Tag Archives: newer

4 Simple Ways to Express Your Strengths

One of the single most dreaded questions during an interview is: “What are your greatest strengths and weaknesses?” The weaknesses part is a discussion all by itself, so today we’re going to look at your strengths.

  1. Be specific

“I’m a hard worker” is not specific. That’s a very general answer that everyone would claim. Instead, saying “Once I commit to a job I do whatever needs to happen to get it done,” is a better option.

Whatever strength you say you have, follow it up with a short, 1-2 minute story. How did this strength play out at your last job? In what way did you use your strengths and develop them?

If you’re having trouble figuring out what your strengths are, ask a friend or a coworker you trust. You can also go back and look at performance reviews or compliments from your boss. What stood out to them? That’s probably a strength you have.

  1. Be relevant

Since you’ve already discovered what your various strengths are, consider the position you’re applying for. Does it require a certain skillset? What descriptions about the job carry subtle cues as to what will be needed? Part of being able to sell yourself and what you can do well is knowing what the company needs. How do you fit this job with your unique strengths? If you can first understand that, then communicate it to the interviewer, you’ll leave an impression. Rather than just another interviewee wanting a job, you’ll be someone who knows what the company needs and knows how to fit that need to a ‘T’.

  1. Be realistic

Don’t come up with a strength that you don’t have. If you claim to know French fluently but don’t, you’ll be in big trouble if you’re asked to communicate with developers or vendors there. Google Translate will not serve you well for long.

You have specific talents and abilities. Don’t sell yourself short—or prove yourself a liar—by claiming a strength that’s not your own.

  1. Be yourself

Your greatest asset for getting this job is knowing you. You are a unique individual and no other candidate is exactly like you. That’s what you need to express. In what way do you stand out from the crowd? Let your personality show as you explain your strengths and weaknesses in the interview. Don’t allow stress or nerves to turn you into a robot.

With that said, you can also practice expressing what your strengths are. Write out what you would say, and practice saying it out loud. So many people are surprised how it sounds when they say it out loud compared to in their head. Know how to communicate what makes you a valuable asset to their company. Develop your skills in this area. You may be like many others who don’t necessarily feel comfortable tooting their own horn. However, this isn’t a pride issue. Unless you ramble on and on about how you’ll be this company’s greatest asset ever, the interviewer will welcome you explaining more about yourself. After all, they won’t know unless you tell them.

Interviews can be a big blank spot for a lot of people. That doesn’t have to be you. When you learn what your strengths are and have the ability to communicate those properly, it will get you a long way, and could even land you that job.

How to Deal with an Overly Controlling Boss

Have you ever had a boss who is always peeking over your shoulder, constantly needing to be involved in your work, or sending you a detailed-to-the-max list? If so, you know how it feels to be micromanaged. As much as you would wish the situation would just go away, you may have to learn how to deal with this kind of boss.

Understand the Cause

There are several reasons why a boss may micromanage. None of them is an excuse for this behavior but knowing “the why” may help you in dealing with them. Basically, this kind of person is a control freak. The need for control can come from a lot of different areas, the principal one being fear. Are they getting a lot of pressure from their boss to produce at a certain level? Are they feeling the stress of a competitive workplace? Whatever it is, knowing this can help in resolving the issue.

Maybe part of the cause is yours or your coworkers’ behavior. Examine your own work. Have you been turning projects in late? Are there things you’ve relaxed or that you need to tighten up? It could be that your manager took the fall for a project for which you or one of your coworkers were responsible. First, be willing to check your work and habits, and if you’ve got an area for improvement, start there!

Think Ahead

Are you constantly reminded to do things that are on your regularly scheduled to-do list? Get ahead on some of those, so that when you’re reminded of them, you can go ahead and tell your manager you’ve already completed it.

Communicate with your coworkers what you’re working to accomplish. If you’re all working to show that you can do your jobs well, this will help your micromanager understand that they don’t need to be controlling.

You can also keep track of what you’re doing so that if your manager asks you about it, you can show them right then and there. This may also help if they require updates on what you’re doing. By showing that you’re aware of what you’re supposed to be doing and that you’re getting it done, you’ll boost their confidence in your abilities.

Talk to Them

It may come down to confronting—in a gentle, respectful way—your manager about this issue. This can be very difficult to do, especially if you’re in a workplace where you don’t know your manager well. If possible, try talking to them and letting them know how their actions are impacting you. They may not even know what they’re doing.

If you can’t necessarily approach them in that way, then see if you can get them to agree to letting you work on a project on your own—without any day to day interference. Let them know that at the end of the project you’d welcome a meeting with them. Then you can talk about what you did well and what needed improvement. When you excel, your manager will see that you, at least, don’t need such constant supervision.

There’s no easy way to deal with micromanagers, but it can be done. If you’re willing to put in the work, you may be able to help change their attitude towards you and you will enjoy your workday more.

How to Use Effective Humor to Improve Your Workplace

Humor at your workplace? Bite your tongue!

But really, humor has great benefits, if done well. People who laugh together create a bond. When you’re enjoying some humor at the office, you’ll generally be more productive and enjoy being at work. However, if humor is done the wrong way or taken too far, you can quickly crash and burn. Here are some ways to properly use humor at work.

  • When in doubt…

Your idea of funny may not exactly line up with everyone else’s in your office. Something funny to you could be offensive to the next person. When you’re considering a joke, if you’re not sure if you should say it, then don’t. Better to err on the side of caution. Your goal may be to lighten up the atmosphere, but if your joke goes south, it’s going to make that atmosphere even worse.

  • “And then I…”

Being able to laugh at yourself is a great trait. Seeing the humor or irony in situations you find yourself in assures that you’re not offending someone by poking fun at them. Also, being able to laugh at yourself is a good way for people to see that you don’t take yourself too seriously. As with all jokes, just don’t go overboard. You still want your colleagues to respect you.

  • Train yourself

Start to train yourself to see the humor in certain situations. Irony or seeing the absurd is a great chuckle-inducer. Even if you never voice what you find funny, being able to have a lighter perspective on your environment can be helpful to you personally.

  • Stop the passive-aggressiveness

Humor or making jokes about someone is not the way to go if you have an issue with them. Rather, talk with them directly. Mean-spirited joking really isn’t funny, even if people go along with it and give it a chuckle. If you have to say, “I was only joking!”, or you find yourself complaining that “they don’t know how to take a joke,” then you’ve got a problem.

  • Just be you

Can you tell a joke? Can you really? Let’s be frank, there are just some people who can’t tell a good joke, and that’s okay. Contribute with a smile or a laugh! Be who you are, don’t try to force something when it isn’t natural. Just remember, you can learn how to develop this aspect of yourself.

  • Think outside the ordinary

The opportunities are limitless for you to come up with a unique way to use humor. From personal choices to office-wide interactions, you can come up with some crazy good ways to have fun. If you’ve got an idea, see if you can get your manager on board. The more support you’ve got, the greater chance the rest of your colleagues will want to join in on the fun.

Not nearly enough workplaces employ humor well, or at all. Be the change at your job and see if you can bring some levity with you to work. The health benefits are numerous, the camaraderie building is beneficial, and it just makes life better.

 

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

6 Tips to Maximize Your Networking

Whether you’re looking for a new job or not, networking is a vital skill that you should be continually developing. As much as you might wish it to be different, your own skills and expertise at your job aren’t always enough. Often, it’s exactly like that saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Who do you know? And what sort of relationship are you developing with your contacts? Here are 6 tips to maximize your networking efforts.

  1. Forget the speed-dating approach.

Quantity networking could be compared to speed dating. The results are minimal, you don’t really end up knowing the people, and they probably aren’t going to stick their necks out on the line to give you a recommendation. Networking is an investment that takes time, and like a relationship, it requires intentionality.

  1. Think beyond yourself.

No one enjoys being around a selfish person. If your goal is to take from others, that will become apparent to the people you’re trying to network with. Instead, look for areas that they need help in, and then become that source of help. Maybe you’re an expert in that area or you have a contact who could help them out. Whatever it is, make yourself useful to them first. Look to help others out, and not only your own goals.

  1. Get social.

There can be many benefits to using social media. It’s an avenue where you can follow up with connections and even make new ones. However, if your only goal is to promote yourself, people will soon lose interest in you and become annoyed at your self-seeking attitude that’s spamming their social sites.

  1. “What’s your favorite color?”

The answer to that question used to be the most important factor in determining whether you wanted that other kid to be your friend. While favorite colors really don’t matter anymore, having similar interests with someone can be a great way to connect with them. Do you share an interest in the same type of music? Remember that and use it to get to know that person better. Finding something in common creates an instant connection and you’ll be more likely to be remembered by that person, especially if you use that shared interest as a follow-up.

  1. Don’t forget to remember.

While you’re making all these connections, be sure to make mental notes. Connect faces with names, and names with interests and facts. If necessary, you can write down some of this information so that you’re sure not to forget it. Use whatever memory tool you like, just make sure you’re making those mental notes. Actively listen to what they’re saying so that you can have a meaningful follow-up with them later. This implies that you will eventually follow up (which is the whole purpose of first establishing network connections).

  1. Be on the lookout.

Put yourself out there. If you’re more comfortable with the behind-the-screen approach, you’ll need to put some more effort towards this one. You can make network connections at parties, conferences, events, asking others for introductions, classes, social media, etc. If you’re required to go to conferences or take specific classes for your career, take full advantage of the networking opportunities there.

Networking is incredibly vital in this day and age, but so many fail to establish quality contacts because of missing the mark in these areas. Basically, it comes down to treating the people you network with as just that: people. People meeting and getting to know other people. Implement these 6 tips, and watch how your networking quality improves.

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.