Category Archives: Career Resources

5 Keys to Building Relationships at Work

Influencing people is the key to getting people to do something for you when they don’t directly report to you. You can be a developer, network engineer, project manager, or an executive and if you don’t have solid relationships with the people in your organization you won’t be able to influence people and your career will become stagnant.  Just because you haven’t “clicked” with your team yet, doesn’t mean it can’t still happen. There are ways to figure out what makes the people around you tick and see how that links you both. With some thoughtfulness and strategy, you can build relationships with your peers, leadership and business stakeholders.

Be an Active Listener

Part of what breaks down relationships between coworkers is a lack of understanding about the other person. Why is this? A huge reason is that no one is really listening. Oh, we hear others just fine. But there is a huge difference between hearing and listening. When you practice active listening, you’re listening to understand, not to respond. A way to convey this to the other person is by asking intelligent questions about what they said, to clarify what they’re communicating. You want your coworkers to really know you, right? Well, start by trying to really learn who they are. Listen to what they’re saying and pay attention to the subtle inferences. You can learn a lot about a person by what they’re not saying.

Know the Facts

What’s their name? If you can’t get this basic information down, you’re in major trouble. Know their name, remember information about their family, be aware of what is important to them in their lives. You may have too many people at work to go in-depth with all of them, which may not be a wise move regardless. At least know their names and then find out something of significance about each of them. Note their name, their partners name, kids names, areas of responsibility or any other facts about them in their contact in your phone so you don’t have to only rely on your memory.
When someone has the thoughtfulness to ask about something that’s important in your life, it makes you feel like they see you as important. Create this bonding feeling in others.

Be Willing to Share

No, this isn’t about being willing to lend your stapler to the guy two cubicles over, though that would be nice. This is more about participating in another’s life. Did someone you’ve spent some time talking with get promoted or scored that big contract? Share in their excitement. Congratulate them. Don’t even allow jealousy or envy to brew. Also, the reverse. Maybe they’ve suffered a family setback, and they share that with you. You may have no idea how they’re feeling but be willing to express a response.

Look for the Best

Probably everyone can think of that one person at the office who rubs them the wrong way. Rather than dwell on his or her annoying traits, do your best to discover something positive about that person. Maybe they’re good collaborators or are willing to do the jobs that others aren’t. You can always find the bright side and changing your attitude about them will help you out a lot when interacting with them. Who knows, maybe there are those at work who you unwittingly annoy. You’d certainly want them to recognize the good qualities you have, rather than only focus on that one thing.

Be Patient

You’re not going to walk into the office tomorrow and find everyone eager to shake your hand and share about their lives. In fact, that would probably be a little weird. The key to building relationships, for the first time or continuously, is time and effort.

The office isn’t your social playground, but it doesn’t have to be a cold, unfriendly, lonely place either. If you’re willing to take that first step and start working on developing relationships, others will be much more interested in meeting you halfway. Who knows, maybe you’ll even find your next good friend at work or get a promotion because of your ability build relationships and influence others.

Taking Down the Big Four: Bad Habits that Need to Go

Whether they show up at home or on the job, everyone has at least one bad habit. Those that keep creeping up at your job can actually derail your chances for success. Though these habits probably won’t result in you being fired, they may cause others to dislike you. While you don’t have to try to please everyone, here are a list of things that you should change.

These are the big four bad habits and how to change them.

  1. Always Coming in Tardy

There are multiple reasons for why this is happening, and many ways to fix it. Showing up late for work or a meeting doesn’t only affect you. When you’re late, that throws off the rest of the day’s scheduled meetings. It also shows that you devalue other’s time, which is a sure way for coworkers to dislike you. Whether you intend for this subtle message to be communicated or not, frequent tardiness can be very damaging to others and to your reputation.

How to fix it: If you’re late because you keep hitting the snooze button, set your alarm for earlier than usual. Maybe part of your routine is setting you back. Adjust that and make the necessary change. By putting in the effort to eradicate this bad habit, you’ll communicate that you do care about others.

  1. Never Having Anything Good to Say

Do people avoid you because of your frequent negativity and bad attitude? This probably isn’t something that will get you fired, but it will become an issue before too long. When you consistently complain or only point out the negative aspects of an idea, people will avoid you, because it sucks the life out of their day too.

How to fix it: You’re going to have issues at work, and it’s not always going to be hunky-dory. Bring ideas for solutions to problems to your peers and/or boss. You may find out that your suggestions not only improve your situation but could also help you get a better raise or even get promoted faster. If you have tried offering suggestions and it did not work, rather than voicing your many, loud complaints, leave them at home. Express yourself to a friend or family member if needed. If they’re major concerns, then take them to your manager or HR. You don’t, however, need to air those all over the office.

  1. Indulging in Gossip

Nothing can damage your reputation faster than trying to tear down someone’s character. Don’t lower yourself by talking badly about someone behind their back.

How to fix it: Consider how you would feel if someone was talking badly about you. A good check for this bad habit is also imagining if you said this to their face. Would you? If not, then don’t say it to anyone else. This includes online or electronic communication too.

  1. Using Improper Communication

When communicating to your superiors, please do not write an informal email peppered with text message abbreviations, inappropriate language and emojis. This includes grammar, spelling and tone. If you would not want it posted in the newspaper, don’t write it!

How to fix it: Pay attention to those red lines and do a little work brushing up on basic spelling and grammar rules. You’ll be glad you did. Also, when communicating professionally, keep that same mind set. Don’t allow yourself to slip into an informal way of communicating just because you’re using electronic means.

If you need help in identifying your bad work habits, ask a trusted office friend or your boss; just make sure you’re able to accept the response. Put in the effort to fix your bad workplace habits; and see how people respond. You—and your reputation—will be glad you did.

 

Don’t Sweat It

When you’re between jobs or looking for your dream job, stress levels can run high. There is plenty that you can stress about in this process, but there are some things that HR and the hiring manager don’t really care about. So, neither should you.

Resume

  • Design

Unless you’re trying to get a job with a design firm, most Hiring Managers don’t care about how fancy the font is or the special design on your resume. It can give the impression that you’re more interested in creating a nice-looking resume than making sure you’re the best fit for their job.

Rather than spend hours on making sure your resume has just the right look, make sure that it clearly conveys your work history including your accomplishments and cost savings to your company (if applicable). You want them to see why you’re the best fit for the job you’re trying to get. Customize your resume to specific job postings. Always be honest. Pay attention to the details that will make your resume stand out because of its clarity and conciseness, not because it’s has a fancy font or intricate design elements.

  • Length

Many articles have been written on how the length of your resume shouldn’t exceed one or two pages, that you’re just shooting yourself in the foot if you dare to venture onto another page. If you’ve had 10 or more years out in the work force, then don’t worry about it. The information on your resume needs to be appropriate, to the point and relevant to the job. If that warrants adding an extra page or so to the document, go for it. You can provide less detail on jobs over 10 years old. Your resume should not exceed 5 pages.

Thank-you’s

There is no debate – send a thank-you note after an interview. And do it within a day or two. However, with how quickly things move these days, hand writing a thank-you and sending it through the postal service is no longer necessary. Many hiring managers agree that, if it’s well-written and not a form thank-you, email works just as well. If you prefer sending it by mail or know that’s the hiring manager’s preference, go for it! Also, if you have multiple interviews, continue sending those thank-you notes!

When you do send that thank-you, by mail or email, make sure that you address why you are a good fit for their job and make sure the spelling and punctuation are correct. All forms of communication continue to be important. The pressure doesn’t leave just because the interview is done.

Cover Letters

Contrary to popular belief, cover letters are not essential as they used to be. Many times, people are applying to recruiters and corporations through web portals. If there is a comment section, use that as an opportunity to let the employer know why you are a good fit for their job. If you are networking and there is not a specific job open, you will want to write an introductory letter to let them know why you are a good fit for their company. Let your personality show, but still be concise.

There are plenty of things you’ll stress about when applying for jobs, going through the interview process and eventually getting a job. These points don’t have to be on your stress-list.

Use These 5 Words to Revitalize Your Business Writing

“The pen is mightier than the sword.” Those words were written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton over one hundred years ago. Just like the art of fencing requires practice, so does the art of using the pen. Choosing to utilize its power can bring great results.

Most business communication, like presentations, various business documents, and emails are just plain boring. Just like you dread reading that text, so does the person on the other end of your email. It’s time to get a little risky. There are words that you can use that will give some life to that otherwise yawn-worthy email. The person on the other end will thank you.

Here are some words to use as a starting point:

This word conveys swift, effective action. In our microwave world where instant gratification is the norm, people are looking for things to happen or be accomplished quickly. Maybe the person receiving the email will receive the benefits of a certain desired action immediately or you’ll immediately see to their request.

No side door or backup plan is allowed with this one, and that’s why it appeals to people. This word provides a risk-free option for the other person because you take on all the responsibility. This word is guaranteed to get your recipient’s attention and ease any concerns they may feel.

Be careful how you throw this one around. People are used to hearing companies talk about their “proven” methods when in reality they’ve never actually proven anything. Accompany this word with a specific example of why your claim is true. This shows them that not only are you confident, you’re also trustworthy.

No one likes getting a generic email that really has nothing to do with them or adds no value to their day or their goals. Likewise, any business writing you may be doing or may have to consume can become pure torture if it has no relevance to you and what you’re trying to accomplish. First, make sure that what you’re trying to communicate is relevant to the person on the other end, whether it’s a coworker, supervisor or customer. Then use this word—sparingly and succinctly—to highlight the value that you’re adding to the other person’s life.

If you’ve refreshed a plan, you’ve given it a new energy, a new vitalization. You took what had worked before, polished it up, and now it’s like new. Use this word to communicate the benefits of your plan and the overall feeling it will result in.

It’s not all semantics. If you can harness the power of the written word in your business writing and emails, you’ll find the responses that you desire. Being able to spur someone to a desired action because of an email or a well-written business article isn’t just going to happen. You’ve got to put in the forethought and effort. These five words are just a springboard, any word can have powerful results if utilized correctly.

Is the Writing on the Wall for Your Job?

Sometimes the writing is on the wall, but you just can’t seem to see it. There are sure signs that, when combined, are strong hints that you should consider switching jobs. You can resolve some issues through work and cooperation. And by all means, pursue that first. But there are some areas that can’t be fixed, which may result in you needing to seriously consider switching jobs. What are those reasons?

Stagnation has become the norm.

Your work isn’t always going to be what you wish it would be. After all, you call it work for a reason. There is a point, though, where it goes beyond that. The excitement you once had at the challenges and opportunities has fizzled out like a sparkler during the Fourth of July. The skills that you brought to the table either aren’t being used or you haven’t experienced any growth. If you have to look for ways to learn new things yourself and your boss has little interest in providing those for you, that’s a problem.

Generally, the American populace works 40 – 45 hours a week. That’s a lot of time to spend on a job that leaves you bored, stagnant and unchallenged. This may be a sign that you need to move on.

You have irreconcilable issues with your boss.

This isn’t an easy “out”; there are many interpersonal issues that can be resolved with a little effort. However, if your boss reacts to your efforts in a hostile way, then you have a major issue. Some relationships are unable to be repaired, whether because of a misunderstanding, a difference in personality, or lack of trust. This is especially true when you are willing to put in the effort, but your boss lacks any interest in meeting you there.

Recent layoffs have resulted in an increased work load with no increase in pay.

There are legitimate reasons for a company having to resort to layoffs. If you’re still at the company, that could be a good thing, but there could still be problems. You may find more work on your desk and more expected of you but without the additional compensation. This is a short road to becoming burned out and very dissatisfied with your job. If the downsizing results in the company doing better, and yet you’re seeing no return on that investment for you, it could very well be time to go.

You dread going to work.

Not only has all pizzazz gone out of your job, you’ve started to dread even going to bed Sunday night because you know Monday morning you’ll be heading back to work. If you’re frequently thinking about how much you don’t want to go to work on your days off, then you have a problem. This could just be a short season, but if it persists, it’s part of a bigger problem. Your job takes up a huge part of your life. Are you willing to let your misery continue?

There’s no chance for promotion.

You want to keep climbing the proverbial ladder, but it has apparently run out of rungs. Are you happy with where you’re at or are you wanting to continue advancing? If the latter is the case, then your only course of action may be switching to a new job. You may run the risk of having to go down a peg or two in the process, but the end result will be worth it as more opportunities for advancement come up.

Only you can know if it’s time to move on from your current job. Chances are, if you’ve read to the end of this article, it may be time for you to make a change

Turn it Up! Use Music to Increase Productivity

You may have heard murmurings that music can help in productivity. But is that just an excuse or is it an actual scientific fact?

Studies have been conducted. Research has been gathered. The conclusion is: yes, music does help your productivity. However, not all music is the same, and not all times are right for utilizing music as your productivity tool.

Why is music helpful?

Music helps to focus your mind on the task at hand, depending on the situation. It also helps to put you in a better mood. When you’re engaged in a repetitive task, your favorite tunes can help to lift your mood. Another benefit of listening to music is how it helps you to get in a more creative mindset.

There is some connection between the brain’s function and the playing of music, and when it’s utilized correctly, it works magnificently.

When is music helpful?

Not all situations are ideal for listening to music. When you’re creating or working on something that requires a lot of concentration and creative effort, music can hinder the process because it splits your focus.

On the other end of the spectrum, music is helpful when you’re occupied with repetitive activities. When you have a clear objective and a set plan for accomplishing that, music can increase your productivity and your enjoyment of the activity.

Another situation where music is helpful is when your environment is noisy. Whether you think you’re tuned into it or not, this kind of background noise—people talking, other’s music playing, etc.—can be highly distracting. Your brain tries to analyze all of this new data, which is very difficult and splits your attention. Pop in the headphones and listen to some music, and you’ll find your productivity going up.

What kind of music is helpful?

New music isn’t going to be your best option. With new music, it is easy to get distracted, because you’re hearing it for the first time. Your body releases chemicals related to this, which causes the music to be more appealing to listen to than the task you’re supposed to be doing.

So when you’re working, choose music you’re familiar with. But another parameter would be lyrics. Sometimes, songs with lyrics aren’t the most helpful. When you’re working on those tasks that require more focus, the lyrics can be distracting. Just as if someone were talking to you while you were trying to write an important email. In cases like these, classical music or music with low-tones like jazz, indie, and bluegrass are better options.

Movie or video game scores or soundtracks can also be good options to listen to. They’re generally devoid of lyrics and are meant to amplify the experience and focus the listener on what is happening on the screen, not the music.

The conclusion? Yes, music can be helpful to your productivity. Just be careful in what kind of music you choose and when you listen to it. Oh, and bring your headphones. Nothing is more distracting at the office than hearing someone else’s music playing.

Stop Majoring on the Minors!

Stop Majoring On The Minors!

No matter how positive your outlook on life or how oblivious you may be, you can probably pinpoint some areas at your work that are frustrating. There is a difference, however, between minor frustrations and major, job-switching issues. To err is human, so you’ll never find a workplace free of issues. Instead, you need to be able to see when things really aren’t that big of a deal.

Conflicting Methods

When you come into a business, your boss has been doing things there for probably a good deal of time. Because of this, he or she will more than likely have a certain way of doing things. As a new employee, you bring valuable ideas and insight. When beginning your job, you may notice that there are more efficient ways of doing things. By all means, ask         questions about why they do something a certain way and/ or bring this up to your boss in a respectful way. But if they choose not to take your advice, don’t stew over it. Continue doing your best in an efficient, effective way, but remember: you’re not the boss.

Also, a little tip. If your boss has been in the business for years, they may have even tried out your idea before and it didn’t work. Experience is a great teacher.

Conflicting Work Ethics

You may have been raised with a different work ethic than the person at the next desk. Some, yes, are just plain lazy. If this becomes a problem for you getting your work done there is a way to talk to that individual directly, and if that does not work, bring this to the attention of your supervisor in a considerate way. You can only do the best at your job, and hopefully, your example influences other people.

Conflicting Priorities

Your time can easily get sucked away by seemingly ‘urgent’ requests. These can come in the form of requests from coworkers. Everyone’s issue or request is urgent to them, but you need to be able to determine whether that’s something you should take on for them. Sure, helping a coworker out is nice, but if it makes your own work suffer, then there’s a problem.

Whether it’s a problem with a set system in the company or with a person, some issues aren’t worth your time and energy. Go ahead and address issues when they come about, but if not resolved, don’t worry about it. Some issues just come with the territory and need to be recognized as such. Obviously, some issues mean you need to evaluate your options if you have first tried to rectify them.

 

How to become more efficient at work in 2018

Given the proper amount of effort and forethought, much of your daily work can be accomplished in eight hours a day. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that free time to pursue your life outside of work? Not only is that a possibility, it could become a reality for you.

So how does this work?

Think Ahead

  • Lists

As you are finishing up your workday, take some time to evaluate your tasks for the next day. Make a list of what you should do the next day, so you hit the ground running. A program/app like Wunderlist is a program that you can have available on your phone, tablet, computer so it is available wherever you need it. You can make multiple lists, both business and personal. This list can be private or shared with others.

  • Time Block

Many people find that working in blocks or time or “chunking” their work out during the day in 1 hour to 3 hour increments is the most efficient way to work. For example, I will turn off email notifications during a two hour timeframe and knock out a report or get my code documented.

  • Alarms

Set alarms on your phone to make sure you make all your meetings on time. This will stop you from getting distracted by other notifications when you check your time on your phone. Alarms can also be used for time blocking so you know you need to move on the next task.

Know Yourself

  • Your Space

Do you work better in a clean, orderly environment? Or is a little mess necessary for the genius to work? Whichever you are, be aware and take care of your office accordingly as you’re packing up and leaving. You don’t want to lose time cleaning the next day because you can’t get focused. You also know what your boss expects. If you’re used to dealing with organized chaos, make sure it’s organized enough to suit your boss.

  • Your Routine

What works best for you? Many people find it is best to do the least desirable piece of their work first, so they do not have it hanging over their head and cluttering their brain from being the most productive can be. Sometimes all it takes is one misstep for your concentration and productivity to be thrown off.

Do Work

The thing to remember is that you have a schedule or a to-do list for a reason. I know this seems obvious, but procrastination is a malady that affects everyone in any job, but manage to push past the temptation and find the reward. You must have the discipline to be able to stick to what works and will bring the desired results to get you more time to do whatever non-work-related activities that you enjoy!

 

Dump the Slump

It has arrived. Your eyes feel sandpapery as you struggle to keep them open. Your whole body feels weighted, but your computer screen continues to glare, reminding you that you’re not quite done yet or even worse you have to attend a meeting.

If you’re tired (ha!) of barely keeping your eyelids at half-mast, here are some ideas to help you out—short of implementing mandatory naptime at your work, of course.

  • Interact

Rather than sending that work-related email, go and talk to the recipient directly. Talking, smiling and laughing with others will go a long way towards helping you conquer the drowsiness and build relationships, which is key to growing your career. More than ever, employers are searching for candidates that can build business and vendor relationships. This one has double benefits, as it helps your body wake up and it also relieves the strain on your eyes.

  • Get Up

The benefits of movement cannot be overstated. Getting up and moving around can be one of the best ways to wake yourself up. Now, this doesn’t allow you to wander the office for the next 2 hours. Taking five minutes to get up, stretch, walk to the water cooler can have great benefits.

If your job involves having to go out of the office during the day, schedule any outings for this time of day. You’ll be up, moving, and active, and you won’t even have to consciously think of this step.

  • Snack

Not all snacks are equally good for you. A candy bar has a quick energy surge, but an even quicker drop. Opt instead for fruit or veggies, nuts or dark chocolate. Bring something that has good nutrition that you can also enjoy.

Don’t forget water either. Most of us don’t drink nearly as much water as we should, but staying properly hydrated can go a long way toward helping you to stay awake and alert throughout the day. Doctors recommend at least 64 oz. a day.

  • Plan Ahead

Lasting throughout the day without hitting a slump starts with getting a good night’s rest the night before. You know your limits, and you know the consequences of pushing those.

Also, consider what you’re eating throughout the day. Experts say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason. Find what you like, but also consider the long-lasting health benefits of those foods. Yogurt and whole-grain cereal are just a couple of the many options at your disposal. Same goes for lunch. Protein is a go for lunch, while you may want to cut back a bit on the carbs.

Just getting through the day can be a chore when drowsiness hits you like a truck. Don’t let yourself or your career be beaten by it! Plan ahead, interact, do a few cartwheels (it will certainly help your coworkers wake up:), or just take the stairs whenever you can. There are plenty of options to pull you out of the slump and the added benefit is that it can give your career a real jump.

Social Media Errors that are Affecting Your Job Hunt

What you say online could cost you your next job offer. Contrary to what some people may think, who you are online is not disconnected from who you are in your day-to-day work life. People filter their tweets and posts less and less, while potential employers are checking out social profiles more and more. No matter how sure you are that what you’ve posted, tweeted, or shared is private, it’s not. Here are some things not to include on your social media or any other online accounts.

Inflammatory statements

Especially with your professional accounts, you don’t need to state your political affiliation. As much as you might like to engage in a debate about your favorite or least favorite political candidate, resist the urge. You don’t need your potential employer viewing your professional account and finding long rants or heated conversations with other people. Everyone has opinions and expressing them is good. But there is a time and place for that. Social media, even if it’s your private account, may not be the best place to do so.

Complaints about previous jobs

If you actually say the name of your boss, coworker, or company, you could get passed over for the next promotion or job offer. Venting your frustrations online about your job or co-workers is never appropriate. Choose instead to talk it over with a trusted friend. What you have to say may be true, but it creates a poor impression of you. After all, if you lacked discretion then, your potential employer is probably wondering would you do the same to them.

Playing when you should be working

If you are posting and liking posts or tweets during work hours that may give your employer the impression you are not giving 100% during your work day.

Also, requesting time off work for a “family emergency” and then posting pictures of yourself on a beautiful golf course is not going to end well for you. Lying to your boss is obviously poor judgment and will reflect badly on you.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your personal and professional accounts separate. Don’t let the two mix. Stay professional on your LinkedIn and Twitter professional accounts. On your personal accounts, simply use good judgment.

Fun Pictures from College

Believe it or not, if you have a picture from your college days, maybe as a previous profile pic on Facebook, it could work against you. Especially if said picture is you doing a shot or some other questionable picture. Employers look through your posts and pictures and finding an image, even from way-back-when that is questionable could work against you.

Anything Illegal

Whether it’s a joking reference or not, avoid this at all costs. Online, you can’t decipher tone or context, so no one really knows what you mean by what you said. Any illegal activity on your part could get you in trouble with the law and would reflect poorly on your company. Don’t reference anything illegal and keep your reputation pristine.