Monday, July 14, 2014
Find your balance
Experts say you only have a few seconds to make a first impression. What exactly happens in those few seconds that determine whether someone likes or respects you?
It turns out, when others are sizing you up, they’re measuring your “strength” and “warmth,” characteristics, according to communication strategists Matt Kohut and John Neffinger in their book Compelling People, which is currently being taught at Harvard and Columbia Business Schools.
Strength is your capacity to make things happen with skills and willingness while warmth is the sense that you share the same feelings, interests, and view of the world as the person you’re speaking to.
“The discovery of strength and warmth that John and I had came from our early clients,” says Kohut. “They were either very accomplished and smart people to the point that they seem only interested in themselves and come off very cold and unfeeling. Or they were the nicest people in the world, but they were falling all over themselves apologizing and we feel like they won’t be able to deliver when the shops are down.”
Monday, July 14, 2014
It is for this reason (and many more) that music is regarded as one of the triumphs of human creativity--but does music itself help one to create?
This is an important question to examine, because music has increasingly become apart of the modern-day work session.
The soldiers of yore may have faced insurmountable odds to the sound of trumpets, but we desk jockeys are typically left to fend off our piling inboxes with nothing more than iTunes.
With so much of our work now being done at computers, music has become an important way to “optimize the boring.”
Though it may be a fine way to avoid habituation, the question remains: does music actually make you more productive? More focused? More creative? Or is all that a placebo?
People like me need to know. For nearly all of my work sessions, I have music playing in the background. I once wrote 10,529 words on customer loyalty (how exciting) listening to nothing other than the SimCity 2000 soundtrack--and yes, more on that later.
Am I actively sabotaging myself, or is music spurring me to do better work?
Let’s take a look at the research.
MUSIC MAY HELP MAKE REPETITIVE TASKS EASIER
When evaluating music’s effectiveness in increasing productive output, one element to consider how “immersive” the task at hand is.
This refers to the variability and creative demand of the task--writing a brand new essay from scratch is synthesis work that demands a lot of creativity; answering your emails is mundane work that does not.
When the task is clearly defined and is repetitive in nature, the research seems to suggest that music is definitely useful.
A series of experiments has investigated the relationship between the playing of background music during the performance of repetitive work and efficiency in performing such a task. The results give strong support to the contention that economic benefits can accure from the use of music in industry.
More modern studies would argue that it perhaps isn’t the background noise of the music itself, but rather the improved mood that your favorite music creates that is the source of this bump in productivity.
Music with a dissonant tone was found to have no impact to productivity, while music in the major mode had different results: “Subjects hearing BGM (background music) achieved greater productivity when BGM was in the major mode.”
The effects music can have in relation to repetitive tasks were further explored in this study, which showcased how assembly line workers displayed signs of increased happiness and efficiency while listening to music.
Monday, July 14, 2014
For many of us, the idea of having a job that is truly satisfying – the kind where work doesn’t feel like work anymore – is pure fantasy. Sure, professional athletes, ski patrollers, and golf pros may have found a way of doing what they love and getting paid for it. But is there actually anyone out there who dreams of sitting at a desk and processing paper, or watching products fly by them on conveyor belts, or working to solve other people’s problems?
Career dreams are one thing; practical reality is often another. When they happily coincide, seize the opportunity and enjoy it! Luckily, when they do not, it’s good to know that it is possible to get job satisfaction from a practical choice of career. Job satisfaction doesn’t have to mean pursuing the ultra-glamorous or making money from your hobby. You can work at job satisfaction, and find it in the most unexpected places…
The heart of job satisfaction is in your attitude and expectations; it’s more about how you approach your job than the actual duties you perform. Whether you work on the farm, a production line, in the corner office or on the basketball court, the secret is to understand the key ingredients of your unique recipe for job satisfaction.
Identify your Satisfaction Triggers
There are three basic approaches to work: is it a job, a career, or a passion? Depending on which type of work you are in right now, the things that give you satisfaction will vary.
If you work at a JOB, the compensation aspects of the position will probably hold more appeal than anything else, and have the greatest impact on whether you stay or go.
If you work at a CAREER, you are looking for promotions and career development opportunities. Your overall satisfaction is typically linked with your status, power, or position.
If you work at a PASSION, the work itself is the factor that determines your satisfaction, regardless of money, prestige, or control.
Inevitably, these are generalizations, and you will probably find that you get satisfaction from more than one approach to work. Being aware of the type of work you are doing, and the things you need for job satisfaction, will help you to identify and adjust your satisfaction expectations accordingly.
Monday, July 14, 2014
IJoe Clueless (a real person whose name I’ve changed to protect the guilty) is smart, handsome, and hardworking. Yet he’s been let go many times from corporate jobs and now, at 45, is a substitute teacher.
Joe needed all these lessons. Perhaps even you could use one or two:
LESSON 1. Joe was unduly negative: “That idea will never work.” or “This company isn’t going anywhere.” Even if you’re right, you pay a big likeability price for each complaint. So, when tempted to be negative, assess whether the benefit is worth the likely liability: Is this person open to criticism? Have you criticized him too often in the past? How likely is it she’ll change her mind?
You also improve your risk/reward ratio if you criticize only when you can propose (tactfully) a likely acceptable solution. Otherwise, you’re just seen as a whiner.
LESSON 2. Joe assumed that his obvious intelligence justified a know-it-all style. Even if your statements are brilliant, that style unnecessarily demeans everyone else. And who knows, even you might occasionally be wrong. So, make assertions in a way that allows for the possibility you’re incorrect, for example, “I think (insert your statement.) What do you think?”
Rule of thumb: If your argument is rejected, take no more than one more stab at it. If that doesn’t work, drop it. Pursuing it further is more likely to brand you as stubborn than to change minds.
Monday, July 14, 2014
Be effective where you are
You think landing a great job is important? Even more important is whether you make the most of it. These rules show you how:
-- Don’t let the cement dry. My daughter got a job in the White House. That was the good news. The bad news was that it was to answer letters to Socks, the Clintons’ cat. I told her: “Right now, your feet are in wet cement. Unless you get pulled out now, you’ll probably be stuck there. Tell your boss, ‘I’m willing to pay my dues but I believe I could contribute more. I’m a pretty good writer and researcher,” In two weeks, my daughter was writing Hillary’s daily briefing. Moral: Don’t like your first job description? Tactfully ask for a change.
-- Be Time-Effective. Jiminy Cricket sat on Pinocchio’s shoulder, ever whispering advice in the long-nosed marionette’s ear. The most productive employees also have a little voice on their shoulder ever whispering in their ear, ‘Is this the most time-effective way?” Not, “Is this the fastest?” Not, “Is this the highest-quality?” But “Is this the most time-effective way?”
-- Get credit. Get credit for your good work. Have a great idea? Don’t just tell your boss. Bring it up at a meeting. Have you created a draft work product you’re proud of? Consider sending it to respected colleagues for feedback…and to show them that you’re hot stuff. At evaluation time, ask, “I’ve kept a list of some work efforts I feel good about. Would you like to see it?”
-- Get the truth and get it fast. Garrison Keillor, host of A Prairie Home Companion, speaks of the imaginary Lake Wobegon, where everyone is above average. In real life, also, most people think of themselves as above average, which is why most terminated employees are shocked. So, from Day One, ask for candid feedback, not just you’re your boss but from respected coworkers, customers, etc. And when you get that feedback, don’t necessarily change, but truly consider it.
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Imagine you’ve been on the job market for about six months. You are paying your mortgage on your credit cards at this point. Your unemployment benefits are about to run out and your job prospects remain dismal, no matter what you seem to do.
Finally, you land a killer opportunity, pass the phone screen and show up to an interview with a hiring manager. Just as you think you’re about to close the deal, she spins her computer screen around and asks you to login to your Facebook account.
What do you do?
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Alumni can be some of your most valuable job search networking contacts, but only if you utilize them effectively.
Unfortunately, most candidates have the goal of an introduction ... and it’s usually the wrong goal. When you pick an alumni networking goal that’s achievable (one that is in the contact’s power to deliver) and that delivers maximum impact to your job search, alumni can be a huge help to your efforts.
The strategy of alumni networking wasn’t always so important. When there were candidate shortages prior to 2007, most companies had written or unwritten policies to give a guaranteed interview to anyone who came through a company employee from anywhere within the organization. Pre-2007, when so many employers had guaranteed interview policies, it didn’t matter how you networked because volume of networking was more important — it was literally just a random numbers game.
Fast forward to today’s job market, where “spray and pray” doesn’t work. Today’s effective alumni networking techniques are far more focused, with specific targets, goals and actions. When you learn how to leverage them in the right way, alumni networking contacts can represent tremendous inroads into employers.
5 Best Practices to Use When Networking With Alumni
Find the right alumni: Use alumni networks to gain information or access to hiring managers in departments of your target companies to give you the widest reach. Too often, job seekers use their alumni networks to try to directly reach hiring managers and HR managers. Contacting HR managers is not the best use of networking efforts, since their job is to keep candidates away from the hiring manager — they’re gatekeepers who may not have good information about the hiring manager’s real problems. If you’re looking for hiring managers in your alumni directory, you’ll limit the reach of your networking. Alumni directories only list limited numbers of hiring managers in your area, representing a small number of companies, even in huge schools with large alumni networks. By combining your alumni directory and Linkedin into your networking research, you can find exponentially more alumni who can lead you to the right person.
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
No offense, firstname.lastname@example.org, but if nobody has told you yet, we’re telling you now: That e-mail address is not making you look particularly professional.
Unprofessional e-mail addresses are just one way of sending hiring managers the wrong message. If you want to be taken seriously when you apply for jobs, you need to put some polish on your resume, your cover letter and everything contained therein. Hiring professionals repeatedly run across these red flags that scream “unprofessional.” A number of recruiters and HR managers shared with TheLadders common errors from their own professional experiences.
1. Random/cute/shared e-mail accounts
E-mail accounts are free. There’s no reason not to sign up for your own. Yet many mid-career professionals share an e-mail account with a significant other or the entire family, generating addresses such as email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org..Also stay away from cutesy addresses. After all, email@example.com, you can always share your admiration of Lepidoptera with colleagues after you’ve been hired. Ditto for offensive, flirtatious or sexual e-mail addresses.
Think we’re exaggerating? These are actual e-mail accounts cited by Jillian Zavitz, who’s responsible for hiring as the programs manager for TalktoCanada.com, an online English language-training course based in Canada. (We’ve changed the domain names to protect the innocent.)
Instead, adopt an address that incorporates the name you use professionally on your resume and cover letter.
2. Failure to proofread
Deidre Pannazzo, executive director at Inspired Resumes, said it’s “amazing” how many people submit resumes that contain “numerous typos and misspellings.” Even better than spell check, she said, is to have a friend review the document for you.
“Make sure your dates are consistent, and that you don’t confuse your story with overlapping time lines,” she said. (For an in-depth look at how to tackle proofreading your resume, click here.)
3. Bikini pictures
Resume experts advise against attaching pictures or any image files to a resume. They can “choke” an applicant tracking system (ATS), the software that automatically scans and parses resumes. (Click here for an in-depth look at how your resume is handled by technology after you press submit.) In addition, hiring professionals warn against giving anyone a reason to prejudge and form a negative opinion based on your appearance. Indeed, some HR departments will immediately discard resumes with photos to avoid any possible accusations of discrimination on this basis.
But still applicants send photos. Most troublesome of all, said Zavitz, are the beach shots. “(No) pictures where you are in a bikini at the beach (real story, and it wasn’t a flattering picture either) or at a New Year’s party with your friends (obviously drunk). Not cool.”
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
You know it’s coming.
It’s the most feared question during any job interview: Do you think I would look good in a cowboy hat?
Just kidding. The real question is: Can you tell me about yourself?
Blecch. What a boring, vague, open-ended question. Who likes answering that?
I know. I’m with you. But unfortunately, hiring managers and executive recruiters ask the question. Even if you’re not interviewing and you’re out networking in the community — you need to be ready to hear it and answer it. At all times.
Now, before I share a list of 10 memorable answers, consider the two essential elements behind the answers:
The medium is the message. The interviewer cares less about your answer to this question and more about the confidence, enthusiasm and passion with which you answer it.
The speed of the response is the response. The biggest mistake you could make is pausing, stalling or fumbling at the onset of your answer, thus demonstrating a lack of self-awareness and self-esteem.
Next time you’re faced with the dreaded, “Tell me about yourself…” question, try these:
“I can summarize who I am in three words.” Grabs their attention immediately. Demonstrates your ability to be concise, creative and compelling.
“The quotation I live my life by is…” Proves that personal development is an essential part of your growth plan. Also shows your ability to motivate yourself.
“My personal philosophy is…” Companies hire athletes – not shortstops. This line indicates your position as a thinker, not just an employee.
“People who know me best say that I’m…” This response offers insight into your own level of self-awareness.
“Well, I googled myself this morning, and here’s what I found…” Tech-savvy, fun, cool people would say this. Unexpected and memorable.
Tuesday, July 01, 2014
Summer is upon us! The price of gasoline has gone through the roof; millions of children are unleashed from school; and, guaranteed, job seekers are frustrated enough to put their job search on hold.
As we find ways to survive the gas prices and summer schedule, so too must job seekers find ways to accelerate their search.
While there is a general slowdown in hiring during the summer, the search process for exceptional talent is ongoing. In fact, decision makers continually evaluate talent in order to fill executive positions as soon as the Labor Day holiday is over. Smart job seekers should do everything possible to position themselves for the demand for talent in September and October.
Let’s explore traditional and out-of-the-box search strategies to give you a competitive edge.
The 3ft. Rule
Summer is an extraordinary time to network, as the season is filled with festivals, barbecues, garage sales, sports, and endless other activities. Guess what? Decision makers from every industry and functional area are participating in those activities. Now’s the time to implement what I call “The 3ft. Rule.” Don’t hesitate to talk to anyone who comes within three feet of you. If you’re camping, it’s the people who’ve pitched tents around you. If you’re at the beach, it’s the family swimming next to you. The list goes on. You can easily break the ice by talking about the activity you have in common. Then ask, “By the way, what is your business?“ or, “What do you do for a living?“ This kicks off networking that wouldn’t have happened otherwise.
Here’s a great summertime success story. One of my clients was having a garage sale and there was an individual checking out the used refrigerator for sale. My client thought: “Okay, I’m going to use The 3ft. Rule.” After a brief discussion about the refrigerator, my client inquired as to what the man did for a living. He happened to be looking for a mechanical engineer at his company, Mare Island. As you’ve probably guessed, my client was a mechanical engineer and landed the position in just three weeks.
It never would have happened if he hadn’t turned the conversation toward work. When you attend summer activities, don’t just hang out with your friends. Seek out other participants and network away.
If you’re not already actively listed on social networking sites like LinkedIn and Facebook, what are you waiting for? Recruiters and executive decision makers use those sites on a regular basis to find talent. During the summer, recruiters and decision makers spend a great deal of time surfing online networking sites. They take their laptops with them on vacation, and browse for talent while lounging on the beach. Actively build your Internet presence so key decision makers can find you.