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.