Monday, January 27, 2020

Never Accept a Job Offer Without Doing These Things

Congratulations! You've been made a job offer and you're pretty excited.

Before you make an "I quit" cake for your current job and present it in a staff meeting, are you really happy with the offer you've been made? Are they offering you the salary you believe is fair?

Chances are, you weren't made the "best" offer, which makes sense. Why would an employer offer you the highest amount they can pay if they can get you for less? It's a simple business decision, and that's how you need to approach it -- it's business.

The reason I say this is because too many people take a salary offer personally. They think it's some kind of social commentary on their worthiness, along the lines of "that haircut makes you look like a Wookiee."

So, they end up accepting whatever they're offered without even trying to counter (CareerBuilder finds that 56 percent do not negotiate for better pay.) Then, a few months or years down the line they begin to feel they're underpaid. They feel resentful or angry or depressed. That's when they start to job search again.

See where I'm going with this?

It makes much more sense to negotiate your salary when you're made the offer. That way, both you and the employer feel like you're on the same page and begin the working relationship on a good note. Remember this: CareerBuilder finds that 53 percent of employers say they are willing to negotiate salaries on initial job offers and 52 percent say they typically offer a lower salary and are willing to negotiate.

Here's some things to remember:

  • Know your worth. Do your research through sites like or Glassdoor so that you know the average salary for your position and experience. Make sure you consider regional factors -- salaries are often higher in metropolitan areas than in some less-populated areas.
  • Be respectful. This isn't a negotiation on par with establishing peace in the Middle East. This is possibly your future employer, so convey your appreciation for the offer and signal that you'd like time to consider it.
  • Get out the calculator. If you don't feel like you're good at taking a steely-eyed look at your expenses, then enlist someone to help you. Consider what you really spend (not what you'd like to believe your spend) and what you need to live comfortably. (Does is really make sense to take a job where money will be so tight that one minor financial issue will upend your world?) Look at things like your rent or mortgage, but also your local and federal taxes and other expenses such as child care, car payments, student loans, etc. Once you get a handle on what you need to really live, you'll have a much better idea of what you need to negotiate.
  • Consider the entire offer. Sometimes the base salary is not what you want, but the employer is offering other benefits that improve the overall offer. For example, maybe you only work four days a week, which will cut your child care bill. Or, the health benefits are generous, which will help improve your overall financial picture. 
  • Perks. Gym memberships, flexible schedules, remote work and tuition reimbursement are all perks that you may consider important enough that you're willing to take less pay if they are offered. Just because they were not offered initially doesn't mean they don't exist -- ask if they're available.
Once you've been made an offer, ask if you can have 24 to 48 hours to consider it so that you can crunch the numbers and talk with your family. Then, be respectful enough of the employer to respond in that time frame.

Monday, January 20, 2020

Research Shows How to Be More Creative

Is there anything more frustrating than to be told: "Come up with a really creative idea/solution to this problem. Oh, and we need it right now."

Creativity often isn't something that you can turn off and on like a switch. Sometimes the best ideas don't hit you until you're taking a shower or doing something really inane to have an "aha!" moment.

But new research from Stanford Graduate School of Business provides some insight into the creative process, which might prove useful when we're under pressure to find creative ideas or just want to come up with something innovative on our own.

First, the research shows that we're not really very good at knowing the ideas that are worth the time and energy necessary to develop them. The good news, however, is that we don't absolutely suck at it.

It comes down to this: When we have an initial idea, we see it as the most creative. But, it's really our second favorite idea that can become the most creative when we take the time to flesh it out.

Justin M. Berg, an assistant professor at Stanford who studies creativity and innovation, says that if you've got a bunch of ideas -- 10 or even 20 -- then the most creative idea might not be simply the second idea. But it probably will be somewhere in the top half of what you consider your best ideas.

But this is where it gets tricky: Many of us are quickly kill out ideas we don't deem as creative early in our process -- and that may mean knocking out the very ideas, he says.

Berg offers these tips for your creative process:

  • If you're under a deadline, go ahead and opt for initial ideas that are more well defined as those ideas will have the chance to reach their potential the fastest.
  • If you've got more time, try to consider other ideas more thoroughly early in the process. Consider why the ideas may be promising before deciding to which ones to pursue. You can also decide to develop two ideas -- one safer and one riskier. (Do the riskier one first so you don't become so attached to the safe bet.)
  • If you think an abstract idea is the best one, flesh it out first before revealing it to others.

Monday, January 13, 2020

What to Do If You Have Imposter's Syndrome

No matter how successful you may be in your career, it's not unusual to feel like an imposter.

"Imposter syndrome" is a real thing, and I've met many (very successful) people who have it.

According to Harvard Business Review, imposter syndrome "can be defined as a collection of feelings of inadequacy that persist despite evident success."

Those who suffer from this condition have such chronic self-doubt that they see themselves as intellectual frauds, failing to enjoy their successes or external proof of their competence and accomplishments. It's not that they have low self-esteem or self-confidence -- they just have this driving perfectionism (especially true for women and academics) that makes them focus on how they don't deserve their success.

While imposter's syndrome may find it roots in childhood family dynamics, the end result is someone who feels like a fake, like he or she absolutely cannot fail. Such people attribute their success to luck -- or contend that their success is really no big deal.

Dr. Valerie Young, a recognized expert on imposter syndrome, says there are ways to deal with the issue:

  1. Break the silence. Shame keeps a lot of people from “fessing up” about their fraudulent feelings. Knowing there’s a name for these feelings and that you are not alone can be tremendously freeing. 
  2. Separate feelings from fact. There are times you’ll feel stupid. It happens to everyone from time to time. Realize that just because you may feel stupid, doesn’t mean you are.
  3. Recognize when you should feel fraudulent. If you’re one of the first or the few women or a minority in your field or work place, it’s only natural you’d sometimes feel like you don’t totally fit in. Instead of taking your self-doubt as a sign of your ineptness, recognize that it might be a normal response to being an outsider. 
  4. Accentuate the positive. Perfectionism can indicate a healthy drive to excel. The trick is to not obsess over everything being just so. Do a great job when it matters most, without persevering over routine tasks. Forgive yourself when the inevitable mistake happens. 
  5. Develop a new response to failure and mistake making. Henry Ford once said, “Failure is only the opportunity to begin again more intelligently.” Instead of beating yourself up for being human and blowing the big project, do what professional athletes do and glean the learning value from the mistake and move on. 
  6. Right the rules. If you’ve been operating under misguided rules like, “I should always know the answer,” or “Never ask for help” start asserting your rights. Recognize that you have just as much right as the next person to be wrong, have an off-day, or ask for assistance. 
  7. Develop a new script. Your script is that automatic mental tapes that starts playing in situations that trigger your Impostor feelings. When you start a new job or project instead of thinking for example, “Wait till they find out I have no idea what I’m doing,” try thinking, “Everyone who starts something new feels off-base in the beginning. I may not know all the answers but I’m smart enough to find them out.” 
  8. Visualize success. Do what professional athletes do. Spend time beforehand picturing yourself making a successful presentation or calmly posing your question in class. It sure beats picturing impending disaster and will help with performance-related stress. 
  9. Reward yourself. Break the cycle of continually seeking °© and then dismissing °© validation outside of yourself by learning to pat yourself on the back.
  10. Fake it ‘til you make it. Now and then we all have to fly by the seat of our pants. Instead of considering “winging it” as proof of your ineptness, learn to do what many high achievers do and view it as a skill. The point of the worn out phrase, fake it til you make it, still stands: Don’t wait until you feel confident to start putting yourself out there. Courage comes from taking risks. Change your behavior first and allow your confidence to build. 

Monday, January 6, 2020

3 Ways to Deal With Toxic People at Work

If you're like me and would like to begin 2020 by eliminating negativity from your life, then you're going to have to deal with those people at work who get on your last nerve.

You know exactly who I mean: the colleagues or bosses who love to manipulate others or are uncivil. They never say "please" or "thank you" and if they can find a way to insert a discouraging or mean-spirited thought into any discussion, they do it.

You've tried to be nice. You've tried to kill them with kindness. You've even tried to spar with them in a lighthearted way. But none of that works -- you often find yourself dreading work and the reason can be traced to the toxic person (or people) at work.

It might be funny if it wasn't so serious. Unlike some characters from "The Office," research has shown that such toxic people in real life can hurt your mental and physical well-being. They cause sleepless nights, damage your personal relationships and may even lead to bouts of depression.

Here are some ways to eliminate the influence negative co-workers or bosses have on your life:

1. Let it go. While it might feel good at first to have an after-work bitch session at the nearest pub, that isn't going to solve anything in the long run. All you're doing is wallowing in your misery -- and thinking about it more instead of less. Stop letting toxic people control you when you're not even at work. Find something else to help you channel your feelings -- take your dog on a walk, take up a hobby you've always wanted to try or go to a comedy club. Do things that make you feel positive about life.

2. Keep a journal. Instead of writing in your journal about how much you dislike the toxic person or negativity at work, instead write about the positive things that happen each day -- no matter how small. "The woman in the parking garage gave me a wonderful smile. " "The new client is really a funny guy and made me laugh." "Mark offered to get me coffee when he saw how busy I was."

3. Don't sink to their level. Nothing makes me feel worse about myself than to get into a disagreement or interaction with someone and I behave in a way that my Southern mom would term "ugly." Think about who you are and what you value and how being snide or negative is not in line with how you want to live your life. Then, find other ways to deal with someone toxic at work. If you become frustrated and angry with them, simply walk away or respond, "I'll have to get back to you" or "I really don't have anything to add" and leave. You cannot cut this person out of your life, but you can limit the time you spend around him or her.

Finally, be good to yourself. You're not going to always avoid negative people or negative emotions. But the more you practice staying positive and being true to yourself, the less impact such people will have on your work life.