Monday, September 20, 2021

How to Set Boundaries When Working From Home

 For many employees, working from home is becoming a new reality of their career -- although how much they work remotely can depend on their job, their company and their boss.

Yet, no matter how much an employee works from home, there is always the dilemma of how to set boundaries so that work doesn't encroach on family time and vice versa.

If you're going to work from home and need some parameters:

1. Stick to a schedule. Some days this won't be possible -- a kid gets sick or the Internet at your house goes on hiatus. But as much as possible, set a schedule just like you did at work: you have a specific start time, a lunch break and end your day at a certain time. This can be tough at first since you don't really have a bus to catch at a certain time in order to get home, for example. But set these times in your mind, and even ask a family member or friend to hold you accountable in the beginning.

2. Dress the part. No one is saying that you have to dress in a suit to work from home, but if that puts you in the right mindset, go ahead. Do change out of your pajamas and take care of your daily hygiene before starting work -- this has the ability to click your brain over into "work" mode. 

3. Communicate on all channels. Make sure your schedule is clearly posted for everyone at work to see: your scheduled meetings; when you plan to be at the gym or taking a kid to school; and when you plan to quit for the day. You need to post this where everyone can see it such as on a company online calendar, on Slack, etc. If your routine schedule changes, then send additional emails or leave voice mails to alert everyone to the alterations.

4. Be dependable. If you set a schedule, stick to it. Nothing is more frustrating to colleagues or bosses than not getting a response when you're supposed to be available. This doesn't mean you have to respond within 10 minutes to their inquiries, but it does mean that you can't be out-of-pocket for hours with no explanation. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Why You Need to Let Your Top Performer Go


As a manager, would you let your top performer go to another department without a fight? Probably not. Most managers aren't going to let their best employee waltz off to work for another manager.

But this "talent hoarding" is exactly what low-performing, non-agile, slow-to-change companies do, writes Kevin Oakes in Harvard Business Review.

This practice of hoarding superstars is natural, of course. Oakes, the CEO of the Institute for Corporate Productivity, says that research shows half of companies (and 74% of low performers) say that managers are often the No. 1 impediment to encouraging mobility of top performers.

It make sense, of course. Losing top performers can certainly adversely impact a department's performance -- and can then hurt a manager's ability to rise in the ranks. 

If companies want to become more agile and innovative -- and better able to deal with unprecedented events like a pandemic -- then they've got to change their thinking and how they move personnel. At the same time, managers have got to quit hoarding their top talent or risk these people leaving anyway because they are looking for more challenges and opportunities.

Oakes says that the best ways to ensure that top talent is used in a way that helps their own career and the company:

1. Don't hide the talent. Call out the contributions these people bring to other departments, and reward managers for sharing them with others. Managers who help their people succeed and move around within a company become "talent magnets" and attract others who want to have a manager than helps with career development.

2. Celebrate lateral moves. Organizations need to make clear that lateral moves are just as valuable as upward trajectories to a career. When employees feel "stuck" and don't have as many options, lateral moves can be a way to continue to grow their talents and value to the organization. Move all employees laterally from time-to-time to avoid "insider verses outsider feelings," he says.

3. Normalize change. If there's one thing that the pandemic has shown workers, it's that change happens to every workplace. If a company culture normalizes change and treats it as a chance for opportunity, then employees will be less stressed and afraid of it. Mobility for workers within a company will be seen simply as part of a healthy business culture and something that makes a company stronger.

Monday, September 6, 2021

What New Managers Must Know to Succeed

Sometimes new bosses are groomed for the role within the company or during their time with another employer. They receive advice and training and are even mentored by more experienced managers. They learn what works and what doesn't.

But other times, new bosses get thrown into the deep end with little training and little support. That's when problems occur, because if they're given little support in the beginning, you can bet they aren't going to get much support as they go along in their jobs. Sometimes these managers find their own footing and everything works out. But many other times, they end up miserable and so does their team.

That's been amplified during the pandemic. Managers who struggled before remote work options have also struggled -- sometimes even more --  during the shutdown because they don't have good management skills necessary to navigate these tough times.

Rachel Pacheco, author of "Bring Up the Boss," says that one of the best ways for managers to learn is to have great role models. That usually happens when they can watch a more experienced manager in action. That means more seasoned bosses need to take the time to help new managers learn complex skills like how to motivate workers, how to give feedback, how to have difficult conversations and how to set fair compensation.

Pacheco, who is also an instructor at the University of Pennsylvania's Graduate School of Education, says that it's also critical that new managers understand that just being a great engineer, for example, won't make them a great manager. The skills they used to rise through the ranks aren't necessarily the ones that will make them good bosses.

One of the key lessons she says new managers need to learn is about communicating as much as possible. Communicate important messages or complex ideas repeatedly and in different ways -- through email, texts, personal conversations or Zoom calls, she advises.

Never believe that you've communicated enough, she says. Always keep honing your message and making sure everyone gets it, she says.


Monday, August 30, 2021

Please Stop Using This Jargon


It's often the little things that get on our last nerve at work. The guy who heats up his stinky lunch in the office microwave. The boss who sends emails after 5 p.m. on Friday.

But according to a new study, one of the most annoying things is business jargon. According to MyPerfectResume, the most annoying jargon is:

"Giving" -- 59 percent

"I'll ping you" -- 59 percent

"Think outside the box" -- 56 percent

"Low-hanging fruit" -- 54 percent

"Reinvent the wheel" -- 53 percent

"Synergy" -- 52 percent

"Take it to the next level" -- 50 percent

"Blue sky thinking" -- 49 percent

"Bring to the table" -- 49 percent

"Touch base" -- 49 percent

"Move the needle" -- 48 percent

"Kudos" -- 47 percent

"Circle back" -- 47 percent

"Take ownership" -- 47 percent

"Raise the bar" -- 46 percent

"Win-win" -- 46 percent

"Core competency" -- 45 percent

"Empower" -- 43 percent

"Strategic partnership" -- 42 percent

"Take offline: -- 42 percent

So, if you don't want to further annoy a boss, co-worker or customer, try to use such words sparingly. If not, they may not want to circle back with you to form a strategic partnership, will not be pinging you, won't want you to move the needle and it certainly won't be a win-win.

Monday, August 23, 2021

Working Moms Should Feel Good About Their Choices

Being a working mother is no cakewalk. The multitasking and juggling required to raise children — with or without a partner — while also maintaining a career can be daunting at times. But perhaps one of the most challenging aspects for some women is their guilt when others criticize them for working instead of devoting themselves full-time to their children.

That criticism even comes from other women, who may hint that a nanny is the "real parent" or that moms should be at home while their children are young.

However, working moms may feel better about their choices when looking at Harvard Business School and Mount Holyoke College research, which shows that when women work, their daughters are likely to have jobs, hold supervisory duties, and earn bigger paychecks than those whose moms stayed at home.

In addition, the sons of working moms are more likely to become men that pitch in with household chores and help with caring for family members.

Courtney Henderson, 37, of Auburn, Alabama, says that when she was growing up, her father's paycheck could support the family, but her mother chose to work. Her mother worked (read more here)

Monday, August 16, 2021

3 Ways to Tailor Your Resume for an Employer

If you're not tailoring your resume to a specific job, it could be why you're not getting any responses to your application.

It's long been said that hiring managers don't spend more than seconds looking at a resume, and if they don't see details that match their needs, they move on.

But how do you tailor a resume for a specific job?

Here are some things to consider:

1. Use keywords. These are often the qualifications listed in a job posting, such as a "team player," or "proficient in Excel." Since many companies now use applicant tracking software (ATS) to initially screen resumes, leaving out these terms could get your resume eliminated by a computer. Also remember that hiring managers are much more likely to be receptive to your resume when you're using language that is familiar to them -- such as the qualifications posted in the job ad.

2. Show your knowledge of the company's culture. If you know, for example, that the company is pushing sustainability efforts or dedication to the arts, try to include skills or experience that highlight your own abilities in this area. You might include community volunteer efforts to clean up waterways or that you teach an art class to inner-city youth on the weekends. Most companies post about their culture through their websites or their online social media feeds.

3. Tap your network. It makes much more sense to find a connection to an employer through your network than just hitting "send" and hoping your resume gets seen by someone at the company. Look at your LinkedIn connections and type in the company's name -- does anyone pop up? Maybe someone's brother-in-law works at the company or a former classmate now works there or knows someone who does? Mine Facebook and Twitter to see if you've got any connections.

Monday, August 9, 2021

Tips for Preparing for a Job Interview

The worst mistake you can make in a job interview is trying to "wing it." Whatever you do, don't walk into the room unprepared. No matter your level of experience or the skills you possess, interviewing well requires preparation and practice, and those who are willing to do the work are much more likely to receive a job offer.

While there is no "best" way to handle interview preparation, we can distill our advice into two core ways to get into the interview mindset (read more here) 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Are You Ready for This Job Market?

Many workers are looking into new careers or new jobs, spurred by changes in their industry or simply a desire to do something else.

If you're one of those people, it helps to be aware of recruiting trends so you know what to expect.

1. Target a specific employer. Even if you're applying for only sales jobs, you need to tailor your resume to a specific employer. That means carefully reading the job ad and making sure you're including as many of the key words as you can from that employer. This doesn't mean you have to rewrite you entire resume for each job application, but know that an applicant tracking system (ATS) or an overburdened hiring manager is going to toss your resume if it doesn't seem like a really, really good match. 

2. Be flexible. There has been a lot in the news about employees who claim they will absolutely quit their jobs if they're not allowed to continue working from home, or they won't consider a job offer unless they can work remotely. While employers are certainly trying to accommodate workers in this uncertain climate, they're not going to upend their business just so everyone can work from home. So, unless you can really walk away from a job or a good job offer, don't completely discount a "hybrid" work arrangement -- be willing to prove your worth and then negotiate for a more flexible work deal if you still want it.

3. Embrace video. While Zoom fatigue is certainly real, it's not something that's going away even after the pandemic. Since chances are good you may initially be interviewed via video, make sure you're prepared with the proper equipment and background and are dressed professionally. If you can't handle a video interview, the hiring manager may worry you won't be able to handle Zoom meetings.

4. Clean up social media. It's surprising how many people decide to improve their social media presence after they begin job hunting. This is something you want to take care of before you send out a resume or let your network know you're interested in new jobs. It might take you a while to clean up (remember your frat brothers still have your drunken photos on Instagram) and you want to make sure you do a thorough job.

Monday, July 26, 2021

How to Get a Job After Military Service

Women in the military who decide to transition into civilian life will find that their proven work ethic and dedication to getting a job done are valuable attributes to private-sector employers. But, challenges remain in finding work post-military.

For example, military job titles can be confusing to private-sector hiring managers. Or, female service members may never have had a civilian job before, so they may not know how to write a resume and cover letter or prepare for a job interview.

The good news is that there are resources designed to help servicewomen transition to civilian work, like tools to help match your military occupation to a civilian job. And, websites (read more here)

Monday, July 19, 2021

Tips for Women Re-entering the Workplace

Traditionally, employment gaps on resumes have been a source of concern to hiring managers. Some recruiters assumed that people with resume gaps might be bad employees or undesirable — and therefore unhireable — for some other reason. Even for women who took time off to raise children, employment gaps could spell trouble during a job search.

The pandemic may have turned this old thinking on its head. With millions of people — the majority of them being women — leaving the workforce for various reasons, there is some recognition among recruiters and hiring managers that there may be more factors to consider when they encounter (read more here)

Monday, July 12, 2021

Has Mentoring Been Damaged by the #MeToo Movement?

It's never been easy being female in the workplace, and, in 2021, that hasn't changed, especially if you are a woman who is looking for a male mentor in the post-#MeToo era.

In 2018, when Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexually abusing women who worked for him, no one could predict how the accusations — and the rape conviction that followed — would impact women across industries. They have been seismic for working women everywhere.

As the accusations mounted and more and more women stepped forward to share stories about the treatment and abuse they had suffered in the workplace, there was little doubt that change was upon us. The movement (read more here)

Tuesday, July 6, 2021

3 Things to Consider If You're Thinking of Quitting Your Job

Are you ready to quit your job?

If so, you're not alone. As we emerge from the pandemic, many people are looking at their jobs and thinking: "Is this the best I can do?"

Thinking that the grass is greener on the other side is nothing new, and with the flood of new job openings it makes sense that you should take stock of your career and assess whether it's in a good place.

Still, you need to think carefully about your situation before making a job leap. Sometimes that jump is a smart idea -- and sometimes you regret it. Here's some things to think about:

1. Chances for advancement. Every company should be able to show you a career trajectory. If you're an engineer I for example, what are the requirements to be engineer II? How many years of service or what types of certification do you need to move up the ladder? If your company doesn't clearly outline -- and the boss can't articulate -- how you can get promoted and earn a bigger paycheck, then it's time to reassess your path to better things.

2. Flexibility. The idea of flexibility can be different for everyone. A working mom, for example, might want the option of working from home two days a week. A hotel manager might like the option of working for 10 straight days and then taking four days off so he can compete in out-of-town marathons. When you're looking for a new job, giving up that flexibility you have in your current job can be a real detriment to your mental health and overall happiness. 

3. Overall compensation. If your company provides full health coverage or on-site meals or a dry cleaning allowance or metro tickets, then you need to figure that into your compensation when trying to decide to leave for a bigger paycheck. One company may lure you with a bigger income, but that starts to dwindle when you figure in a bigger healthcare deductible, no commuting allowance and paying for lunch every day.

4. Exposure. It can be challenging to get ahead if you don't have a chance to regularly interact with decision makers. If you're going to work remotely, will you miss out on those chance encounters with a senior leaders? Will the decision makers remember you through occasional Zoom calls? Will your boss tap you for spur-of-the-moment opportunities? Working remotely can be great unless you miss out on opportunities to learn, grow -- and excel -- through your exposure to more experienced people and bosses.

Some of the decisions to be made will depend on where you are in your career. Those in the early years may decide that job hopping is the only way to get ahead in their skills and their earning power. Those who are mid-career may decide that the perks and stability of their current position are more important than jumping to a new job.

Whatever your decision, approach it with a clear idea of the pros and cons so that you don't jump to a new job just because the other kids are doing it. 

Monday, June 28, 2021

3 Things to Do When You've Made a Mistake at Work

When was the last time you made a mistake at work?

If you say "never," then I've got one word for you: HA.

That's because everyone makes mistakes at work. Sometimes they're little, harmless ones like forgetting to take your moldy sandwich out of the office refrigerator. But sometimes they're much bigger -- like the kind that can put your job in jeopardy.

The key is this: Don't try to cover up a mistake with lies or by acting as if it never happened. If the mistake comes to light, you might get in even more trouble for covering it up. Here's what you do when you screw up:

1. Own it. As soon as you realize you've made a mistake, take responsibility. Don't try to blame someone else, start deleting incriminating emails or ask someone to lie for you.

2. Look for a solution. Once you've discovered the mistake, you have to tell the boss. But before you do that, is there something you can do to fix it? If so, you go to your boss and state what happened -- and immediately say that you've thought of a solution or plan of action. The boss may not like your idea, but it shows him or her that you're trying to get on top of it.

3. Don't grovel. Yes, you're going to have to apologize to those who have been harmed by your mistake, whether it's the colleague who will now have to work overtime to help you fix it or the boss who has to explain to his boss what happened. Still, that doesn't mean you have to act like the lowest life form. You made a mistake, you apologized, you're trying to fix it -- all the things a professional should do in such cases. Don't keep apologizing or walking around with your head down, or that will give you an unflattering reputation.

The key for any mistake at work is to learn from it. Think about what you could have done differently to prevent it from happening again. Not only does this improve your performance, but the boss will certainly appreciate that you're taking proactive steps to do your job better.

Monday, June 21, 2021

3 Easy Ways to Be a Better Person at Work

Walk into any mall store -- or check out any online retailer -- and you're likely to find a "Be Kind" t-shirt. Or tote bag. Or pillow. Or coffee mug.

It seems we all want to be kind to one another and hope others will do the same.

But what does it mean to be kind in the workplace? Some seasoned career professionals will tell you that being kind is fine, but when it comes to your career, you have to be a bit cutthroat as well if you want to survive.

I think the truth lies somewhere in the middle. I don't advise anyone to be so kind that they become a human doormat and don't stand up for themselves at work. At the same time, most cutthroat people end up burning so many bridges that later in their careers they often have no supporters -- and no careers.

Many of us have been working remotely, or have taken new jobs. We may vow to "be kind" in the workplace and not fall into the trap of gossiping, being negative and being selfish at work. 

But, how, exactly, can you be kind at work without falling into the doormat trap? Think about:

1. Helping others. I know that most of us have more than enough on our plates most days, but that doesn't mean you can't put some effort into helping someone who is struggling.  You don't have to take on that person's work, but you can buy them a cup of coffee, offer to proofread a report or just be a sounding board for them.

2. Paying more attention. Everyone has a bad day at work, and sometimes it's a bad week. When it happens, don't just turn a blind eye. Offer words of encouragement and even share times when you've struggled. Just putting a "You can do this!" note on someone's desk can really help that person.

3. Be an advocate. Is there someone in meetings who is always ignored, or has his or her ideas shot down? If so, speak up. Say: "I'd like to hear what Julie has to say," or "Jason, you made a good point -- can you elaborate on that a bit?" Even after a meeting is a good time to say to someone: "I thought that information you offered about online sales was really helpful."

Sometimes we believe we don't have the energy to take on another thing, even if it's helping someone having a bad day. But what anyone will tell you is that being kind is energizing -- for the receiver and for the giver. The added bonus is that some of the most successful people say that being kind is what got them ahead.


Monday, June 14, 2021

How to Ensure Fair Treatment as a Remote Worker

When interviewing for a job, it's always a good idea to pay attention when you get a tour of the workplace and meet other employees. During this time, you want to look for red flags -- the things that indicate that employees are unhappy or that the workplace has a toxic atmosphere. (Some indications include workers who never smile or make eye contact, rundown facilities, lack of clarity regarding advancement, etc.)

The same thing is true when you're considering a remote or hybrid job. Just because the employer says you can work from home doesn't mean that you can ignore the warning signs that the job or the company may be harmful to your career or mental well-being.

Recently, FlexJobs identified red flags it believes are signs of a toxic hybrid workplace, including:

1. No senior leaders who work remotely.

2. Celebrations or rewards happen only in the office.

3. Meetings are scheduled at odd hours.

4. Lack of appropriate equipment for remote workers or lack of proper remote communication tools.

I'd also like to add that any boss who has remote workers needs to be able to offer a clear idea of how he or she measures performance. Are you expected to have set office hours? Are online measurement tools used? 

What about attending professional events? Are those open to you as a remote worker? When you're working from home, it's probably even more important for your career that you attend offsite team events, professional conferences, etc.  Make sure that "working remote" doesn't mean "staying remote." You should be given opportunities to participate in company events.

To be fair, many bosses are still trying to figure out hybrid work arrangements and may not have all these tools and practices in place. But when asked, the boss should show that he or she is proactively looking out for remote workers and gives them as much energy as workers in the office all week.


Monday, June 7, 2021

How to Make Yourself More Powerful at Work

Are you a person who gets things done?

Not just your daily "to do" list of picking up the dry cleaning, attending a meeting or hitting the gym. But do you get things done when others are opposing you?

The key to that question may be in determining how you are seen by others. Are you giving off nonverbal cues that make you seem strong -- or weak? 

For example, tilting your head or looking down means you're giving away your power, says Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford's Graduate School of Business. 

But, when you look someone in the eye, stand tall instead of hunching and take up some space with expansive, forceful gestures, then you are seen as having more power, he says.

You also are seen as more powerful if you refuse to be interrupted, using simple, forceful language and employing vivid words and descriptions, Pfeffer says.

"You don't want to use filler words and you don't want to use, to the extent possible, 'ums' or 'ahs' or anything like that," he adds.

It's also important to consider how your emotions are contagious. Research finds that when you smile at someone, they smile back. Or if you frown, then others are more likely to frown. So, if your energy is upbeat and confident, others will mirror those emotions. "You don't want to say, 'I think there may be some chance that our new venture might succeed.' You want to say, 'we are going to succeed and there's no question about it,'" he explains.

While some may feel that speaking confidently or powerfully is only for certain people, Pfeffer urges everyone to learn to use such methods to advance their careers.  He says it's important to think about how you're conveying yourself through your dress, your mannerisms and your speech.

By simplifying your approach in verbal and nonverbal areas, you can focus on using methods that will boost your power in the eyes of others.

Monday, May 31, 2021

Are You Self-Sabotaging?

You might spend a lot of your time trying to figure out how to get ahead at work, or how to become more successful in your career. You figure out how to deal with Marcia's gossiping, your understand what your boss wants you to do and you even have plotted out the first industry conference you will attend once pandemic restrictions are lifted.

But despite all these efforts, you do something dumb. You don't tell your boss that you'd like to head up a new project. Or, you procrastinate on an assignment to the point that your boss is now upset. You've started making mistakes on routine tasks.

What's going on?

It's called self-sabotage. Psychologists and career experts say it happens when you start getting anxious or afraid of your success. Those feelings start to get in the way of doing your job properly, and you become defensive with others. You may even become disengaged and talk negatively about co-workers or your job.

That may prompt some feedback from your boss about your performance, and that further pulls you into the mindset that you don't really like the job or your boss or the company. See how your own fears and anxieties have lead you to sabotaging yourself?

If you believe this is happening, think about:

1. Being honest with yourself. Self-sabotage can become a pattern. It may have started when you were younger, or it may be that you started negative self-talk as you became more successful in your career. When you think something negative, immediately think of how you can flip the script and find something positive to say instead.

2. Recount your successes. Your boss doesn't pick you for a big assignment because she likes the way you order coffee. She picked you because you've shown her that you're capable and do good work. Think about the steps you've taken to earn her confidence: long hours; always double-checking your work; pitching in to help colleagues; calming angry customers; training new employees; coming up with new ideas; and helping her be successful. Those are all wonderful skills -- that's why she picked you and you need to remind yourself of your abilities.

3. Seek help. It's not always easy to quiet the negative talk in your own head and calm your anxieties and fears, especially if you've been doing it for a long time. Seek advice from a psychologist or career coach who can help you spot the things that trigger your self-sabotage and how you can learn to better cope with your emotions.

If the last year has taught us anything, it's that we have to take care of our own mental health if we want to have lives that are full and rewarding. Don't let the negative thoughts in your own head stop you from having a great career that you've worked hard to get.

Monday, May 24, 2021

It's OK to Be Dumb Sometimes

I'm often the dumbest person on a Zoom call. Seriously. I talk to a lot of people who are experts in their field (data science, AI, global supply chains) and I rely on their expertise to educate me so that I can write a story and inform others.

So, I ask a lot of questions. I try to do my homework before I interview someone, but I still have to ask a lot of questions because I can't assume anything. I have to make sure that I understand these experts and can accurately convey the information they provide me.

The reason it doesn't bother me that I'm the dumbest person on the call is because I've never had anyone be rude about it. If you show a genuine interest in a person and the subject, they're always willing to answer your questions.

I think it's important that everyone be the dumbest person on a call or in a room throughout their career. You need to be challenged and learning something new all the time, even if it doesn't have a direct link to your job. By stretching yourself and asking questions, you expand your network with people outside your field, you jumpstart your creative juices and  you improve your communication skills.

If you can, do some homework before such conversations to show the other person that you're trying to get up to speed. But, if you don't have time to do research, then freely admit that you're learning and are going to be asking a lot of questions and plan to continue research after the call or meeting.

When you try to fake it and act like you know what the other person is talking about, you dig yourself a hole. Because sooner or later it's going to become evident that you're clueless and that will only annoy the other person.

So, go ahead and admit you don't know everything. But do admit that you want to learn and grow -- that will be welcomed by everyone.

Monday, May 17, 2021

How to Get Good Habits to Stick

 A lot of people developed new habits and routines during the pandemic. For some, it was learning to set boundaries during their workday so they could go for walks or spend time with family. For others,  it was just the opposite -- they found themselves working longer hours and unable to disconnect.

If you're part of the group that developed habits that aren't healthy or that you would like to change, you may be looking for way to adopt a better diet, sleep more or use technology less.

A new book, "How to Change: The Science of Getting from Where You Are to Where You want to Be" by Kathy Milkman, may hold some answers.

I've interviewed Milkman before, and as a professor at the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania, she often delves into the "why" of human behavior.

In this latest book, she discovers that in order to develop the consistent habits we want (exercise more, have better work/life balance), the key is not being so strict. In other words, you don't have to visit the gym at the same time every day in order to make that habit stick. If you become an "inflexible automaton," then if you can't make it to the gym at that time, you are unlikely to go at all.

But if you have a more flexible mindset, and work out at different times, then you are more likely to have that habit stick. You learn to adapt to various circumstances in regards to exercise, and so focus on getting your exercise -- instead of the "time" of the exercise.

The lesson here is that instead of focusing on answering your email at a certain time of day, be more flexible. The research suggests that by rolling with whatever life throws at you -- and still answering your email -- the "autopilot" becomes stronger to answer your email. You're not bound by a rigid schedule that can easily be thrown off, but rather the task you want to accomplish.

"I remain convince that by deliberately building good habits, we can harness our inherent laziness to make positive changes to our behavior," Milkman says. "The most versatile and robust habits are formed when we train ourselves to make the best decision, no matter the circumstances."

Monday, May 10, 2021

What Bosses Need to Do Now for Teams Moving Back to the Office

Some people are anxious to get  back to the office and leave behind the days of working at their kitchen tables in their pajamas.

But others are more concerned -- they still worry about COVID-19 transmission, they're unsure how they'll handle childcare or school situations with their children or they simply don't want to return to the hassle of a commute.

Bosses need to deal with these concerns sooner rather than later. By letting employees wonder about what's going to happen with their work arrangements, teams aren't going to be able to function effectively.

Here's some things bosses can do now as change work arrangements evolve:

  • Talk about successes. Call the team together through a Zoom call and remind them how resilient they've become. Talk about how challenges over the last year were addressed not by panicking, but by working together to come up with innovative ideas and solutions. 
  • Let them express concerns. This is best done individually if possible, but if not, hold a virtual meeting that lets employees list all the things that could be holding them back. Once they unpack all their fears or concerns, then bosses have a better handle on how they can work with the employee to find solutions or offer support as needed.
  • Show compassion. As employees become more comfortable with the idea of returning to the office -- or working part-time from home -- the boss needs to show the rest of the team how to behave moving forward. A boss who shows empathy sets the tone for the rest of the team not to be judgmental about someone else's situation or dismiss someone's anxieties as unfounded.
There is no doubt that moving employees back to the office -- or letting some continue to work from home -- will be a big challenge for bosses. But setting the right tone will be critical not only to help employees make that shift, but also in establishing team cohesiveness and resilience in the long run.

Monday, May 3, 2021

How to Better Understand Digital Body Language

As more of us prepare to move back into the office environment -- either permanently or on a more flexible basis -- we need to understand that Zoom calls and other forms of digital communication will become a permanent part of our career.

With that in mind, it's important to become more adept as understanding digital "cues" or "body language" that we observe through a camera lens or via text.

While this is far from an exact science, there is some understanding about what some cues may signal. Consider:

  • Providing affirmation in different ways. While speaking with someone in person or over Zoom, you may nod your head to signal understanding. But in a Slack conversation or via email, you may want to respond immediately with a statement such as: "I get completely what you're saying," or "I agree with your assessment of the situation." 
  • Organizing your thoughts. When you're meeting face-to-face, you may give a thoughtful look to the speaker to indicate you're thinking about their proposal or idea, perhaps even pausing a minute before responding. This shows that you're giving the idea real consideration. When you're responding online, you also need to show thoughtfulness by composing a reasoned message. Don't fire off a quick "got it, thx" or it could be seen as dismissive and rude.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal cues. Even though it's not in person, a Zoom call can provide some clues that someone is getting annoyed or bored during the call.  A person who crosses her arms or appears to be looking at her phone a lot may signal she's bored or becoming annoyed by the conversation. Or, rapid eye blinking or sighing may signal stress.
  • Pick up the phone. One of the biggest complaints about Zoom is that it always feels likes you're "on," which can be exhausting. It's also a pain to make sure you are dressed, have your hair combed and your kids aren't dancing in the background with the cat. (Cute, but distracting.) Instead, eliminate these problems -- and the miscommunication that can happen with emails and texts -- and instead have a phone conversation.

Monday, April 26, 2021

Study Reveals One Simple Way to Negotiate Better

If you've ever watched any of the cable news shows, you know that it seems whoever talks the most -- and the loudest -- seems to win.

But it appears that such a strategy doesn't work in negotiations, according to new study.

The study finds that during negotiations, periods of silence foster a more deliberative mindset because we interrupt our fixed mindset thinking. In other words, it shifts negotiators into a  more reflective state of mind, and this can lead to better opportunities to create value for both sides.

This silence helps the initiator to think more deeply about a problem, instead of seeing it as a tug-of-war where one side has to win and the other side has to lose.

So, the next time you're negotiating at work -- whether it's with a customer or a co-worker or a boss -- don't feel like you have to talk all the time to "overpower" the other side and get your way. Instead, embrace some silence and let your mind consider other ways to get what you want -- and help the other side get what they want.

Monday, April 19, 2021

4 Ways to Better Manage a Remote Team

A new survey by PwC finds that three-quarters of executives say that remote work caused by the pandemic was successful for their companies and that productivity (despite an initial decline) stayed on track or even improved.

One interesting finding, however,  is that it's "superachievers" who seem to be pulling the weight, often working harder and longer than other team members. These superachievers, which accounted for about one-third of a total sample, didn't slack off even though it appears that other people did.

PwC points out that these superachievers may be accomplishing a lot because of fewer distractions or they are feeling an adrenaline high. But such workers aren't going to be able to sustain the team for long, and other workers report they're suffering burnout and stress.

That's why PwC recommends that leaders need to ensure they're setting all remote workers up for success. Among the recommendations:

1. Key business indicators (KIP). You can't just look at sales calls made, but must also look at effectiveness, input and output and team accountability. This can help managers spot productivity declines or when someone may be near the breaking point.

2. New skills for leaders. When teams aren't physically together, it may be tougher to spot someone who is struggling. Leaders need help in developing their emotional intelligence so that they can better coach remote workers, recognize problems and use effective remote work strategies to help teams.

3. A pat on the back. Some teams would ring a bell with a new sale, or gather for lunch to celebrate achievements. Remote workers still need that recognition -- and leaders need those celebrations to be something that is meaningful to the team member and celebrates achievements in a timely way.

4. Set a schedule. Demands at home can be a distraction for remote workers, so it's a good idea to build structure into team schedules, whether it's a "no meeting" day, or times when breaks are taken for walks or to take care of personal needs.

You may not know what the future holds for your team, whether you will return to the office, continue working remotely or have a hybrid model. But whatever the future holds, don't delay in improving your management of your remote team.

Monday, April 12, 2021

Why Virtual Teams Fight -- and What to Do About It

My last post was on communications, and I wanted to address the topic again because there are some unique challenges with communicating virtually.

One of the biggest issues is that team members are often communicating for the first time with someone they've never met in person. While they may believe a virtual conversation goes well, they are often taken aback when an email later arrives from this person that seems less-that-friendly or judgmental.

Lindred Greer, a professor of organizational behavior at Stanford Graduate School of Business, says that communicating through video calls or emails can escalate conflicts quickly as colleagues take disagreements personally. 

That's because colleagues "can’t see the context or the nuance or even the facial expressions of the person who is engaging in this task conflict,” she says.

As a result, one colleague may start to think negatively about the other person, become more aggressive and escalate the conflict -- something that wouldn't happen if working face-to-face.

In addition, as if often evident on social media, people are more uninhibited in their opinions when they aren't face-to-face, and that can lead to some ugly emails or texts that make the situation worse.

She suggests that one critical way to avoid problems among virtual team members is for managers to have a face-to-face "kickoff" meeting with the members. After spending a few days together, relationships will grow so that in the future, they will be better able to assess interactions and not jump to conclusions.

If your manager doesn't facilitate such contacts, then take it upon yourself to try and meet as many team members as possible in person. It might be a bit more challenging while we're still in lockdown, but it will be well worth the effort.

Monday, April 5, 2021

5 Communications Lessons to Learn Today

I've been covering the workplace for a long, long (long) time, and the one thing I have learned is that 99 percent of the problems in the workplace occur because  of poor communication.

Poor communication between managers and employees and poor communication between co-workers is usually at the heart of every snafu, dispute and poor job performance.

That's why I think a recent podcast with management guru Robert Sutton is valuable. You can find the full transcript here, but let me highlight some of his points about how to communicate better:

 1.  "A lot of what a leader’s job is is to be clear about where people should focus attention and where they should not focus attention."

2. "There are people who suffer from collaboration overload. There’s all sorts of evidence...that essentially you’ve got 3 to 5 percent of the people who do 35 percent of the work on many teams. They get beleaguered. They get burned out. They quit. They get cynical." 

3. "When there’s hand-offs between people, between silos, those are the places where the conflict, where the misunderstanding happens. And as a leader, what your job is is to have everybody, for example, in every silo and in every shift understand what it feels like to be the giver and the receiver in the hand-off situation."

4. In meetings, "if a CEO talks the whole time, that's a bad sign. If you’re a boss, shut up and ask more questions. What good leaders do is that they make it safe and encourage the people who talk less to sort of add something, too."

5. "There’s all sorts of evidence that when people argue in an atmosphere of mutual trust, that they’re more likely to bring different perspectives. They’re more likely to develop the best ideas."

No matter what your job, these are the things you need to think about and try to implement in your daily communications. Do you ask questions? Do you cut off someone who annoys you or do you let him/her voice an opinion? Do others trust you enough to give their honest opinions? 

Working on these issues will not only make you a better communicator, but a more valued member of any team.

Monday, March 29, 2021

How to Answer "Tell Me About Yourself"


"Tell me about yourself" is the most common interview question asked of job candidates, which is why it's a good idea that you come up with a great answer.

First, know that many interviewers use this as an ice breaker, a chance to establish rapport, whether it's for an in-person interview or over the phone.

Second, don't try and wing it. Since you know there's a really good chance you're going to be asked this question, you need to think about what you want to convey to this employer in a few sentences.

Here's what you need to know:

1. Be positive about yourself. "Well, there's really not much to tell...." isn't a good way to start. Instead, think about something you've recently accomplished in your latest role. Or, if you've been unemployed, you can talk about a previous role and the skills you used that are relevant the job and what you've been doing lately to keep up your skills: "I'm really proud of the fact that I completed certification in XYZ or will be completing my online classes this spring."

2.  Don't include unnecessary details. Since you want these comments to be concise and engaging, don't add things that don't advance your story or aren't related to the job you're seeking. 

3. Be engaging. Employers are also looking for soft skills, which  means you need to be able to communicate in a professional but friendly way. They want to see you make eye contact, show some enthusiasm when talking about your skills and smile. 

4. Work on verbal tics. You never know the kind of things that might bug an interviewer, but it's a good idea to work on eliminating bad habits such as saying "like" too much ("It's like, I've always, like, wanted to work in, like, the music industry.") That's also goes for "you know," "uh" and beginning every sentence with "so."

Finally, remember that you don't want to begin reciting your resume when you're asked this question. Keep your answer between 30 seconds and about 1.5 minutes -- try to see what feels comfortable to you. This is just an opening for your interview, and you'll have more opportunities to talk about specifics.

If you can, ask a friend or colleague to listen to your statement. Don't memorize it, just feel comfortable with it so that you're focused more on engaging the interviewer rather than rattling off an answer.

Monday, March 22, 2021

Are You Falling for Job Scams?

There are millions of people searching for jobs right now, which can be a stressful time. But to add to that stress: scammers.

These scammers know that people are desperate, and that gives them lots of targets. Recently, FlexJobs identified 14 common job search scams. Among them:

  • Data entry. These sound like promising jobs because they offer a lot of money for not a lot of required skill. While there are legitimate jobs out there, they're not going to offer really high pay. In addition, legit jobs don't ask you to pay a "fee" or "initiation payment."
  • Pyramid marketing. This is illegal, period. Don't fall for a plan that offers no product, just the exchange of money. Remember chain letters? That's how pyramid schemes operate: they believe that they will benefit when other people follow them into the program and pay money. The key to remember is that in order for someone to make money in a pyramid scheme, someone has to lose.
  • Stuffing envelopes. Never sign up to pay a "fee" to stuff envelopes or do anything else like simply craft projects. The plan is to get you to enroll other people, and then you get a small commission. Run from these jobs.
  • Unsolicited job offers. When you're hunting for a job, to get an unsolicited recruitment email can be sort of exciting. Be careful, however, because scammers use LinkedIn to reach targets. While a legitimate recruiter might be reaching out, do your homework before responding to check out whether the recruiter or his/her company is well known.
FlexJobs offers other job scams to avoid on their site and in the link I've posted above. Always make sure that in your rush to get a job you don't expose your personal information (Social Security number, bank account number, etc.) on a job application. Once you get the job, then a legitimate employer will offer you the proper documentation to sign.

Monday, March 15, 2021

You Got a Warning at Work -- Now What?

If you've ever been reprimanded at work -- either a written warning or a verbal dressing down -- what did you do?

This may not be pleasant to think about because perhaps you were stunned by the rebuke and didn't respond at all. Or, perhaps you got mad or cried or did a quick retreat to your desk afterwards.

The problem with a warning is that you often feel unprepared for it and so react from your gut when it happens. This isn't a good idea because it often means you react poorly or inappropriately, further adding to your problem.

It's not unusual if you don't really have anything to say when you receive a warning. If that happens, don't worry about it. It's OK to get your thoughts together and address it later through another discussion or email.

Here are some things to think about:

1. Ask questions. If you were warned about being "uncooperative" or "having a bad attitude," ask the boss if he or she can give you a specific example. This gives you a better idea of how this problem occurred. Make sure you're not combative: "Can you be more specific so I make sure I fully understand the issue?"

2.  A rebuttal. If you believe that you've unfairly reprimanded for something, then it's OK to speak up. But be careful -- you can't really say "I don't have a bad attitude," when your boss believes that you do. However, if you're warned for being late on projects, you can provide proof from emails that you did turn your work in on time. (It may turn out that the boss has the wrong culprit -- it's your colleague who is late, not you.)

3. Own it. It can be difficult admitting that you screwed up, but owning up to it will be seen as a good first step.

4. Make a plan. Once you realize that you need to make improvements, ask for input from the boss or human resources. If you're reprimanded because you're always late, then that's something you need to figure out on your own. Can you set more than one alarm? Can you take a different route to work that will be faster? Can you have someone else take your son to school so you won't be late?

5. Follow up. Managers don't like to fire people. It's unpleasant and it's a hassle. They have to go through a lot of paperwork and then they have to find someone new and train that person. So, use that to your advantage. Check in with the boss and tell him how you're working to improve. Get his input so you can make adjustments as necessary to meet expectations. If the boss sees you making an effort, that will be a plus in your favor.

6. Dust off the resume. In some companies, once the "paper trail" of reprimands begins, it means that the boss has already made her mind up to fire you and she's just jumping through the hoops to satisfy HR. That's why it's always a good idea when you get a warning in writing to start looking at what else is available in the job market. That way, if you do get fired, you've gotten a jump on your job search.

Monday, March 8, 2021

Why "No" is Important to Your Success

One of the features of social media that people seem to appreciate is the ability to block or unfollow or mute people who annoy them or disagree with them. This creates a much more tranquil online experience as it means that you're only interacting with people who you consider "nice" or who agree with you.

Unfortunately, that's not the best strategy for your career, says Adam Grant, author of "Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don't Know."

In his book, Grant provides examples of people finding success because they surrounded themselves not with "yes" -- but with "no."

Grant, a Wharton management professor, says that people who always agree with you aren't likely to point out flaws in your plans or express skepticism. They don't challenge you to think differently, to look at the world in a different way or help you overcome weaknesses.

That's why he advocates having a "challenge network." These are people who are "disagreeable -- critical and skeptical.

"They're fearless about questioning the way things have always been done and holding us accountable for thinking again," he says.

Too often, Grant says, people protect themselves from dissent as they gain power. "They tune out boat rockers and listen to bootlickers," he says.

The key for finding the right people for your network is knowing that these people dissent because they care, not simply because they delight in shaking things up. You want people who are moving toward excellence -- they look for better solutions because they have integrity and a commitment to looking for successful outcomes.

Who could be part of your challenge network?

Monday, March 1, 2021

When Was the Last Time You Invested in Your Career?

Just because you can't travel or meet with a lot of people right now does not mean it's OK to stop investing in your career.

In fact, it's more important than ever that you be proactive in making sure that you're growing your network, keeping your skills up-to-date and understand the trends in your industry and how they will affect you.

It's understandable that you may have grown a bit lax in some of these areas, but you need to change that starting now. With more vaccinations and more businesses ramping up their plans for the future, you can't afford to still be lounging in your pajamas with your laptop.

It's time to start investing in your future. Here's how:

1. Set a career goal. Most career goals went out the window when the pandemic started, but now it's time to reassess. Where do you want to be in one year? In three years? Are you on track to make that goal happen? What do you need to alter to make it a reality? Who do you need to contact? Will it require training or additional education? 

2. Reverse engineer. Once you've identified that goal, then start working backward on how you can make it happen. For example, let's say you want to be a registered nurse. You need to set a target date for when you'd like to graduate. Now, start working backward on how much schooling you will need. When will you need to be admitted for classes? When will you begin pulling together necessary records to meet that admittance deadline? When will you select the school you want to attend? When will you begin your research on schools? You will probably discover along the way that  you need to get moving now to make your dream a reality.

3. Check in with mentors. As the world begins to return to some sort of normalcy this year, you need to be ready to go. Talk to a mentor about where you are in your career, and new goals. Are past goals still realistic? Does your mentor think you need to turn in a new direction? 

4. Shift into a new gear. For many of us, just getting through the last year has been a great achievement. But now it's time to take it up a notch. Are you taking time to brainstorm creative ideas? Are you finding ways to challenge your thinking with new podcasts or books? Are you proposing new ideas to your boss or your team -- or to a job interviewer?

5. Attend industry events. Many professional organizations are doing a great job of moving their events online. This is the time to jump in -- attend seminars, go to training events and meet new people and reconnect with others. This will not only ensure that you're keeping up with industry trends, but that you're investing in your network and your career.

A lot of people have taken a career hit over the last year through no fault of their own. It's been a helpless feeling. But now that there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel, it's time to be proactive and set your own course for what lies ahead in your career.

Monday, February 22, 2021

This is Why Meetings are Such a Hot Mess -- and What You Can Do About It

It often seems that many meetings go off the rails right away. Someone shows up late. Another person won't stop texting. Still another participant stares into space and seems to be in another world entirely.

Collaboration expert Dick Axelrod says in a recent interview that the trouble with meetings often occurs even before participants show up, because people "arrive at meetings prepared to be disengaged."

He explains they may still be thinking about their last phone call or interaction, or be distracted by many other things such as an upcoming deadline.

The key is grabbing the attention of folks right away, he contends, before they have a chance to mentally drift away. That can be done by:

1. Doing a warm up. There's a reason that musical acts or other entertainers often have a warm-up act: It gets attention and prepares people to be engaged. One way to do this is the spend a few minutes letting people speak freely and greeting people individually.

2. State the purpose. Have you ever been in a meeting and wondered what it's about and why the heck you're there? If you feel that way, it means that the facilitator hasn't done a good job of clearly stating the purpose and how it's linked to a larger problem that needs to be solved by the group's collective creativity or expertise.

3. Provide a roadmap. This should be a quick explanation about what the group needs to do during the meeting. This can be done by going through the agenda briefly and addressing any questions.

While this may sound like a simple formula, I'll bet we've all been in plenty of meetings that seem disorganized, rambling, too broad or very, very dull. With a few tweaks, it seems that we can all make better use of our meeting time.

Monday, February 15, 2021

3 Tips for Writing an Appreciation Letter

When you're in a job search -- or land a new job -- one of the key ingredients for your career is to make sure you write letters of appreciation.

These letters should be written to those who have given you recommendations -- either in writing or via phone calls to potential employers -- and to anyone else who has helped you along the way. (This may also include a mentor who has offers advice, a former co-worker who provides a contact or even a supportive colleague.)

The reason you want to write these missives is because it is more meaningful to someone rather than a "thx" text from you. The time you spend writing and sending the note will stick with the receiver, boosting your professional and personal connection. In addition, the person is much more likely to want to help you in the future when it's clear you appreciate efforts made on your behalf.

Here's how to write the letter:

1. Be prompt. Don't wait six weeks or six months to write a letter. Try to get it done within days of the person helping you. If it takes you a while to write the letter, don't let that be an excuse to not send it. A late note is better than none at all.

2. Be clear. "I'm writing you because I want to express my appreciation for ...." 

3. Include a few details. You don't need to offer a long explanation, but a couple of details about why the person's help was so valuable will help personalize the message and make it more sincere. "By providing a recommendation letter, you helped open doors for me and make my dream of becoming a sales manager that much closer."

The appreciation letter is often forgotten in other ways -- did you send an appreciation letter to the boss who gave you a raise or promotion? Did you send an appreciation note after a colleague covered for you without complaint?

Sending such notes doesn't take but a few minutes of your time. Instead of scrolling through Instagram for 5 minutes (or more), use the time send a thank-you note. 


Monday, February 8, 2021

Why You Need a Letter of Recommendation Now

Since the pandemic began, many people have been laid off, or taken positions that "underemploy" them. In other words, they haven't been in their "real" job for some time.

As the job market starts to improve this year, many people will want to return to their "real" jobs. The competition will be keen, of course, so that means those who are well-prepared, focused in their search efforts and finding ways to stand out will have a better chance of landing a new job sooner rather than later.

One way to get an edge on the competition is through a recommendation. While some employers don't ask for a recommendation until a job candidate is in the final stages of consideration, you can also offer a letter of recommendation when you apply for a job.

Even if the application is made online, there's no reason you can't send a letter of recommendation to the hiring manager or even the company's human resources department as a way to open the door a little wider. 

Some may feel a little reticent about asking for a letter of recommendation, but that's negative thinking. First, managers tell me they get such requests all the time, even from employees that they may have supervised decades ago. Second, the only thing that can happen is the person ignores you or declines to write the letter. If that happens, you're no worse off than before.

Still, there is a proper way of asking for a recommendation. Do it well, and the person may come through for you. Do it poorly, and you're likely to not get a letter.

Here's how to ask:

1. Choose your targets. A former boss makes sense -- especially from your last job -- as this person can speak directly to your work ethic, talents, soft and hard skills, etc. But also think about those who have watched you work, such as someone at a volunteer organization or colleagues that worked closely with you. Family and friends aren't good choices as employers will see these as biased.

2. Make contact. Send an email or make a phone call to the person to make your request. Tell them that you're applying for jobs and you are trying to be proactive by also supplying employers with a recommendation letter.  

3. Prepare. Don't just expect someone to write a letter of recommendation about you without some context. If you do, you're risking a very generic, uninspiring letter. Instead, you want to supply key information so the letter is targeted and favorable. Send the person your current resume and remind them of your key skills that also match the job you're seeking. For example, you may want to remind the person of how you're detail-oriented, have the right technical skills, are a team player and have a great work ethic. You might want to even mention one or two examples of these skills to jog the person's memory. (You can even attach examples of recommendation letters.)

4. Deadline. Mention the deadline in your initial call and then post it in bold in your email.

5. Send a thank-you note. Always follow up with an appreciative email -- a handwritten note is even better -- once you receive the recommendation.

Start getting prepared now to be proactive once jobs start to become available in your chosen field. Make sure your resume is polished, your interview suit still fits and letter(s) of recommendation are ready to go.

Monday, February 1, 2021

4 Ways to Make Sure Your Career Thrives While Working from Home

Working for home has become the norm for many workers since the pandemic began, but would you like to continue to do so once it's safe to return to the office?

For some employees, the question is moot since their companies will require them to return to the office. But other employers like Twitter say their employees may continue to work from home forever.

If you are given the choice to continue to work from home, however, you need to keep in mind that there could be some downsides to your career.

One of the most obvious is that you're going to miss out on a lot of watercooler conversations or chance meetings that can help you make critical connections or grab new opportunities. These things can still happen when you work from home, of course, but it's going to be more difficult.

Another issue is that when you work from home, your boss or your colleagues may not believe you're working as hard as them. This is strange considering they will all claim they worked really hard when they were at home, but there you have it. It will be hinted by some that since you're still at home, you're not as committed to the job or the company, or that you're taking five naps a day and watching "Gilligan's Island."

So how do you ensure your career continues to thrive if you choose to continue working from home?

1. Attend meetings. Don't just call in to participate -- use Zoom to show that you're really attending. Dress like your colleagues in the office and don't multitask while on the call (no painting your bedroom or doing the dishes).

 2. Make phone calls. While using Slack or emails is fine, when you're working from home you want to make sure that those in the office are hearing from you personally. Instead of sending five emails to settle an issue or discuss an idea, for example, phone your colleague. This gives you a chance to have a more personal connection, and also catch up on some of the watercooler talk you may have missed.

3. Keep track of your work. Even if your boss doesn't require it, record when you're working, what you're getting accomplished, new contacts you may have made, ideas that have been developed, etc. This will be critical when it comes to an informal or formal performance evaluation. You want to offer concrete proof of your contributions, and if you don't record them, you'll forget them -- and so will your boss.

4. Be helpful. One thing you may notice while working from home (if you don't have too many distractions), is that you get a lot done in a shorter amount of time. You can think more deeply about problems or issues and you have more time to develop innovative ideas. Let your boss know this is a bonus -- send her some of your fully developed ideas or notify her of an emerging trend you've spotted.

Monday, January 25, 2021

What Job Hunters Need to Know Now


As the job market opens up, the competition for jobs is going to be pretty tough. Those who are unemployed or underemployed are going to be vying for positions with millions of others.

So how can you stand out to employers and beat the competition? It's not difficult -- but it will take some preparation and effort. Here are some ideas:

1. Clean up your social media. Do a search on yourself. What turns up? Working at a local soup kitchen, posting industry think pieces or drinking games with your friends and curse-word laden posts on favorite movies or celebrities? Employers will conduct due diligence on employees before they hire them because it can save them a lot of headaches down the road. Your profile needs to be squeaky clean.

2. Update your resume. You may feel that you don't have anything new to add to your resume if you've been unemployed during the pandemic. But if you've volunteered at a local food bank, gotten a relevant online certification or even launched a new blog on industry trends, then that's worth mentioning.

3. Make a good first impression. After being in lockdown, you may need to dust off some of your professional skills. Whether you're interviewed via Zoom or in person once vaccines are widely available, you've only got seconds to make a good impression. First, you need to smile. Put your shoulders back, hold your head up and look the employer in the eye (or camera). It may sound simple, but be nice. Remember your manners and say please and thank you. Surveys show that the most desirable traits in a candidate are sincerity, kindness and patience. So, no peeking at your phone, letting your eyes and mind wander during the interview and sighing because you're bored.

4. Know your skill set. While you'll be asked about specific skills depending on your industry, employers are going to zero in on certain abilities no matter what your job. They include being detail-oriented, being a fast learner, being a self starter, being a team player, having initiative and being dependable. Try to think of specific instances where you've displayed such abilities -- these are the examples you can work into your interview.

Predictions are that the job market will start to really heat up in late spring or early summer, but don't wait until then to prepare for interviewing. Look for gaps in your resume or skills set and seek to fill them with online training or education. Record yourself on a Zoom interview with a friend to see how you can improve your video presence and background and start keeping a list of ways you've shown teamwork, initiative and dependability in past jobs.

Monday, January 18, 2021

3 Tips for Dealing with a Perfectionist Colleague


For most of us, we have great days at work when we're really on top of our game. Then, there are other days when we don't do our best work, and we know it. 

But a perfectionist can never let anything slide. He or she believes that everything has to be perfect, every single time. They cannot walk away until they feel something is just right.

When you work with someone like this, it can be a blessing and a curse. A perfectionist often catches mistakes or ensures quality control, making everyone's work shine brighter. So, that's a blessing.

But when this same perfectionist co-worker makes everyone stay late on a Friday night because he's obsessing over every detail for a presentation to be delivered Monday, then it's a curse.

So how do you best deal with a perfectionist colleague?

1. Know there is good and bad. It's unfair and unprofessional for you to trash talk this person when you know that he adds value to any project with his attention to detail and quality of work delivered. But it's OK to also feel exasperated when this colleague holds up work or puts more pressure on others with perfectionist tendencies. Remind yourself that while this person may believe in perfectionism, you know that doesn't exist. In other words, the perfectionist isn't perfect and neither are you.

2. Pick your battles. It will make for an increasingly stressful work environment if you constantly fight with a perfectionist, who feels there is nothing wrong with offering unsolicited advice on what you do wrong. Here is where you can choose to control your reaction: 1) thank him for his comments and go on with your day; 2) tell him that you don't agree and walk away; or 3) try to see some merit in what the perfectionist offers, but don't let it undermine your self-esteem. How you respond will depend on the situation, but try role playing with a trusted colleague or friend to see how you feel reacting in various situations and are prepared so that you respond appropriately and not in anger.

3. Have excuses ready. If the perfectionist seems to corner you with his advice, always have something ready to move yourself away from the situation. "I've got a meeting/call soon. I'm going to have to go." Or, "I can't chat now. Maybe later. I've got to go." Even, "I just remembered I forgot to give Brad an important message. I'm going to have to cut this short."

How do you deal with perfectionists?

Monday, January 11, 2021

3 Trends That Could Define Your Career in 2021

When you're making career plans for 2021, it's a smart idea to imagine where you think future economic growth will be, the industries that will still continue to suffer from the pandemic and whether this might be the right time to start your own business.

McKinsey recently published their list of 2021 trends based on their research, and here's some of the things you also might want to consider:

1. Consumer rebound. If you've been in an industry hard hit by the pandemic, things are expected to improve as the COVID-19 vaccine looses restrictions. It's predicted that "revenge shopping" will take place as consumers go crazy with shopping, eating in restaurants and going to concerts. How fast spending may recover depends on whether people in individual areas feel confident, so make sure you factor that into any future job decisions.

2. Business travel lags. While leisure travel will rebound, it's not going to be an immediate rebound for business trips. Business travel is expensive: in 2018, business-travel spending hit $1.4 trillion. But companies are expected -- after using Zoom and collaboration tools during the pandemic -- to reassess if travel is always necessary. Could your career plans be adversely affected if business travel drops off? Or, would you benefit if businesses continued to turn to technology to collaborate or meet? 

3. Entrepreneurs will blossom. From online medical appointments to shopping online for groceries, digital transformation has been sped up and now dominates the marketplace. It also opens the door to a flood of entrepreneurs who have seized on the pandemic disruption to market new ideas and start new businesses. Even McKinsey admits they didn't see this coming: More than 1.5 million new-business applications in the U.S., which is nearly double from the previous year. If you are afraid you can't go it alone, think again. Those new business applications show that people are figuring out ways to thrive with their own ideas and not be dependent on someone else.

While most of us could never have predicted what 2020 would become, monitoring market trends, reassessing our career paths and seizing on new opportunities may be the best way to weather whatever 2021 has up its sleeve.