Monday, December 28, 2020

4 Solutions to Imposter Syndrome

Imposter syndrome is something that affects most of us at one time or another, but many people don't know what to do about it when it hits them.

Imposter syndrome is a "psychological pattern in which an individual doubts their skills, talents or accomplishments and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a 'fraud.'"

I've interviewed many people over the years -- including c-suite executives -- who suffer from it. They've shared many strategies about how they've learned to believe in their own abilities and let go of their constant fear of being "found out."

Here are some of their ideas:

1. Find support. This may be a friend, mentor or professional colleague. Confide in someone you trust that you feel like an imposter. More than likely, you'll find that others feel the same way -- and that can make it easier to discuss.

2. Let go of the past. Yes, you've made mistakes. We all have. But that doesn't mean you should dwell on them and let them undermine your confidence and ability to move forward. Think about what you learned from that mistake and how that experience will make you better in the future. Mistakes can be a gift to your career if you learn and grow from them -- but not if you agonize over them and remain stuck in that mindset.

3. Step outside yourself. Many of those who suffer from imposter syndrome are incredibly supportive of others, always offering words of encouragement to those who need it. Yet, they never offer those same words to themselves! The next time you start feeling down on yourself, think of how you would respond to anyone else who says, "I'm really no good at this," or "They're going to find out I'm a fraud and don't know what I'm doing." Instead of offering "You're smart and you'll figure it out," to someone else -- say it to yourself. Think of the words of support you give to others and make sure to also say them to yourself on a regular basis.

4. Celebrate your victories. Don't be down on yourself if you learned how to do X but not Z. Celebrate that you learned X and tell yourself that Z is also something you can do. Replace your negative thoughts with remembering what you've done so far -- and how much more you're capable of doing when you believe in yourself.

Monday, December 21, 2020

Can You Ask for a Raise During the Pandemic?

Many people believe asking for a pay raise during this time of crisis for many companies is a no-no.

They're right. Sort of.

If you're working for an employer that is barely scraping by, one that has already laid off too many of your colleagues and is an industry hard-hit by the pandemic (hotels, restaurants, event management), then asking for a pay raise doesn't make sense right now.

But, if you're working for a company where business is doing very well, and you've had a direct hand in contributing to bottom-line success like bringing in new customers, coming up with a more efficient process that saves money or designing a new product that is paying off, then you wouldn't be amiss in asking for a pay raise based on those clear results of your worth.

Still, we are in the grips of a pandemic, and you don't want to appear callous as to what everyone -- including your boss -- is experiencing. So, just like you would during non-pandemic times, you need to bring up your request for more money when it's a good time (not when the boss is under pressure to meet a deadline or his partner just came down with COVID).

You want to ask for a raise when you're seen as doing a great job -- a recent performance evaluation went very well or you received a glowing, appreciative email from the boss or someone in the executive ranks.

Ask for a private meeting or Zoom call to talk to the boss about your request. You don't demand it. You don't say you need a raise to pay for a new car. You ask for a raise based on your contributions and your research of what others in your position are making.

Then, you let the boss think about it. It's likely he or she isn't just going to say "Okey dokey!" and give you what you want. If you get turned down eventually, don't start sending out resumes, but instead look for ways you can become even more valuable. A boss who says "no" to a raise may just be saying the timing isn't right. Keep a good relationship with him, and let him see that he can count on you -- and you may be rewarded when things improve.

Monday, December 14, 2020

4 Steps to Achieving Career Goals During a Pandemic

During the pandemic, your career goals may have withered a bit. At this point, you're just trying to keep your job and cope with everything life has thrown at you.

But it's not a good idea to just forget about your career goals, and in fact, you can take this time to think more deeply about what you really want and how to go about getting it.


1. Your resume. Give it a good look and try to be impartial. Does the resume show how you've grown? How you've achieved results? Or, is it just a laundry list of job titles and company names? This isn't what gets you noticed, either by hiring managers or those in your industry. You need to be able to constantly show that you're taking that next step, either through key projects in your current job, educational or training efforts or even through professional associations.

2.  Your boss. What does she think about your performance? You're not asking for a performance review, but rather a conversation about whether your boss thinks you're progressing in the right areas or whether she believes that you're stalled. What can you do to get more responsibility? What needs to happen for you to be in charge of the next project? While you may not always agree with your boss's assessment of your skills, you're not going to progress at your current position without your boss's support or input. 

3. Your network. You might find it challenging to maintain your network during this time of social distancing, but really, that's just an excuse. You can still interact with people on a phone call, during a Zoom meeting or -- if they work in the same town -- at a meeting in a park or other outside venue. Your network is critical in growing your career, and people are longing for contact now more than ever. By reaching out, you're helping to seal a relationship that will be beneficial now and in the future.

4. Your initiative. When was the last time you read a book that really challenged you? Or listened to a podcast concerning a subject you know nothing about? Have you tuned into a webcast that has speakers that are unfamiliar to you? These are all things that force you out of your box and introduce you to new ideas. That's an important step when you're growing yourself as a professional.

Monday, December 7, 2020

For many people looking for work during these tough times, turning down a job -- any job -- isn't an option.

But recently I talked with a job seeker who interviewed for a job and got really good feedback from the hiring manager. In fact, the hiring manager hinted strongly that an offer would be made by the next day.

The big problem, however, was that after talking to the hiring manager, the job seeker no longer wanted the job. 

While she had done some research on the employer, she learned things during the interview that concerned her. She not only felt the working environment was unsafe, but her hours would be grueling and her pay below industry standards.

After talking it over with her partner, she sent an email to the hiring manager thanking him for the interview. Then, she explained that after hearing more about the job, she didn't feel it was a good fit for her and she no longer wanted to be considered.

This job seeker really felt like she dodged a bad situation, but she was torn. The job market is tough in a lot of industries. Right now, she's working a minimum-wage job after losing a management position in the travel industry. While this potential job would have given her a foot back into the travel industry and better pay, she decided that it was better to stay where she was than take a job that she believed would only be short-term.

"I knew that if I took that job I would be looking for something better the entire time I was there," she told me. "I got depressed just thinking about it."

The reason I share this story is that while the job market is bad, that doesn't mean you have to make career decisions that could hurt you in the long term. Always make sure you step back and talk it over with your family or trusted friends. Here's some things to consider:

1. Your safety. This job seeker truly felt the location of this job was in a dangerous area, and there had been violence in and near the building before. She would be asked to work -- often alone -- and without security measures in place. Even if the employer had offered better security, she didn't feel it was worth the risk.

2. Your health. The hours required on the job were very long, often for 14 days at a stretch without a day off. The job seeker told me that she had nearly ruined her health once before with such a job, and didn't want to do it again.

3. Pay. This is tricky, because if you need to pay rent or make a car payment, you are desperate to get a job. In that case, this comes down to your individual situation and what you can and cannot manage financially. But in this job seeker's case, she was bringing in enough to live on, along with her partner's salary. She felt that if she took a lower salary in her desired industry, it would impact her for years and her earning power might never recover (she's absolutely right). She has decided that she will take some online courses to improve her data skills (important in her travel industry job) and wait for travel jobs to begin to open up as vaccinations flatten the coronavirus.

I share this story because I think it provides a good example of someone who really wanted a job -- but didn't jump at just anything that came along. She weighed her options and made a decision that was best for her personally and professionally.

When times are tough, employers have the upper hand. They may offer lower salaries, substandard work conditions and even try to make you do dangerous work. Working for such employers will never get better. If they hire you without a good faith effort to compensate you for your talents and provide a safe working environment, then they're not going to change once things improve. Keep that in mind when considering a job.

Monday, November 30, 2020

3 Things You Must Know for a Job Interview These Days

When interviewing for a job these days, you need to be ready to tweak your responses so that you help an employer see how you'll not only be dependable and valuable once we all return to normalcy -- but also if you need to work remotely.

For example, an employer may ask you about how you collaborate with others, how you stay productive or how you juggle multiple demands on your time. Before the pandemic, this was pretty straightforward to answer, but now there are more subtle things the interviewer will be seeking:

1. Will you be on time to work -- even when working remotely -- or will emails go unanswered until nearly noon? Do you have a system in place to make sure that you're ready to go with the rest of the team when they need you, such as a reliable Internet connection?

2. Are you organized enough to work remotely and often on your own? Can you give an example of how you have been self-directed and delivered your work on time? Can you provide examples of your resourcefulness?

3. Are you a good communicator? This needs to come across clearly in a Zoom interview with a hiring manager. Dress professionally, have good lighting, make sure you sit up straight, look into the camera when answering and smile when appropriate. 

When the interview is over, make sure you send a follow-up email, thanking the hiring manager for the interview, restate your top qualifications and express your commitment to ensuring you're an asset to the organization -- even if you're working from your kitchen table.

Monday, November 23, 2020

What You Need to Know Now About Remote Interviews

I've given advice in the past about being a good detective when you're interviewing for a job. This means that you do a little sleuthing on the employer, such as doing online research to check out the financial health of the employer and checking out the employer's location to see if the workplace looks a little shoddy and the employees are downtrodden and stressed.

Those can all be signs you don't want to work at such a place and require some hard thinking about whether it would be a smart move to work for such an employer.

But with more employers hiring remotely -- and offering remote jobs during the pandemic -- how can you perform your due diligence when you can't go into a physical workspace?

There are several ways you can still check out an employer:

1. Do a drive by. While you may not be able to go into the employer's business because of restrictions, you can still drive by the place of business and check out the area. Go during the day and at night -- you never know when you might work late and have to walk to your car or the subway stop by yourself. Would you feel safe? Does the area provide safe parking, nearby parks or affordable eateries? These might seem trivial now, but they can make a difference in work satisfaction when the employer does fully reopen and bring back employees.

2. Talk to employees. An employer who has nothing to hide should be willing to let you talk to other employees via Zoom or other means. Ask the same questions you would in person, such as what the typical work day looks like, the positives and negatives of the company, management style, opportunities for advancement, etc.

3. The work structure. If the company is now working remotely, how does the work flow? Who managers what teams? How is communication done? How will you be trained? What will be the hours of operation? If the company plans to make the position permanently remote, will be you be required to spend some time in the office? How will your productivity/performance be measured? How will opportunities for promotions be given? How will feedback be given?

Don't think that just because the world is turned sideways at the moment that you can't do your homework when considering a job. In fact, it's more important than ever that you go into any interview prepared to ask questions since you may not get a chance to observe and learn from what's happening around you during an interview.

Monday, November 16, 2020

The First Thing to Do After a Job Interview

Even though you may have more phone or Zoom interviews during your current job search because of the pandemic, the basics of job searching remain the same: do your homework on an employer so you're prepared for an interview; dress appropriately; ask questions -- and always, always, always send a thank-you note.

I cannot tell you how many hiring managers say that they're always impressed by thank-you notes, and how it helps candidates stand out. With that in mind, here are some things to think about when writing a note:

  • Send it within 24 hours. While etiquette rules say you can wait about three months to send a thank-you note for a wedding gift, it needs to be much sooner than that after a job interview. Send an email within the first day of an interview, then send a handwritten note by the next day.
  • Recap the highlights. Thank the person for his or her time and take the opportunity to mention two or three things you might have discussed, such as your skills for the job. If you feel like there is a key point you forgot to mention earlier, include it in the thank-you note.
  • Stay professional. I can't believe I need to mention this, but here I go: Be professional when writing these notes. Don't swear or use emojis in your email. Don't use pink glitter stationary. Use correct grammar and spelling (there is no automatic spellcheck available when you're handwriting a note).
  • Be unique. It can be tempting to send a form thank-you note that you find online, and that's OK to a point. But they all read the same, and the receiver will recognize a template. So, try to come up with something unique to include, such as "I really enjoyed hearing about your master gardener class," or "Hearing about your love of golf makes me want to start taking lessons."

Monday, November 9, 2020

3 Keys for a Great Recommendation

When searching for a new job, we often just focus on what we will say to employers about our skills and experience. We practice answers to questions such as "What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?"

Employers understand that you've practiced these responses, and expect you to offer reasoned answers. They won't really learn anything earth-shattering from these responses, so they may look elsewhere for real insights into your talents and abilities. This usually leads them to ask for references. 

Unfortunately, this is where many job seekers mess up. They haven't really prepared the people who will speak for them, and that can lead to such lackluster or unhelpful recommendations that their job chances may be diminished.

You should always put as much time into preparing your references as you do any other part of your job search. Your references will appreciate it (they're busy people and may not remember all of your stellar qualities) and will ensure that a hiring manager hears a flattering account about you.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Get specific. Think about how a reference can showcase skills most important to a particular employer, whether it's resolving customer disputes, coming up with new ideas for products or  being great at quality control. Remind your references of where you showed such skills -- they'll appreciate not having to dig through their own memories.
  • Cast a wide net. References don't have to just be former employers or teachers. If your pastor or rabbi has worked closely with you on a spring break project, for example, then think about having him or her write a letter outlining your ability to work collaboratively. In addition, the more diversity you have in your references, the better able you will be to offer the right reference for various employers or jobs.
  • Offer a template. If you think your reference is fine with recommending you -- but uncomfortable in writing a recommendation letter -- offer a template or at least relevant talking points.

Monday, November 2, 2020

Yes, Your Boss is a Person, Too

During this pandemic, we've all been doing a lot of self-care, and caring for our family and friends any way we can.

How about your boss?

What have you done lately to take care of your boss?

You may resent such a question. After all, you take care of the boss by doing your job every day and doing what he/she requests of you.

But what else? Do you do anything on a regular basis that makes the boss feel seen as a person, or cared about as someone who is trying to do a good job?

I've had bosses -- both new managers and seasoned veterans -- tell me that one of the hardest things about their jobs is the loneliness they often feel. They understand when the team goes out to lunch or hangs out on the weekends and don't invite him or her. They know their team might feel awkward with the boss around.

But, that still doesn't make it fun to be excluded from the everyday things we do to show others that we care about them. Do you ever ask the boss about his weekend? About how he's coping with working from home or trying to juggle kids and a career? Do you ever say to your boss, "Hey, we're starting a virtual book club and we'd love for you to join us"?

Do you ever offer a genuine compliment or "thank you?" to the boss? (I'm not talking being a brownnoser and delivering sappy, overly contrived messages.) Do you take the time to offer a smile and a genuine "How are you?" before launching into your latest problems?

Or, do you instead provide a little "snark" in your emails, a little passive-aggressive behavior when interacting with him or her? Do you fail to acknowledge when he or she is obviously stressed?

Be assured that the good bosses out there are feeling a lot of stress these days over making sure that everyone on their team is OK. They are trying to take extra work off of them, putting in long hours every day and on the weekends.

If you've got one of these managers, congratulations. Now it's your turn to make sure the boss is doing OK. Do this daily or at least, weekly. Let him or her know that caring isn't a one-way street.


Monday, October 26, 2020

This is One of the Biggest Mistakes Being Made by the Unemployed

The standard advice when you're unemployed is to be evasive about that fact when applying for new jobs.

Why? Because employers don't want to hire someone who is unemployed, believing that something is "wrong" with someone who is jobless or that the candidate will seize any job that is offered, whether it's truly wanted it or not.

Of course, this advice flew out the window when the Great Recession hit more than a decade ago, and the same is true now. Employers understand that millions of Americans have lost their jobs through no fault of their own, and have valuable skills and talents that can be used elsewhere.

Still, there are some caveats: You cannot expect employers to be impressed that you've spent your unemployed hours making a playhouse for your daughter out of toilet paper rolls or that you've done nothing to enrich yourself intellectually or professionally during this time off.

During the Great Recession, companies were not offering free online classes or dropping fees for various certifications. But with the pandemic, companies have eliminated or reduced fees for classes, training sessions or certifications. In other words, there's no excuse why the only enrichment you're getting during this time is re-creating the 1910 World's Fair out of popsicle sticks and aluminum foil.

Employers will be the most attracted to those who have shown that they have continued their education, have taken some online training or even completed a certification process. Keep in mind that it's not enough to aimlessly take a bunch of random classes online with no clear plan or goal. Employers need to see a focused approach to your plan and how it can be applied to any future position.

As winter approaches and the pandemic stretches on, it can be worthwhile to set a battle plan for how you plan to grow your career during these months. Set a goal and then set up a schedule of how you can achieve it. As you continue to apply for jobs, you will be buoyed by the fact that you're not wasting time, but actively arming yourself to compete in the job market.

Monday, October 19, 2020

The Best Way to Help Employees Feel More Positive

Telling employees not to worry these days or to "be happy and look on the bright side" isn't very helpful when it comes to motivation. The times right now are too uncertain, too tough, to think that such platitudes will work.

Still, it's also not good for business that employees mope around -- either on site or while working remotely -- and there needs to be some way to put some positivity into their lives if they're going to be effective. But how?

Maria Konnikova, author of "The Confidence Game," explains in The New Yorker that research shows you can't really mandate positivity because it ends up creating a negative backlash when "feeling happy" is being forced upon employees by a boss or a colleague.

In addition, when employees feel like they have to somehow "monitor" their positivity, it sucks up their mental energy and that can end up hurting their work performance. 

When all is said and done, trying to force employees to be positive all the time has the opposite effect. Employees who are told to "smile" and "be upbeat" all the time -- and can't just be themselves even when customers aren't around -- may find it an emotional strain they can't handle.

One way that experts say you can help employees be more positive on their own is by giving them more control. 

When employees are given instructions on how to behave, then they feel trapped and disrespected. But if you give them a framework of what they need to do, then they can figure out the specifics on their own.

For example, "make customers feel welcome" is a framework while "Greet customers with a smile, ask them about their day, ask them what they're looking for...." is too restrictive.

At a time when we're all trying to adjust to a new way of doing things, it helps if platitudes are put aside and we simply provide the support employees need so that they feel trusted and respected. 

That's the way to put a smile on someone's face.

Monday, October 12, 2020

Learn How to Say "No" at Work

When the job market is tough like it is now, it's very difficult to say "no."

You don't want to say "no" to a request from a colleague for fear of not being seen as a team player. You don't want to say "no" to a boss for fear of being fired. You don't want to say "no" to a customer for fear of losing that customer.

There's a lot of fear and angst these days, and that's understandable being that we're in a global pandemic. But that doesn't mean you have to be afraid of saying "no" -- even to your boss. (Of course, this isn't about saying "no" just because you're feeling lazy and don't want to work.)

In fact, it's essential that you retain your ability to say "no" if you're going to keep your sanity and your career on track. That's because when you can't say "no," then you say "yes" to things that aren't a good use of your talents. You waste your time and energy on things that won't be of the greatest value to your career and to your employer. 

Still, it takes some preparation to know when -- and how -- to say "no." Here's some things to think about:

1. Why do you want to say "no"? Don't dismiss your reasoning as "silly" or "dumb." There's a reason you want to say no to a request. Is it because you believe it means it will take you away from more important work? Or because you feel it's being dumped on you by a colleague who doesn't want to do it? Perhaps it's something more serious: You want to say "no" because you believe what's being requested is illegal.

2. Offer other options. If someone senses they can bully you into saying "yes," then you've already lost the battle. Instead, take on the role of thoughtful colleague or employee. "Hmmm....I'm sorry, I don't think that will work. But what if you tried xyz instead?" By proposing another resource or strategy, you can deflect the person's focus on trying to pressure you into saying yes.

3. Take a breath. If you feel backed into a corner and someone is pressuring to you say "yes," then it's OK to say: "Can I get back to you? I need to make a quick call before I think about this." Then, find some quiet time to reflect -- or call a friend or family member who can help you stiffen your backbone and stick to saying "no." You're likely to get someone who tries to push you into complying, so stay calm and don't let this person antagonize or intimidate you.

4. Look for common ground. Everyone has had that boss who thinks you should work 24/7 -- or at least on weekends. You may want to say "no" but don't know how. In this case, try reminding the boss that he/she also needs some time off. "I know you're a great golfer. How about we resume this on Monday so that you can have some time this weekend to work on your game and I can spend some time working in my garden?" That helps you find common ground to work out a solution.

Finally, think about times you wish you had said "no" and how you could have handled it differently. Practice such scenarios with friends or families so that when they arise at work, you're better prepared to calmly say "no" and make better decisions. 

Monday, October 5, 2020

4 Ways to Get More Respect at Work

Are you respected at work?

For many, the answer is "no" and that can make life a little more miserable when you're at work. People may be rude to you or treat you unprofessionally. While this may not bother you too much, it can add up over time and start making you feel angry or even depressed by such behavior.

Whether you're the lowest ranking person in your workplace or the top boss, here's one of the easiest ways to garner respect by others: Show respect to them.

Really. It's often that easy. Model the behavior you want to see from others.

Here are some ways to do it:

  • Use your manners. Say "please" and "thank you" or "excuse me" if you must interrupt a conversation. Say "hello" and "goodbye" each day while making eye contact. Hold the door for a co-worker, always show up on time and don't antagonize others with political comments or off-color jokes. If you're not going to be able to fulfill your commitments (late to work, research not completed, etc.) be honest and let your colleagues know as soon as possible.
  • Be positive. People feel bombarded with negativity right now, and the person who can offer a positive outlook each day will stand out. Challenge yourself to find something good to say to each person every day and others will start to respect your opinion.  Look for ways to show that you're a rock solid person and aren't going to crumble into whining and negativity and you'll become an influence on others -- a sure way to garner more respect.
  • Respect yourself. You cannot expect others to respect you if you don't show respect for yourself. Don't use negative language about yourself, such as "I know I'm not good at this stuff, but ...." or "No one ever listens to me." Your body language should show self-respect: Shoulders back, head up, neck straight. Wear clothes and hairstyles that make you feel put together -- this can take on a variety of forms during these days of Zoom, but the key is to feel strong and confident.
  • Spend time with those you respect. Whether it's a former teacher, your grandmother, a neighbor or a friend, interacting with those who have your respect will rub off on you -- you will start to take on more of their attributes and model that respectful demeanor. 
Getting more respect may not happen overnight. But being patient and continuing to show courtesy and grace to others will not only make you feel better -- but make you stronger and happier in your career as others recognize and respect your contributions.

Monday, September 28, 2020

4 Ways to Bond With a Team Virtually When You're a Newbie

When working remotely -- or working onsite with a reduced team -- it can be difficult to navigate interpersonal relationships with your colleagues or bosses.

The casual interactions throughout the day, the meetings where general announcements are made and all the dozens of other ways that you learn and grow your career are gone for now.

While this is difficult for seasoned workers, imagine how hard it must be for newbies. Whether they were hired just before the pandemic lockdown began, or were hired remotely during the pandemic, all those little opportunities to find a way to fit in are eliminated.

Or are they?

When thinking about all the great career advice that experts have given me over the years, I believe there are still ways to navigate office politics successfully when working remotely or in a reduced team environment.

Here's some of the advice to help newcomers whether working onsite or from home:

1. The last word. When meeting in person,  it's always important to observe who everyone looks at when it comes time to make a decision. It's not always the boss. Even if everyone looks at the boss, the boss may be looking at someone else -- and that's the real power in your workplace. This is someone you want to get to know, because he or she has the key connections and understands best how things get done. When working remotely, this person will often be the one on the Zoom call who has the final word, or the person who writes the final email that resolves a problem. This person has garnered respect from others and the boss, and learning from that person is worthwhile.

2. Be resourceful. Everyone is overloaded right now, so as the new person you may be afraid to ask too many questions and make a pest of yourself. That shows emotional intelligence, but could be your downfall in the long run. Your new colleagues and your boss expect you to ask a lot of questions in the beginning, but will be frustrated if months down the line it becomes evident that you didn't ask questions and made assumptions that turned out to be wrong. The best course is to be resourceful -- consult company handbooks for procedural information or even Google to help you become more familiar with jargon or other industry terms instead of asking a co-worker. That way, when you need to know something more specific, you can frame it as: "I read the company handbook on how to file this paperwork, but it didn't mention this specific form. Can you tell me how to do that or who to ask?" Then, make sure the person sees you writing down the information as it shows you won't be asking the same question over and over, something that will be truly appreciated in these stressful times.

3. Do your homework. You don't want to just sit in Zoom meetings and never contribute anything or propose an idea that a competitor has already done. Now is the time to really study what is happening in your industry and your company. What is the competition doing? What are the top three challenges for your company right now? What are the trends in the industry? In Zoom meetings, you don't want to talk just to get attention, but do want to offer opinions or ideas that have merit because you've grounded them in facts and research.

4. Make individual connections. It can feel awkward to just chat in Zoom meetings, especially when you're the new person. To help alleviate some of that, try connecting one-on-one with colleagues via email or text. For example, you might text Nathan that you heard him mention that he's looking for a better exercise app -- you can mention a new one you've been using and really like. Or, Sue might be frustrated that she can't get someone has XYZ company to return a call, and you might email her to let her know you read the company is having money troubles and send her the online article. All these "watercooler" moments are now taking place virtually, but they still help you bond with other team members.

Monday, September 21, 2020

5 Steps That Can Lead to Greater Happiness, Career Success

Are you tired? Bored? Frustrated? Burned out?

All of the above?

As the pandemic drags on, everyone is feeling some (or all) of these things. We've worked all the crossword puzzles, we've baked and eaten bread until the only pants that fit are ones we normally sleep in and we feel that one more Zoom meeting may push us over the edge.

I have a solution for many of you.

It's learning. Not learning as in "I'm going to learn how to crochet" or "I'm going to learn how to speak Klingon."

This kind of learning is aimed at helping you professionally, to making you more valuable to employers now and in the future. Because trust me on this: When the economy picks back up and employers begin hiring again, they're going to look at what job candidates did in their pandemic time at home. Did they expand their waistlines or did they expand their learning and skills?

Which one do you think will make the better impression on employers?

Think of it like this: When you were a kid, you were learning all the time. Your little brain was open to all the world had to offer, whether it was exploring what was under a rock or learning to read. You used every opportunity to ask "why?" It was fun, wasn't it? It wasn't a hardship. It made you happy to learn so you kept at it.

Unfortunately, as we grow up, that learning enthusiasm fades. As adults, we often become too narrowly focused on what's on our "to do" list. We forget to look around and ask "why?" We don't use our everyday conversations or opportunities to try to learn something, to try and expand our abilities or skills.

Whether you're unemployed and employed, invest in yourself and your career by being a continual learner. It will pay off --  you will be happier and more satisfied during a stressful time in our lives -- and employers will appreciate your efforts. On top of that, your learning efforts can lead to better pay and a more satisfying career.

Here are some things to get you started:

  1. Think of people you admire. Often, we think we're "not smart enough" or  just "not good at" certain skills, like public speaking or starting a business. But if you look into the background of those you admire, they didn't just luck into being a good speaker or running a successful company. They worked at it. They perhaps took classes that helped them improve. They relied on the advice of others. They asked lots of questions and studied the answers to learn more. Consider some skills possessed by people you admire and how you'd like to have those same skills. Do you need to take online classes? Read books on the subject? Attend webinars? Connect with someone through LinkedIn to ask advice?
  2. Take off your blinders -- and put down your phone. Look around and start getting curious. When you go for a walk, stand in line at the store or wait for the coffee maker to finish, let your mind wander. Don't look at your phone! Every time you pick up your phone like it's your binky, put it down. A big part of learning something new comes from simply letting your mind wander and search out new things.
  3. You're braver than you know. A year ago, the world was a different place. We've been scared -- and are still scared -- but we've powered through it. Every day we get up and do what needs to be done. That's something to acknowledge, because it shows that all of us are capable to doing hard -- often scary -- things. So, don't let your fear of going for a big project or a promotion hold you back. Stretching yourself is important if you want to grow in your career.
  4. Set goals. Don't set lofty, vague goals such as "I want to be vice president at my company in the next five years." Instead, think about key connections that need to be made within your company and how you will make them. Or, determine if you're going to need more education to have such a position and when you can start classes.
  5. Pursue feedback. Many successful CEOs say they have a personal "board of directors" that offer them advice and feedback. If you want to truly grow in your career, then you've got to be held accountable. This doesn't mean your annual performance review by your boss. This kind of feedback is meant to keep you on target no matter where you're employed and is given by those who understand your career vision and how to best get there.
I've interviewed many successful people over the years, and the one thing they have in common is that they don't rest on their laurels. The happiest and most productive people are always learning -- they are always challenging themselves in some way. They consider it not only an investment in their careers, but in the quality of their lives.

Monday, September 14, 2020

Research Shows That Individual Purpose is Critical

These are uncertain times for many people, including employees.

Will they have a job next week? Will they work from home next month or will they be called back into the office? Will continuing to work remotely hurt their careers? Will they be given pay raises this year or be able to take time off? Do they even want to do what they're doing anymore?

A new report by McKinsey & Co. stresses that during these uncertain times, it's important that employees have a sense of individual purpose "that helps people face up to uncertainties and navigate them better, and thus mitigate the damaging effects of long-term stress. People who have a strong sense of purpose tend to be more resilient and exhibit better recovery from negative events."

One of the suggestions from the report includes leaders talking to employees individually to help workers better understand their own purpose (most people have a tough time articulating their own purpose).

Once that purpose is understood (helping the poor, saving the planet, alleviating suffering, etc.), then the leader can help the employee see how his or her contribution to the organization can also serve their purpose. Sometimes that alignment isn't always perfect, or not at all. In that case, leaders may need to re-think how they hire or how employees are placed in certain jobs to ensure that there is better alignment for all workers, McKinsey researchers say.

"The pandemic has been a cruel reminder for companies everywhere of how important it is to never take healthy or motivated employees for granted. Since individual purpose directly affects both health and motivation, forward-looking companies will be focusing on purpose as part of a broader effort to ensure that talent is given the primacy it deserves," researchers write.

Tuesday, September 8, 2020

8 Ways to Make Sure Your Great Idea Isn't Ignored

Ever had a good idea shot down at work?

Most of us have been through it at least once. The reasons may vary, but the result is the same. You feel frustrated, or angry -- even depressed. Why can't your boss/colleagues recognize a great idea?

Your frustration may prompt you to think about leaving your current job and go find another company that will appreciate your innovative thoughts.

But here's the problem: If you don't learn to do a better job of presenting your ideas, chances are good the same thing will happen over and over, no matter where you work.

Here's some ways to deal with the obstacles getting in the way of your great ideas:

1. Change or die. The coronavirus has shown that companies that fail to continually innovate are left behind. Big retailers that didn't move to ecommerce years ago have seen their business suffer, while retailers like Wayfair, WalMart and Target have thrived.  When someone questions why there is a need to alter a course that has worked in the past, just point to such examples.

2. Innovation grows companies. When your idea is dismissed because it doesn't generate a lot of revenue, point out that it's new ideas -- like those from Amazon and Apple -- that are what build great organizations and lead to more revenue.

3. It solves a problem. While others might think your idea is "trivial," point out that it's not "trivial" to the people who are helped by it.

4. It's a first step. If someone says your idea isn't "big enough," comment that it's a step in the right direction and will get the company moving toward that bigger idea.

5. It's unique. Sometimes your idea gets shot down because it's not being done anywhere else. Remember to stress that there's a first time for everything and your idea offers a unique opportunity.

6. Failure leads to success. Shooting down your idea by saying it's been done before is a common tactic — whether it's true or not. Just say, "That was then. Conditions change and what we're talking about probably wasn't done in this way."

7. Delay, delay, delay. You may be told that now isn't the "right" time for your idea, and it should be put off until something else happens, or changes. Don't be fooled by the person pretending to like your idea, only to try and squelch it. Say something like, "The best time is when people are excited and committed to make something happen. That time is now."

8. It's too much work. That's a genuine concern because most people in the workplace today really are overworked and underpaid. To battle that argument, respond with "Hard can be good. New, viable ideas can energize and motivate us."

Monday, August 31, 2020

Are You Overconfident?


More than a decade ago, I wrote about a 13-foot Burmese python that tried to eat a six-foot alligator in the Florida Everglades.

The python exploded.

At the time, I wrote this in an effort to demonstrate that while having too little confidence can hurt you career -- so can overconfidence.

Since that time, there seems to be an explosion of overconfidence. From the start up founder being investigated by law enforcement because he overinflated a company's financial condition to the ego-driven employee who lies about her accomplishments, there seems to be a lot unrealistic thinking these days.

Recently I was reading about Don Moore's new book, "Perfectly Confident: How to Calibrate Your Decisions Wisely." In that interview, Moore makes solid points about how it's great to be confident -- but being overconfident is asking for trouble.

Consider his points:

  • Confidence feels good. It's a feeling backed by facts (you've trained, studied, gained experience over the years). Overconfidence doesn't feel good because it comes from lying to yourself."When you realize you're overconfident, it feels like a mistake. You feel like a fool," he says.
  • There are real risks with "delusional overconfidence." For example, being confident that you're going to give a great presentation to the boss -- and then don't do any research or prep work to prepare that presentation -- can seriously hurt your career when you give a sub-par presentation.
  • Realistic expectations help you achieve success. You need to assess the risks and opportunities that lie ahead. Then, figure out the action to take to prepare yourself to take advantage of those opportunities.
  • You can't predict the future. The best you can do is make forecasts about the probables and how sure you are of them. Are you willing to bet on it? How likely is it to happen? Why might you be wrong? What might others know who believe differently than you? "That is very useful for helping us questions our assumptions and calibrate our confidence," he says.

Monday, August 24, 2020

Feeling Burned Out? What to Do Right Now

While working during the pandemic, 37 percent of American workers report they're putting in longer hours, with 40 percent saying they've experienced burnout during this time.

That's not good. Since 75 percent of us have experienced burnout in the past, we know how devastating it can be for us professionally and personally. Burnout isn't something you take a pill for and feel better in the morning. It saps you of energy, it robs you of creativity, it depletes any reserves you might have and you feel completely overwhelmed.

The stakes are high. For those who are trying to deal with the fallout from the pandemic (job at risk, educating children at home, isolation), experiencing burnout can be a blow that will be very difficult to deal with on top of everything else.

Right now, everyone is still trying to figure it all out. But the reality is that it's hard. Bosses are overwhelmed as they try to lead teams remotely. Workers are stressed as they worry about the next paycheck, caring for their family or feel the pain of ongoing isolation.

Never has self-care been more important. It may be difficult for a colleague or boss or friend to know that you're struggling when they can't see you in person. They may be unaware that you're not sleeping, that you're working on the weekends and at night and that you feel constantly overwhelmed but are afraid to say anything.

Right now, right this minute, make a commitment that things are going to be different. Say to yourself: "I have to make changes if I want to stay healthy so that when this pandemic is behind us, I can travel. I can visit friends and family. I can go for that walk on the beach. I can go back to working in an office and my kids can go back to school and I can actually go a party."

(Feel free to substitute anything that you're looking forward to doing -- going dancing, fishing, to a basketball game, etc.)

I can't urge you enough to make changes. Burnout can really sock a punch -- it can lead to lots of physical ailments from headaches to heart problems and can derail you for a long time.

Here's some ideas for making a change. You don't have to do all of them, but make a commitment to implement one and then move onto the next one until you have flipped your life in the right direction. Try to:

  • Set a schedule. It's easy to check email at 10 p.m. on your phone or prop your laptop on your bed to "catch up" if you can't sleep. Stop it. Decide on a quitting time, and stick to it. Put your laptop away, out of sight -- and definitely out of the bedroom. Turn off phone notifications. Let your colleagues and boss know that you've got a "quitting time" and are going to stick to it so that you'll be refreshed and ready to go the next day.
  • Have "hello" and "goodbye" rituals. When you worked away from home, you probably had your little habits -- stopped for a coffee at the shop near your work, listened to NPR on your commute. After work, your "goodbye" ritual was to call your Mom as you headed home and then when you got home, to have a beer while watching ESPN. While you may not want to exactly mimic those things now, try to establish such routines so you mentally click when work starts and ends each day.
  • Consult your bucket list. Maybe you always planned to travel more, which isn't possible right now. But you also always wanted to learn how to paint or cook better or even learn a new language. That's all possible with the wonders of the Internet, where there are free classes on just about anything. Schedule time for bucket-list pursuits, and then feel free to enjoy them.
  •  Exercise. It doesn't matter what you do, just get moving. Your body needs it, your mind needs it and it's important if you want to be healthy enough to do the things you love in the future. Like I said, it doesn't matter what you do -- dance to "Frozen" with your kids, walk in place while watching "Friends," ride a bike or train for a virtual marathon.
Believe me, you're not alone in what you're going through. We've all got to figure out what works for us and stick to it. I recently joined a Twitter book club and have really enjoyed getting to know a new group of people. Like most book clubs, we don't spend a lot of time talking about the book, but find that we laugh a lot and find comfort in knowing that others are feeling some of the same things.

Monday, August 17, 2020

4 Ways to Lead Better Through a Pandemic

These are certainly difficult times for employees, but it is also a very trying time for bosses.

After all, no MBA or management training programs are likely to have "how to be a boss during a pandemic."

Bosses are learning as they go -- and sometimes they've risen to the occasion and led a team through these troubled waters -- and sometimes they've not been as successful.

Recently, management gurus Hayagreeva Rao and Robert Sutton wrote for McKinsey & Co. about how to lead through difficult times. Some of their advice:

1. Don't ruminate. Whether it's layoffs or other cost-cutting measures, don't try and blame anyone else or dwell on what might have been done before the crisis hit. "Lousy leaders engage in useless rumination about what might have been and who is to blame, and invent excuses for delaying gut-wrenching but vital actions," they write. But good leaders try to move the team forward. For example, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella's attitude throughout the pandemic has been "a dogged and optimistic focus on what his company can do and how his people can keep learning."

2. Be compassionate. "Skilled leaders demonstrate they care by expressing compassion for the harm and emotional distress inflicted by the crisis at hand and the actions they and their organization take in response," they write. Leaders need to understand that people are in different stages of the grieving process because of the pandemic, and support for them will make it easier for employees to focus on the greater good instead of just themselves.

3. Offer predictions. Research shows that "threats to well-being do less harm if reliable signals enable people to know when they are safe from the threat verses when it is imminent, fear is warranted, and it is time to take action to minimize risk," they write. For example, Stanford University mitigated some of the stress for employees by announcing that the university would pay all full-time employees their current rate through August.

4. Offer simple explanations. Leaders should rely on simple headlines and repetition, "because the anxiety provoked by crises can make it hard for people to process complex information," they say. 

5. Offer some control. When Airbnb's leaders needed to layoff workers, they did so in one-on-one meetings, offering as much compassion and control as possible. Workers were given a week to say goodbye to colleagues and received four months of career-services assistance.


Monday, August 10, 2020

Survey Reveals What Hiring Managers Want Now

It's always a good idea to know what's on the minds of hiring managers. That way, you can address the issues they think are important in your resume and cover letter, and speak knowledgeably about the issues that garner their interest.

Here's some research from Lever based on 700 talent and HR decision-makers in the U.S. and Canada:

  • Only 14% of companies are on a total hiring freeze as a result of COVID-19, and 40% believe they’ll emerge post-pandemic stronger, with better strategies and tools. Some industries are even more optimistic. Some 48% of respondents in the software industry believe they'll emerge stronger, followed by those in infrastructure (46%), finance (44%) and retail (43%).
  • Recruiters have kept busy: 37% spent time rethinking their recruiting processes, while 41% cleaned up their recruiting data during slower hiring times.
  •  84% of recruiters leaned more heavily on phone interviews as a result of the pandemic, while 85% of them leaned more heavily on video interviews.
  • 62% agree they will need to hire workers with skills that weren’t needed before; the top new skills required are adaptability (68%), communication (60%) and technology proficiency (55%).
  • 50% said diversity and inclusion initiatives will become more of a priority as companies proactively work to combat racism in the workplace.
What this information tells you is that if you're looking for work right now, chances are good that you're going to to need to practice more for phone or video interviews, and make sure you have quiet space to do the interview and the right connectivity.

  Another point to consider is that you need to have examples ready to demonstrate your adaptability, good communication skills and whatever tech skills you might have (if you don't have many, now is a good time to take some online tutorials or ask your nephew who is a tech wizard to teach you a few things).

In addition, be ready with some examples of how you've worked with diverse colleagues or customers -- no employer wants to hire someone who has shown intolerance or isn't willing to learn how to be more inclusive on the job.




Monday, August 3, 2020

How the Pandemic Can Help Your Grow in Your Career

During these months of quarantining, working from home, juggling new schedules and home situations and just trying to remember what day it is, it can be tough to think about anything good that can come from this pandemic.

I'm not going to try and sugarcoat that "every cloud has its silver lining," blah, blah, blah. I don't want to offer empty platitudes that might make you feel worse. Still, I have been thinking a lot about how this pandemic is changing the world of work, and what it might look like when we come out the other side.

One of the issues I have written about often is the need to develop emotional intelligence. Before the pandemic hit, and there was great competition for workers, companies were looking for those who didn't just have the right hard skills, but also the skills that ensured they could get along with others, could communicate effectively and could collaborate. These are often referred to as soft skills, and they have been growing in importance in the workplace.

That's because even if someone has great technical skills, for example, an inability to talk to someone else, to be empathetic or be a team player can have a real adverse impact on that team's effectiveness or even on a company's drive to be more innovative.

I think that the pandemic offers all of us a chance to really hone our soft skills. We have all been impacted in some way -- it's been difficult to watch the suffering on the nightly news, or read about a family losing a home because they can't pay their bills. But the emotions we feel as we go through this pandemic -- loss, grief, compassion, stress and depression -- can ultimately help us be better colleagues and bosses in the future.

Here are some ways to deal with the changes and grow emotionally for the future:
  • Pass out compliments. Years ago, I heard this advice from a manager and I never forgot it: Put 10 dimes in your left pocket every morning. Every time you give someone a compliment at work, shift a coin to your right pocket. By the end of the day, try to have shifted all 10 coins. Even if you're physically not in a workplace right now, try the dime trick from your home office. You can send a compliment via text or Slack or Google Hangouts. You can compliment a colleague on an online presentation via email, or even pick up the phone. Compliments don't have to be long-winded, just an acknowledgement from you to another person: "I saw that you handled that difficult customer first thing this morning. Well done! Not everyone would have wanted to tackle that."
  • Be respectful. Everyone is under a lot of pressure right now, and there's no shortage of online videos showing people being less than kind. That's exactly why it's so important that you take the time to be respectful of your colleagues or your staff. Don't send late night emails if it's not absolutely necessary, and the same goes for weekends. Always say "please" and "thank you." Don't be late to meetings (and apologize if you are) and don't monopolize someone's time with your complaints or gossip.
  • Be adaptable. I know there's not one person out there who has not had to adapt in some way during this pandemic. Still, you may resent some of the things you've had to do, so think of it this way: adaptability is one of the key soft skills that you can develop in the workplace. Your ability to adapt is seen as being cooperative, a team player, collaborative and in tune with others. Continue to try and adapt -- it will get easier as you do it more often, and will have a greater payoff to your career down the road.

Monday, July 27, 2020

3 Ways to Ensure Online Meetings Don't Suck

Before I begin today's post, let me apologize for the blog being unavailable for the last several days. Due to a technical glitch (which I don't understand, nor do I want to understand), my website wasn't available. Things are all better now, so let's begin....

Once the initial shock wore off and we all realized our work lives were going to be upended from the pandemic, some of you began to look at what is usually termed "the bright side."

"I can work in my pajamas."
"I don't have to smell stinky reheated food in the office microwave."
"I don't have to attend meetings."

This last one, of course, didn't last long. As soon as the boss figured out how to use Zoom, meetings became even more of a big deal. They lasted hours. They included business and non-business items, such as how to make pizza out of dried beans and macaroni.

Now that we've settled into the routine of working remotely, or working with only some of the staff some of the time, it's time to rein back in those unruly meetings and establish some kind of order. Some things to think about:

1. Have an agenda. Just like in the old days when you met in person, meetings need an agenda -- and the meeting planner needs to stick to it. 

2. Stick to a time limit. Without a time limit, meetings will expand. And expand. And expand. Try scheduling them for no longer than 50 minutes. That's a tip I got from a management guru -- he told me that by having a meeting from, say, 10 a.m. to 10:50 a.m., it gives everyone time to take a potty break, check messages and be ready for an 11 a.m. appointment.

3. Be inclusive -- and exclusive. Zoom meetings mean that you need to get dressed and look decent, find something to keep your toddler busy and try and get your dog not to bark every time you shift in your chair. In other words, it can be a bit of a hassle. So, meeting planners need to think long and hard about who needs to be included in a Zoom meeting -- and perhaps even seek input from employees: "I'm having a meeting on XYZ. Are you OK with not being included, or is this something you want to sit in on?" At the same time, make sure you include everyone if the meeting is something like a morale booster or brainstorming session.


Monday, July 20, 2020

How to Connect More Easily With Anyone

Even before the pandemic, getting to know someone was difficult. Whether it was a new co-worker, a client or even a boss, finding the right mix of friendly small talk without crossing professional boundaries was a sometimes difficult balancing act.

But now, we have masks that cover our faces during face-to-face conversations, or contend with bad phone connections or video conferencing that can make small talk even more challenging.

Many years ago social psychology researcher Arthur Anon came up with a list of questions that are found to deepen connections. His research shows these queries only take about 45 minutes to discuss, but make participants feel better about the other participants.

Here's a sampling:

1. For what in your life do you feel most grateful?

2. What would constitute a perfect day for you?

3. If you could wake up tomorrow having gained one quality or ability, what would it be?

4. What is your most treasured memory?

5. Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?

There are more questions listed here, and some may not be appropriate for professional situations. Still, it's interesting to think about your responses to these questions, and how they can help you interact more easily with others on the job. At a time when we're trying to connect more honestly with others, this may be a great place to start.

Monday, July 13, 2020

Bad Zoom Habits to Break Now

When we first started using Zoom meetings, it was a learning curve for many. It was often funny -- the cat who constantly walked in front of a co-worker's computer screen or the pants-less spouse who ran by in the background.

But Zoom has become a daily fact of life for most of us, and a lot of these "funny" or "odd" or "embarrassing" incidents have lost their charm. Colleagues no longer want to look at your cat or hear your kid's TV program blaring in the background. They don't want to see you looking like you were dragged through a hedge backwards.

It's time to accept that Zoom meetings are here to stay, and it's time to conduct yourself just as you would in any professional situation. Here are some things to think about:

1. Prepare yourself. Don't show up to a Zoom meeting after just working out or just waking up. Would you walk into a conference room dressed in ratty sweat pants or with your hair sticking up in five different directions? You've had plenty of time to adjust to working at home and starting to dress like a grown-up. Doing otherwise signals to your boss and your colleagues that you're not taking them or your job seriously. (And don't think you can get by with using an avatar -- everyone is expected to show their actual face by now.)

2. Improve your environment. It's been interesting to see pieces of various homes while on Zoom. But it's no longer interesting to see your dirty dishes, your unmade bed or your dying plant. Many people associate a messy desk with a disorganized person, so don't send that message from your home. You may have a limited space to work, but take the time to convey your professional approach to your job -- or others may think you're just waiting to crawl back into that unmade bed as soon as the call is over.

3. Use your manners. Showing up late, slouching in your seat, messing with your phone and not being prepared for the issues to be discussed are all bad form during a meeting, and that includes those conducted via Zoom. Make sure you're speaking clearly, smiling when appropriate and sending a 'I'm-here-and-I'm-ready" visual vibe to others. Anything less than that is rude and unprofessional.

While many of us are working from home, our face-to-face contact with colleagues and bosses is limited. If you're not making the best impression possible during Zoom calls, you're seriously undermining your career because that visual interaction will provide a lasting -- and unimpressive -- memory for others.

Monday, July 6, 2020

How You're Showing Intolerance at Work

The ongoing protests and calls for greater equality in our country are prompting many changes, from renaming buildings to large donations to diversity organizations.

For many, however, these changes won't directly impact them. Whether they're working from home or going back to work, they may not really think about diversity other than to be supportive of various causes or to voice their concern.

Yet, diversity does affect all of us. Every day. Whether we can admit it to ourselves or not, we all show prejudice in various ways at work. This doesn't mean we are openly hostile to someone of color or nationality, but it still exists.

These prejudices also don't mean we're all bad people. We just need to become better informed and more aware of our own actions. Things we do or say (or don't say) can lead to real harm, whether it's damaging someone's reputation, ensuring the person doesn't get ahead or even leading to that person losing a job.

Here are some things to think about:

  • Your network. Check out your online connections, whether it's Facebook or Instagram or LinkedIn. How diverse is it? Do you have connections -- people you regularly connect to -- who are from different cultures, races, genders, etc.? Do you have conversations about topics outside of work-related matters? Do you listen? Do you learn? Do you interact with people who disagree with you?
  • Your effort. In your workplace, are there people with names that you find difficult to pronounce? Is that the reason that you've come up with a nickname or otherwise shortened the name to make it easier for you? No one should be forced to change his or her name for such a reason -- it shows a real lack of respect and professional courtesy. You may need to ask the person to help you with the pronunciation, but that's OK. Start making an effort to be more open and receptive to others who aren't like you.
  • Your assumptions. More than once, I've met someone in person who says: "Oh, you sounded blonde on the phone." What does that even mean? How do you sound blonde? Or, I've been treated derisively by someone because of the slight twang of my voice. We often make assumptions because it helps us quickly categorize people and decide what we will do in reaction to that person. So, a shorter-than-average man must have a "Napoleon" complex, a blonde girl who dresses preppy must be a sorority airhead and a Black woman who went to Harvard must have been an affirmative action student. Think hard about how many times you do this, and even ask family and friends to make you aware when they hear you making assumptions about colleagues.

We can all do better and there's no time to waste. Start today thinking about the way you interact with others at work and how you can really start to make a difference in your own actions and attitudes.

Monday, June 29, 2020

Why You Need to Be Worried About Your Job Now -- and What to Do About It

If you're still employed, congratulations.

But, worried.

It's a sad but true reality that even if you're employed right now, things are clearly not going to go back to normal anytime soon. A new study says that 30% to 43% of U.S. employees will not go back to their pre-pandemic jobs. For every 4.2 new hires made, there will be 10 job losses, meaning that millions of people are going to unemployed.

Clearly, there are hard-hit industries right now such as those in hospitality that are showing huge job cuts. But think of the ripple effect these jobs losses have had -- farmers who can't sell their produce or milk because restaurants have cut back so drastically.

That's what you need to consider when you think about the safety of your job. If you work for a company that has a lot of government contracts, you could be threatened as the U.S. government begins to slash contracts with private companies. Or, if you work for a business that provides service or parts for water theme parks or even Disney World -- then you're going to be in real trouble as those venues remain closed or severely restricted.

Even white collar jobs are in trouble. Think of the entertainment law firms that no longer have entertainment business to handle because television and movie projects have been postponed. What about the accountants who handle the business for resorts? Those vacation destinations have been hit hard -- how many accountants will lose their jobs because there isn't enough business?

While your job may end up being safe, you should never be lulled into being complacent right now. Here are some things you need to do to improve your chances that you'll land on your feet should you become jobless:

  • Diversify your network. Look over your contacts on LinkedIn and other social media channels. If you're in advertising and all your contacts are in advertising or public relations or marketing, you're going to be in trouble should the industry take a big hit. Start looking for those in other sectors -- healthcare, tech, engineering, etc. You may need to make a real pivot to another industry -- do you even know anyone in another industry?
  • Grow your skills. Try to branch out. Think about taking a coding bootcamp, project management courses or other tutorials. Check out some options here.
  • Get to know your company better. A lot of employees don't really know much beyond the basics when it comes to the company's business. But if you're dependent on a paycheck from a business, then you need to know if that business is vulnerable. Do some online sleuthing, read industry publications and even try to get your boss to open up a bit about where he or she sees the company going. Paying attention may give you a heads up that your job may not be as safe as you thought.

Monday, June 22, 2020

How to Handle Going Back to Work After COVID-19

If you're still working from home, you need to start preparing to return to your workplace.

The thought may fill you with dread. Maybe you love working from home. Maybe you're scared of catching COVID-19 when you return to work. Maybe you're just getting used to your new routine and the thought of commuting and going back to your co-workers fills you with anxiety.

Just remember that you're not alone. We've all been experiencing a lot of stress, depression and anxiety since the world was turned upside down and we were required to quarantine at home.

"Uncertainty and unpredictability can really create an unhealthy amount of fear and stress, especially when it's sustained over such a long period of time," says Dr. K. Luan Phan, head of psychiatry and behavioral health at Ohio State University's Wexner Medical Center in Columbus.

Still, when the boss says it's time to return to work, you know that you will probably return to work. So, how do you do it and still feel safe? How do you prepare yourself mentally and emotionally to, once again, confront change?

Here's some things to think about:

1. Take your own precautions. Just because your boss says there will be hand sanitizer and social distancing doesn't mean you shouldn't take your own steps to feel safe. So, bring your own sanitizer. Wear a mask even if no one else does. Don't use the communal coffee pot, water fountain, beer keg, etc. Take the stairs instead of the elevator full of people. Some people are much more lax about social distancing and wearing a mask, but you don't have to be. Do what makes you feel safe.

2. Start the transition. So you've been wearing sweatpants and college sweatshirts since you started working at home. But now it's time to get out your adult clothes and figure out if they still fit. (No judgments!) Try on several outfits and think about how you feel in them -- if nothing works it's time to try a little online shopping to get yourself ready.

3. Get organized. It may have taken you a while to set up your home working space, but it's time to start thinking about what you need to go back to work. Start organizing the files, computer cables, workbooks, etc. that you're going to need to take back to the job.

4. Prepare your household. Whether it's kids or pets or partners, consider what will also make the transition easier on them. Do you need to set up a schedule that will mimic the one that you'll have once you're working away from home? Do you need to find new treats or toys for your pets to keep them occupied when you're not taking them for five walks a day? Do you need to prepare more freezer meals for when you're not home to cook when you want?

5. Remember to breathe. When we all first went into lockdown, we had to learn to cope with the scariness of it all, the weirdness of our lives and the uncertainty of what was going to happen. Think about what calmed you then. Was it listening to music? Talking to family more? Doing yoga? You may need to rely on those things again as you transition to working away from home. Rely on what works for you and call on it in the coming weeks as you begin this new change.

Monday, June 15, 2020

Signs You Are Toxic to Others at Work

Lately, we've all started taking a much closer look at toxic behavior in the workplace. People like Anna Wintour and Roger Lynch at  Conde Nast are among those high-powered bosses who are being cited as intolerant and cruel.

Employees and even co-workers are no longer afraid to talk about poor behavior that has affected them personally and professionally. Stories of bullying and discrimination seem to surprise those who are accused of it, which shows how oblivious some people are to their damaging "get ahead" tactics.

Could you be one of them? Could you be someone who is treating people badly and not even know it? Before you end up losing your career over your behavior, it's time to take a hard look at whether you're a toxic person. Some signs:

1. You blame other people. Whether it's a typo in a report, missing a deadline, not being prepared for a meeting, not sealing a deal -- you blame other people. From the minor to the major, you cannot ever take responsibility that you're an adult and are responsible for your own actions and decisions.

2. You have no loyalty. It doesn't matter if you've worked with someone for three days or 30 years, you are willing to throw anyone under the bus for any reason. It can range from snarky comments to others about mundane matters ("Did you see what Jane was wearing? Did she get dressed in the dark this morning?") to more targeted gossip meant to derail someone's career ("I think Brad's age is catching up with him. I mean, this is the third time this week I've had to remind him about that deadline. Poor guy.")

3. You believe it's better to take than to give. Maybe you put on a good front during the latest crisis situations in this country and posted really meaningful tweets about "We're all in this together" and photos of "Love one Another"  cupcakes on Instagram, but that's just on the surface. You don't inconvenience yourself for anyone else or always have an excuse of why you can't help in some way: "This is just such a bad time for me! You know I'd love to help, but...."

4. You never apologize. You've always got a million excuses, but never one "I'm sorry....that was my fault." If you do apologize, it's only when you realize you're on Good Morning America and the entire nation has dubbed you to be the latest Karen.

5. You hold a grudge. At night, you lay awake figuring out how to get back at Gary for not holding a seat for you in the meeting or Kelly for not gushing about your latest idea. You don't know if anything was done on purpose to slight you, of course, but that doesn't really matter. Plotting against others and thinking of really cutting remarks or actions against that person are more important than moving on and learning to forgive others.

Do any of these behaviors sound familiar? Are you brave enough to ask others if they see these behaviors in you? If this has become the way you live your life, then you need to make some serious changes. The workplace is different now, just like the rest of the world. No matter how important you may consider yourself, or how "vital" you may be to your company, you can no longer expect others to put up with your toxicity.

Monday, June 8, 2020

5 Tips for Starting a New Job Remotely

Many companies have been great about keeping their job commitments to new hires or even interns in the midst of a global pandemic.

The problem is that many new employees are starting their new positions from their kitchen table instead of the building where the employer resides because companies are still following work-from-home policies.

That presents quite a challenge for the employer -- to successfully onboard a new hire virtually -- and also to the new worker or intern.

If you're one of those who is starting a new job from the comfort of your couch, here's some ways to ensure you still get off on the right foot in a new job:

1. Dress the part. If your new supervisor wants to jump on Zoom for a quick chat, you don't want to be caught in your pajamas or gym shorts with uncombed hair and your home looking like a disaster zone. It's a good idea to start a new job showing your boss that it really matters to you, no matter if you're working virtually. Dress professionally, and set up a workspace that reflects well on you.

2. Ask questions. Whether you're in an office setting or working from home in the early days of a new job, make sure you fully understand how the boss likes to communicate (email, text, Zoom) and how often he or she expects you to check in. Are you supposed to communicate what you get accomplished each day? Or only once a week? If you have problems (technical, employee benefit issues, project management) who do you ask for help?

3. Don't hide. Even the most outgoing people can be nervous when starting a new position, but don't let that be an excuse to hide from colleagues or supervisors. Try to set up Zoom meetings with each colleague -- "Can we chat for 10 minutes via Zoom so that you can tell me a bit about what you do?" is a great ice-breaker in an e-mail. The added advantage of quarantined workers is that many are wanting to connect with another human face and chatting with a new worker through video chat is a great way to get off on the right foot with them.

4. Be helpful. If you know of an app or read an article that might be helpful to a co-worker who is dealing with an issue, forward him or her the information in an email: "I remember from the Zoom meeting that you were researching more efficient delivery methods for that new product, and I just read this article and thought it might be helpful," and then provide the link.

5. Be flexible. Even though many companies have had employees working from home for months, this is still a learning process. They're often making it up as they go, and things may change from day-to-day. You need to stay flexible and know that whatever you do one week may look different the next week. As companies start to phase workers back in to the office, it will probably change several more times. When you show others that you're flexible, can adapt and still be contributing, then you'll be seen as a valuable team member -- no matter if it's at your kitchen table or in the office.