doesn't trust anyone else to choose a good gift), then think about doing good while also showing appreciation for the co-worker. A charity gift in a co-worker's name can "give back" through gifting a dairy goat or clean water to those in need.

Monday, November 25, 2019

Does Your Workplace Have Unconscious Biases?

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 forming assumptions and stereotypes about others.

In the workplace, this has become a cause for concern as employers worry that such biases can lead to multiple problems – problems such as poor hiring decisions, a lack of innovation or discrimination.

As a result, human resources often is tasked with figuring out how organizations can deal with such unconscious biases and overcome them. It’s not always easy. Unconscious biases (read more here)

Monday, November 18, 2019

Research: Facial Imperfections Impact Hiring

Research shows that attractive people get paid more and are considered for more jobs, which I'm sure most of us consider unfair and discriminatory.

Now there is new research from Rice University and the University of Houston that suggests if someone has a birthmark, mole or scar or some other "facial imperfection," then it's likely that will affect how that person is evaluated during a Skype interview.

The solution, according to researchers, is to acknowledge the "imperfection" at the beginning of a conversation, which makes employers less likely to focus on it.

"Facial stigmas draw attention during social interactions, including interviews," says Juan Madera, associate professor of management at the University of Houston. "Our experiment showed that it draws attention at the start of an interaction, and then people look away. Seconds later they look back at it, and this cycle of looking back and forth is continuous. We theorize that people try to make sense of it. They may ask themselves, 'What is it?' 'How did they get that?' 'Is it is from an accident?' or 'Were they born with it?' In an interview setting, an interviewer also needs to pay attention to an applicant’s answers, which is probably why they continuously look away from it."

If they don't acknowledge the "imperfection," then "people seem to get stuck in a vicious cycle of staring at the scar and looking away," notes Mikki Hebl, the Martha and Henry Malcom Lovett Chair of Psychology at Rice.

Researchers say they hope the study will highlight workplace discrimination and show how a person's looks can affect the hiring process.

For more information, check out:

Monday, November 11, 2019

You Need This to Be Happier and More Successful at Work

More employers are beginning to focus on "emotional intelligence" when making new hires and when deciding who is ready to be promoted.

Emotional intelligence is often described as an ability to be empathetic to others, to understand their emotions -- and your own emotions -- and how to best deal with them in the workplace.

But emotional intelligence isn't easy for everyone, and some may believe that when they need it they can just Google it and figure it out. But it's more complex than that, and without some commitment of time and energy, your efforts are going to fall flat.

If you want to be successful in today's workplace, then you need to embrace emotional intelligence and understand how it will not only make you a better employee or leader, but also improve other aspects of your life. Once you tune into people emotions -- and your own feelings -- then you will make better decisions, reduce your stress and be more successful.

In a new book, "Emotional Intelligence (You Can Really Use)" author Kerry Goyette explores several issues, including how trying to survive office politics "tempts us to defensively guard our reputation at all costs."

How so? By wearing "ego armor" that we believe protects us. We detect a threat, and since we only have seconds to react, we react with conflict avoidance; impulsiveness; blame-shifting; control; perfectionism; or power hunger. Such reactions help us feed our need for immediate gratification or to mask our insecurities. But they're rooted in fear and we can overcome them to make better decisions, she says.

One suggestion: Sit down and write about what you will do when one of the above issues pops up. When you want to shift blame, what will you do instead? When you go into avoidance mode, what will you do to counteract it?

"The earlier you recognize an emotion, the more choice you will have in dealing with it," says Dr. Paul Ekman, a deception detection expert  in Goyette's book. "In Buddhist terms, it's recognizing the spark before the flame. In Western terms, it's trying to increase the gap between impulse and saying or doing something you might regret later."

Monday, November 4, 2019

Is Your Job About to Become Obsolete?

Trade wars. Labor strikes. The rise of automation.
Those are the things that are most worrisome for the U.S. economy and the employment outlook, along with the decline in manufacturing, retail and government jobs. But before panic sets in, it’s important to note that there are plenty of bright spots in the job picture, especially heading into the next six months.
“I'm very optimistic about the economy and jobs,” says Tom Gimbel, CEO of the LaSalle Network in Chicago, a staffing and recruiting firm.
Experts like Gimbel are upbeat because, even though jobless claims have inched up at times this year, and various sectors (agriculture, manufacturing) are being affected by trade disruptions, there are no indications that a recession is (read more here)

Monday, October 28, 2019

Help Your Career by Learning the Art of Persuasion

Have you ever tried to persuade someone to do something at work -- give you a pay raise, let you take on a new project, adopt a new system -- and you fail miserably?

There's a reason for your lack of success. The technical term is called "reactance," which in layman's terms means: "The harder you push, the less someone else will want to do what you want."

That's a pretty key understanding of human nature if you want to be successful in your career. There are always going to be times when you're trying to persuade someone of something, from the small ("Can you wait on customers while I run to the restroom?") to the large ("Can I take the next six weeks to work exclusively on this new idea I have?")

New research sheds some light on effective persuasion techniques. One of the keys is that too many people rely on emails or texts when they're communicating, and that lacks persuasive power. Instead, talk to someone in person, or on the phone if that's not possible.

Also, think about the words you will use when persuading someone. You need to choose words carefully and not overuse certain ones in every situation or you end up sounding like an infomercial. For example, "you" is an important word, humanizing your connection to the other person. Other powerful words of persuasion include "free," "because," "instantly" and "new."

Next time you want to persuade someone at work, don't just try and wing it. Think about your goal, the best time to approach someone (not when they're under great stress or deadline), keeping your voice modulated and using words that persuade.

Monday, October 21, 2019

How to Impress a Company So You Get Hired

Job seekers currently looking for their full-time dream job may find the road to success begins by landing one of the hundreds of thousands of seasonal jobs available this holiday season.
That’s because many employers consider seasonal work an informal trial run of potential permanent hires, and the smartest seasonal workers will be prepared to make an impression. Since the hiring criteria for seasonal workers is often much less rigorous than for permanent hires, it gives more people a chance to get a foot in the door.
“Many people who can’t get a full-time job say they just need to be able to show employers what they can do, but they can’t get an interview or maybe they don’t interview well,” says Lisa Rangel, CEO of Chameleon Resumes and Job Landing Academy. “So, the seasonal job becomes a working interview.”
That’s an advantage for those (read more here)

Monday, October 14, 2019

Need a Seasonal Gig? These May Be Just What You Want

Last year was a blockbuster holiday season for retailers, but threats of trade wars and a volatile stock market may put a damper on consumer spending and that could translate into less seasonal hiring this year, one labor expert says.
"It's hard to say if 2019 will be as giving as last year," says Alan Benson, an assistant professor in the work and organizations group at the University of Minnesota. "Last year, retailers hired for some 700,000 seasonal job openings. That's a big chunk of the labor force. A good season is enough to move the needle (read more here)

Monday, October 7, 2019

Here are Some Great Part-Time Gigs for College Students

Decades ago, it wasn’t unusual to find college students earning extra money waiting tables or working at the local mall while on holiday breaks from school. Coeds still occupy these types of jobs, but today the options are more extensive — allowing students to work schedules that better fit their needs, or commute no farther than their dorm rooms thanks to laptops and the internet.
“The tech savvy-ness of college students sets them up nicely to handle some interesting jobs, like remote jobs, for example,” says Brie Reynolds, career development manager and coach at FlexJobs, a job search and advice site. “"Some of the part-time remote jobs we’ve seen posted frequently include (see more here)

Monday, September 30, 2019

Study Reveals the Havoc Caused by Liars and Cheats

It may start one day with a bit of deception on your part.

You're late getting a report done, so you plagiarize some obscure white paper so that you can turn it in on time, but never mention the work is not entirely yours. Or, perhaps you make a mistake, but instead of admitting you screwed up, you blame a summer intern who has returned to school for the semester.

You may not think much about such lies. After all, the person who wrote the white paper is dead and no one really liked that intern anyway. So, no harm, no foul.

But a new report from the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, Washington University, the University of Virginia and Harvard University finds that once someone becomes dishonest, then they no longer are as accurate about reading the emotions of other people.

That may sound fairly benign, until you consider the growing importance of emotional intelligence in the workplace and how more employers believe it's critical to long-term success.

In the study, researchers say they discovered that after cheating once, it not only reduced someone's ability to read emotions, but it also made it more likely that the person would cheat again.

One of the most worrisome findings to me was that researchers say that once you start down that slippery slope of being dishonest, then you start to "dehumanize" others and that fuels negative biases against those outside your group. For workplaces trying to be more inclusive, that should be a huge red flag.

Monday, September 23, 2019

4 Things Your Boring Presentation is Missing

There's a reason so many people have their heads bowed during a presentation: They're either asleep or playing "Words With Friends" on their phones.

This is a broad generalization, and my apologies to those who really are listening to the speaker. But be honest with yourself: When was the last time you listened raptly to a presentation from beginning to end?

For me, that answer is rarely. I don't like to sit through presentations that are dull, overly complex or delivered by someone who could put the Energizer Bunny to sleep.

If you're going to give a presentation, here are some things to make it much better:

1. Use similes and metaphors. It doesn't matter if you're presenting information on neurological disorders or leprechauns, it's always helpful to use some similes or metaphors to add some intrigue to your presentation -- and audience members are much more likely to remember that simile or metaphor rather than some dry data. Think of the way that advertisers use similes in slogans: "Chevrolet: Built Like a Rock," or "State Farm: Like a Good Neighbor." Or, if your team is considering several proposals, you might say something like, "Plan A would be like throwing the pilot out of a stricken aircraft to make it lighter."

2. Use facts. Of course you need to use facts! Just make sure they're related to your presentation in a way that isn't overwhelming. For example, don't read off a handful of statistics and expect your audience to understand their meaning. Choose to put them on a slide, and then read only one or two out loud -- and demonstrate their importance. This is also where you can use similes or metaphors to help your audience connect more strongly to the information.

3. Make a refrigerator list. Want to know if something is important to a family? Check what's displayed on the outside of their refrigerator. There will be family photos, important reminders about upcoming events -- and usually a list of some kind that reveals "10 steps to getting your home ready for fall" or "5 ways to get rid of deer in your backyard." When you write a presentation, do you provide concrete ideas that could be referred to over and over? Is your checklist full of actionable items or things to consider?

4. End strong. I've been at some presentations where the speaker ends and just sort of stands there or wanders away. Some people start to clap while others seem confused. Is the presentation over? Well, it must be as the presenter seems to be loading up his briefcase and grabbing his laptop. You do not want to leave your audience dazed and confused. Your final message must be strong. This will be the thing the listeners will remember most. You can concisely summarize your key points and then issue a call for action or ask a question for the audience to consider.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Why Temping Can Be a Great Career Move

Sometimes careers can take an unexpected turn, but it's how you handle it that can determine whether it's a turn that is beneficial, or one that leads you into a career dark hole.

Let's say you get laid off unexpectedly. Or, you have recently graduated and you cannot get a job in your desired field. Perhaps you had a health issue, and took a leave of absence and now you can't get your old job back.

Your first thought may be to join the gig economy and slap an Uber or Lyft sticker on your car or start ferrying food for GrubHub.

But stop for a minute and consider that those kinds of jobs may help you pay the bills in the short run, but don't really do anything to help you get your career back on track.

One option that could prove beneficial while you're trying to get your career back on the right road is temping.

The American Staffing Association reports that staffing companies in this country hire 17 million temp and contract workers every year. Most of them (76%) work fulltime, while 49% of temps say it's a way to get a permanent job. Nine out of 10 report that staffing work made them more employable.

Here are some other things to consider about temp jobs:

  • You can learn new skills. If you're an introvert, for example, maybe you find it difficult to talk to people. But taking a job in retail or customer service is a great way to hone those skills that can be an asset in any job. Or, if you're a bit hesitant to use technology, you may be exposed to computers or other technology with a temp job that will boost your confidence and help you learn tech skills that will pay off when applying for other jobs.
  • You will grow your network. It's been said for about 70 million years (even the dinosaurs knew it) that it's not what you know, but who you know. Lots of jobs are gained through contacts, or someone putting in a good word about you -- or seeing you do a great job while as a temp. It's going to be much easier to find work you want to do permanently when you're out in the world learning and meeting new people rather than watching "The Price is Right" on the sofa at home and eating Cheetos.
  • You may have "aha" moments. Maybe you always thought you wanted to go into a certain line of work, but discovered through temping that it's no longer true. Perhaps you've found a new passion or something you're really good at. Or, maybe you confirm what you definitely do not want to do, and the temping job inspires you to try even harder and explore some new options.
When you're out of work, you may get frustrated and feel like you're never going to get another job. A temp position may be just the ticket to giving you time to think of a Plan B or learn new things that will pay off in the long run.

Monday, September 9, 2019

Never Accept a Job Without First Doing This

It's understood that when companies begin considering you for a job, they're going to do some thorough checking on your qualifications, references and even social media presence.

But how deeply have you probed the company? Beyond looking at the company's website or Facebook page, what do you really know about working for that employer?

No one should consider a job without doing due diligence, and that means some sleuthing beyond the employer's glossy website or carefully curated Facebook postings.

To really find out what it might be like to work for an employer, you need to:

  • Do some online stalking. This may sound a bit creepy, but you need to put in as much effort in checking out an employer as you would, say, figuring out if an ex is dating someone new. If you've gotten the name of some employees, try checking out their Twitter or Facebook postings. They may reveal angst, depression or anger connected to their jobs.
  • Be skeptical. A company-rating site like Glassdoor shows reviews by employees, who can talk about anything from pay to management to whether the vending machines suck. But sometimes companies don't like poor reviews, so they may instruct employees who have a more positive outlook to post reviews to counter criticisms. This is a problem experienced by other sites where people can post rankings, so be skeptical when you read reviews. Not all employers are trying to load up on positive reviews, but you need to balance this information with other things you may know. A lot of positive reviews in one month, for example, might be an indication that the employer is trying to pump up the ratings.
  • Be observant. Think about the people you met at the company. Were you allowed to talk to anyone you wanted? Did the hiring manager give you a tour of the facility -- what was the body language of those working there? It may sound simple, but did they smile? Or, did they give you a look like: "Get out now! Save yourself!"
  • Turn to your network. Check out your LinkedIn contacts and see if anyone is connected to the company. If so, that's a way to talk directly to a former worker who may be able to give you a clearer picture of the company. While you're on LinkedIn, do a search of the company name and look at the profile of former and current workers. Do they show a pattern of a short time at the company? This might be a sign they jumped ship because the employer isn't great.
It's estimated that it costs employer more than $4,000 to recruit and hire one new employee. That, of course, is one of the reasons they are focused on doing their due diligence of potential hires. But what does it cost you to look for a job? The time you spend and the resources you use are just as valuable. It's an investment that you should make sure pays off.

Monday, September 2, 2019

3 Things To Do This Month for Your Career

I'm looking at my garden, noting all the flowers that have started to die as we move into the fall season. It's not been below 80 degrees, but already one of my trees is started to lose its leaves.

At this time of year, many of us are dealing with back-to-school chaos or taking the last days of warm weather to go on vacation. 

When spring rolls around, we may be filled with energy as we emerge from the cold, dark days of winter. But when the days grow shorter in autumn, we may sort of begin to draw in on ourselves. We huddle a little more deeply into our cubicle, and think more about what soup to order for lunch rather than how to energize our careers.

That's why I've put together an autumn checklist for your career. It's a way to keep things headed in the right direction even as summer comes to a close. You should:

1. Touch base with your network. It's a great time to say "I hope you've enjoyed your summer!" to some of your LinkedIn contacts and then just sort of catch up. "Is there anything you're working on that I can help you with?" There also are usually a lot of fall workshops and seminars in various industries -- make a commitment to attend at least one so you can expand your network or connect with those in your industry.

2. Read at least one career-focused book. Try to read a book that will make you think more deeply about a subject, whether it's how to develop your emotional intelligence or how to give a better PowerPoint. Ask for recommendations from your network.

3. Do a career temperature check. This will take some time and shouldn't be rushed in between emails and meetings. Find some quiet time (mute the phone, please) when you can just write down any random thoughts you have about your career. Happy? Unhappy? Bored? Stressed? Fulfilled? Then, be more specific about what makes you unhappy or bored or fulfilled. The purpose of this exercise is to always be honest with yourself about your career. Your job is where you spend most of your time -- to not truly understand how you feel about it could lead to a lot of problems one day. If you've got a handle on your career and how you feel about it, you'll make smarter decisions day-to-day.

Finally, let me wish all of you a happy Labor Day. You inspire me every day with your hard work in the face of everything that life throws at you. 

Monday, August 26, 2019

3 Ways to Overcome Toxic People at Work

Many people look back on "toxic" relationships in their personal life and wonder how they could ever be so dumb. They cannot believe they let the other person take advantage of them, destroy their self-esteem and make them feel so isolated from people who truly cared out them.

But these relationships don't only happen in our personal lives. They also happen in our professional lives and can have such a negative affect that they can destroy or at least inhibit successful careers.

A toxic relationship at work can be tricky because it may be disguised as something else. For example, the older employee at work who "only has your best interests at heart" and so fills your ears with endless gossip about others or tries to make it seem that you're so naive it's amazing you get yourself dressed every morning by yourself. So, you end up doing what she suggests you should be doing -- or not doing -- because she is just looking out for you.

Or, there is the colleague who is the martyr. You know the one who sighs heavily when he's asked to do something. Then, he gives this shrug and a fake, brave smile as if he's been called to man the foxhole against a horde of alien invaders all by himself. "Sure," his voice wavers. "I can do that." You end up feeling like the worst person ever, so you say, "No, no! That's OK. I can do it myself." Even though the task should really be done by him and it means you'll have to stay late -- again.

How about the team member who uses so much charm you feel like you've just inhaled five pounds of cotton candy? This team member constantly tells you how awesome and wonderful and super-duper you are, as she merrily leaves for the weekend while shoving her work on you. You don't feel like you can speak up because, well, she's a friend, right? Or, is she....

All of these relationships share one thing in common: They are unequal. These people have found a way to burden you so that you feel manipulated or bullied or just depressed.

It won't take long before their behavior will start to affect your job performance. You will begin to lack energy and enthusiasm, your creativity will wane and you'll struggle to get through the day. You may even start to hate your job or your company when what you really hate is the way such people make you feel.

If you think this is happening, here are some things to think about:

1. Name it and own it. Be clear about what is happening. Stop trying to make excuses for the other person. Name how interactions with them make you feel.

2. Take action. Others are getting by with such behavior because you are letting them. When someone starts to whine, gossip or brown nose, quickly find somewhere else to be. If you can't make a quick exit, stop making eye contact. Cross your arms, tap your toe or shift your body away from them -- anything to show you're not listening and have already mentally left the area. 

3. Enlist allies. Chances are you're not the only one who is being exposed to toxic behavior. Look for team members who may be willing to help you "escape" these conversations. Or, try to be around more positive-minded colleagues. They're sort of like garlic to vampires -- toxicity spreaders would rather be elsewhere when there are positive, upbeat people hanging around.

Remember that these people only gained control over you and your emotions because you let them. Just tell yourself it's time to take back what you gave them -- right now.

Monday, August 19, 2019

Before Criticizing Team Members, Take a Look in the Mirror

Have you ever walked up to a cash register to pay for your Yoo-Hoo and there are two clerks bad-mouthing a manager or another worker? 

It doesn't seem to matter where -- banks, convenience stores, doctor's offices -- there always seems to be some grumbling about someone else. This person is the worst human walking the planet, according to these folks. They have transgressions that are as long as the credits for "Avengers: Endgame."  

But what many don't realize is that as soon as they are out of the room, they become the object of scorn. They are criticized as being the weakest link, as the person who is just awful. 

I'm not saying I'm innocent of this myself. Especially in my younger days, I was quick to judge and even quicker to excuse any of my own poor behavior. But as I've gotten older -- and hopefully wiser -- I've learned that all of us could do a better job of making improvements at work.

Without being aware of our own weaknesses and transgressions, then we're just part of the problem. Our team will not thrive because we're not willing to do the internal work that only we can do. Bottom line: If the team isn't successful, then the individuals on that team are going to pay the price.

In other words, if you're on a team that isn't performing well, then your own career will suffer.

Starting today, try using the energy you use blaming others for various woes and instead work on yourself. Some things to think about:

1. Take an internal temperature check. I was watching the "Apollo 11" documentary recently, and was struck by how mission control monitored the heart rates of the astronauts. While Neil Armstrong sounded cool as a cucumber when trying to find a spot to land on the moon, in reality his heart rate was around that of a rabbit trying to outrun a jaguar. Next time you're in stressful situation or feeling unhappy at work, try digging deep and finding the cause of your stress. Are you mad because Bryan messed up the PowerPoint? Or are you in reality annoyed with yourself that you didn't lend him a hand yesterday to ensure it went smoothly? Try tapping into what you're really feeling and you'll be better able to deal with the issue effectively instead of just stewing about Bryan and bad-mouthing him to others.

2.  Watch others. How do people react when you speak in a meeting? When you casually stop to talk in the halllway? If they exhibit all the friendliness of Alec Baldwin to the paparazzi, then you may have a problem. Or, if they refuse to look you in the eye and seem to be glancing around for an escape path, then you may have a problem. Let me stress, however, that you're not an FBI body language specialist, so don't count on this is a full-proof way to gauge how others see you. You may have to just ask for feedback from other team members: "What did I do in the meeting that you found helpful?" or "What did I do on that last project that you found least helpful?" This may not be too much fun, but it will give you a better idea of your impact on the team and help you learn what you can do to boost the team's performance.

3. Stick with it. Improving yourself takes a lot of hard, consistent work. You may resolve one bad habit, but another may spring up to take it's place. Or, you may start to feel very self-righteous and start correcting others since you're now such a gem. You need to not only constantly monitor your own behavior and reactions, but also try to delve deeper into why others may have a poor performance instead of bossing them around. Could it be that Angela is always late because she doesn't have reliable transportation and not because she's just lazy? Or, perhaps Ted's poor communication isn't because he's a jerk but because he's so shy finds it difficult to talk face-to-face or participate in meetings?

The next time you're quick to blame someone else for your team's poor performance, stop yourself and see if maybe you're not part of the problem -- and then hopefully part of the solution.

Monday, August 12, 2019

The 3 Things You Must Do Before Leaving an Internship

Many internships are drawing to a close as students head back to school.

But before anyone leaves an internship, there are some things to do that are critical (beyond snagging a few free pens and a coffee cup with the company logo):

1. Meet with your boss. Make sure you go to this meeting with a list of your accomplishments to share with your supervisor. Go beyond, "I showed up for work (almost) on time every day." Make sure to mention if you helped on a key project, even if it was to copy documents or do some research for team members. Those tasks helped keep things on track. By writing a report on what you did, you help remind the boss of your contributions. Such a document will be key for helping you get a permanent job there in the future or having the boss serve as a reference for another job.

2. Touch base with team members. You might not have worked closely with everyone in your department, but make the effort to thank each one for the opportunity to observe and learn. This helps solidify a positive impression of you so that you can immediately send them a LinkedIn request and continue to strengthen that bond. These are the people who will start to form your professional network, and are key to your future success.

3. Ask for feedback. This can be difficult to do, but it's an important step in developing your professional abilities. If all you heard was "Good job!" from everyone, that isn't really helpful. Search for those who may have been less enthusiastic (again, this can be difficult), but these are the people most likely to be brutally honest. You want the feedback that points out your weaknesses -- this is how you really improve and make strides in your career.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Become a Lifelong Learner or Risk Your Future

Infosys President Ravi Kumar predicts that 75 million jobs "old" jobs will vanish by 2022, replaced by 135 million "new" jobs that will  be created because of new technologies. As a result, he has some advice that no employee or job seeker should ignore: become a life-long learner.

"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," Kumar says.

Some of you reading this may believe that you've got this covered and learn something new every day. But is it the kind of learning that challenges you? That forces you to see everyday work tasks in a new way? That helps you come up with innovative ways to do things?

Others of you may believe that you're too old or too busy to learn new things. You may think that changes aren't going to hit your workplace or your industry anytime soon, and so you just continue as you've always done. You'll learn new things when the time in right.

The time is right -- right now. Those who hesitate to embrace learning will be quickly passed by when others have an easier time grasping new concepts or technologies. The only way to prepare for making changes is to be in a constant state of readiness, and that happens when you keep yourself turned toward constant learning.

This may sound a little daunting -- who wants to put themselves in a constant state of learning? Does it mean homework? Doing schoolwork that you were thrilled to leave behind in your younger days? Who has time for extra learning when you're barely coping with work and personal demands?

Forget all the things that intimidate you or that you didn't like about school or learning new things. Lifelong learning can be fun. It can enrich your life in ways you never imagined. Embrace it and you will find that it's something you never want to give up. Here are some ways to get started:

1. Set goals. Learning one new thing a day seems doable, doesn't it? Whether you're talking to someone or reading a new book, you're bound to learn something new. When you have a mindset of trying to learn something new every day, you're much more likely to seek out those opportunities for growth. Have lunch with someone you don't know well, pick up a new book or just listen to the conversations around you.

2. Turn away from screens. Give yourself permission to just think about something you've learned. Instead of listening to a podcast on your commute home or while exercising, think about something you learned. Don't watch videos on your lunch break. Go to the park and just think. Information is quickly forgotten unless it is reviewed.

3. Keep smart company. I often say that sometimes I am the dumbest person in the room -- and that's a good thing. I have had the opportunity to talk to some really smart and interesting people, and I am always challenged to rise to their level of thinking. By challenging yourself, you become less worried about how to keep up and more excited about learning.

4. Do what works for you. I love to read. It relaxes me and I seem to retain more. But I know others who learn by listening, so podcasts or audio books or public speakers are just the ticket for them. You're not in school anymore, so you can choose the learning technique that works best for you. Instead of looking at Facebook or Instagram, pick up a book or listen to an educational audio tape.

Monday, July 29, 2019

Study Finds the 3 Actions Taken by the Most Productive Managers

It's a familiar complaint among managers: They aren't as productive as they would like to be because they're constantly interrupted by the demands of others. They have to solve problems that seem to crop up constantly, they are required to attend endless meetings and their own bosses seem to need them for something several times a day.

Now a new study of 20,000 managers on six continents by Robert Pozen, senior lecturer at the MIT Sloan School of Management, sheds some light on how some managers are more productive than others.

Among the findings about the most productive leaders:

1. They base their work on their top priorities and then take action based on those stated objectives.

2. They develop techniques that are the most effective in managing a great deal of information and tasks.

3. They know the needs of their colleagues, which leads to shorter meetings, better communications and clearer directions.

Based on those findings, Pozen recommends:

  • Every night, revise your next day’s schedule to stress your top priorities. Decide your purpose for reading any lengthy material, before you start.
  •  Skip over 50-80 percent of your emails based on the sender and the subject. Break large projects into small steps — and start with step one.
  •  Limit any meeting to 90 minutes or less and end each meeting with clearly defined next steps. Agree on success metrics with your team.

Monday, July 22, 2019

10 Signs Your Best Employee is About to Quit

When you're the boss, there are days when your life seems like one big dumpster fire. Then, there are the days when it feels like everything is going right and you and your team can take on the world.

Those take-on-the-world days happen because you have a great team, right? Or, at least you have a mostly great team. Your superstars seem to always come through, whether it's pulling a late night to get a project done or coming up with a brilliant new idea to keep a valued customer.

Where would you be without your superstars?

Fighting a dumpster fire every day? Perhaps. Without them, your victories might be few and far between, and your job would be much more difficult.

That's why you always need to be taking the pulse of valuable team members. Are they happy? Do they feel challenged? Appreciated?

If you're not sure, you better find out pretty quick before they walk out the door and take all their superpowers with them. Here are some signs that your most valued employees may be a bit unhappy:

1. Arriving late, leaving early.

2. Seems to call in sick a lot on Fridays. Or Mondays.

3. Hunkers down at his or her workstation like it's a foxhole. Shuns any attempts at conversation with colleagues. Wears headphones even in the bathroom.

4. Eats alone more than usual. Finds an excuse not to join group lunches or coffee runs. Takes lunches at odd times (may be a sign he or she is interviewing somewhere.)

5. Becomes very active on LinkedIn, starts a professional blog or adds tons of new connections via Twitter.

6. Dresses better. This could be a sign that the employee is interviewing somewhere or networking to find another job. Even an updated hoodie and new sneakers should be taken as a warning sign.

7. Late on work assignments. An employee who delays starting an assignment and seems to be missing more and more deadlines could be an indication the employee is no longer engaged and has checked out mentally.

8. Sleepwalking through meetings. All of us zone out from time to time in meetings, so look for behavior that shows the employee not only isn't paying attention -- but doesn't care if anyone knows about it.

9. Very interested in conferences or seminars. An employee who is suddenly gung-ho on such activities may be looking for a way to pass out his or her resume and make industry connections.

10. Whining. Most bosses put up with some whining from all employees, but a superstar doesn't get to be a superstar by whining a lot. When a superstar starts to whine, it's time to figure out what's going on before he or she walks out the door.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The Best Way to Answer Questions About Strengths, Weaknesses

What are your strengths?

What are your weaknesses?

These are two very common questions asked in job interviews, and they should catch no job seeker off guard if they've prepared their answers.

The problem for many applicants is that those answers aren't very good ones. They may be something like, "Oh, my greatest weakness is that I work too hard." (Internal eye roll from the hiring manager.) Or: "My greatest strength is that I love people." (Another internal eye roll from the hiring manager.)

There's nothing horrible about such answers, and they may even be true. But such answers don't really tell the hiring manager anything about you, and may even turn her off enough with the triteness of the responses to eliminate you from consideration.

When a hiring manager asks you about your strengths and weaknesses, here are some do's and don'ts:

  • Do tell a story. People remember stories, especially those that have an emotional element. Craft your "strengths and weaknesses" around a (concise) story that will make it more memorable and give it greater impact for the hiring manager.
  • Don't lie. There's no reason to craft some fake story worthy of a television mini-series. All of us have our own battles to fight and our own victories to claim. It may take some internal digging, but you'll find those stories. When they come from a place of truth, they will have the necessary impact.
  • Do emphasize what you learned. More employers are looking for employees with emotional intelligence -- an ability to show empathy to others -- so always try to show how you've grown as a person and a professional when citing your strengths and weaknesses.
  • Don't go overboard. Bringing up your strengths and weaknesses may touch a nerve with you, but don't let it get out of hand. Don't start swearing, getting teary-eyed or become angry. The employer wants to see someone who can clearly look at strengths and weaknesses and express them professionally and honestly without losing control.
Citing your strengths and weaknesses should show the employer how you've grown as a person and a professional. Whether it was learning how to play fair and stand up for yourself after being bullied on the playground or finding that your strength comes from helping others overcome obstacles at work, everyone has a unique story to tell. 

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.