Monday, September 30, 2019
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
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
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
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
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.