Job Search Advice: Never Say "I'm Open To Anything"

Job seekers may have a tendency to believe that being open to anything will help them with getting hired. After all, shouldn’t you cast a wide net to improve your chances of finding a job and isn’t it a good thing to show that you are flexible and open-minded?

There are two major problems with this “I’m open to anything” approach.

First of all, you’re actually not. Once I start talking to candidates who say they’re open to anything, there are usually a number of things they are not open to: long hours or lack of flexibility, lower than expected compensation, location, nature of the responsibilities, etc. So, you end up wasting your time applying for a job you won’t take or know you won’t like even if you did.

Secondly, you are a weaker candidate. Here’s why: From the employer or hiring manager’s perspective it’s a way of conveying you haven’t done your homework. You come across as simply hoping an opportunity presents itself so you can say yes or no, rather than proactively identifying and pursuing jobs that are a good fit for your skill set.  You will also have a hard time competing with people who are able to demonstrate both a strong interest and fit for that particular job.

So what can you do if you are a job seeker, but not sure of what your job targets are? Try these simple solutions:

  1. Invest the time in learning what jobs and companies you would be a good fit for. Start with companies in industries you have an interest in. They will usually have a page dedicated to “careers” where you can learn a lot about the company, career paths and their culture.
  2. Find out about trends in the industry of interest, key issues or problems the companies are trying to solve.  Would your skill set or background be helpful to the company and their goals?
  3. Another place to learn more about specific jobs is job boards. I always encourage job seekers to browse job boards to research their job targets. They give you a sense as to who is hiring, what positions are open and what types of candidates they are looking for.
  4. Be sure to network with people who are in jobs that interest you so you can get a firsthand understanding of what it’s like to be in their profession. Can you envision yourself pursuing the type of career path they describe? Again, not only do you want to improve your chances of getting hired by knowing more about your job targets, you also want to ensure you’re taking on a job that you will enjoy and do well in.

Hiring managers want to know that you have done the due diligence and know what you are getting into. They want to see that you are motivated and interested in that specific job! They want to hear from people who know what they are good at and what they can contribute.

Don’t be mistaken, it is important to explore different job targets with an open mind and look into a range of different things, but when you are ready to engage a recruiter or hiring manager, take it seriously. Don’t make the mistake of presenting yourself as “open to anything.” Instead, prepare yourself with knowledge and understanding of the job at hand so you get hired.

The Do's And Don'ts Of Securing A Sponsor

Having a sponsor can dramatically improve your chances of career advancement – even more so for women and minorities. In my article How to Prospect Sponsors we reviewed the importance of sponsors and how to go about prospecting for one. Here, we look at some very important do’s and don’ts when engaging and securing a sponsor.

Do:
Proactively find opportunities to network with senior leaders. Attend events, brown bag lunches or presentations that give you a chance to learn from and interact with them. If you have a worthwhile update or a specific topic on which you can have a one-on-one meeting, set one up. Speak up at the meetings where these people are present and make yourself visible and memorable to them. The intention isn’t necessarily to build a friendship, but to build rapport and open up a professional, meaningful line of communication. Show your potential sponsor that you understand their values and that you’ve internalized those values on a deeper level. For example, if your sponsor has talked about a new initiative on the horizon, you might be proactive and provide them with research, notes, and informed thoughts on the subject, demonstrating that you’re paying close attention and invested in the organization’s direction.

Don’t:
Put your eggs in one basket. Cultivate more than one relationship. While you may be eager to motivate an influencer or senior manager to become your sponsor, the person you think may be a good sponsor might not be interested. Ultimately, they will choose who they want to sponsor. Or, expect the unexpected. There could be changes within the organization at any time, or that person may switch their own career path. Any number of other disruptions could interfere with your sponsorship relationship. It may just “not work out,” so make sure that you’re building relationships with more than one person rather than having to start at ground zero in your search for a new sponsor. Even if you have an excellent sponsor, continue to network and build relationships with other prospective sponsors in your organization.

Do:
Put your best foot forward. It’s not about doing a ‘good enough’ job but instead, showing that you are committed to your sponsor by going above and beyond what is expected. Show your best work. Always deliver your work on time and make sure that you are contributing work that is of the highest quality. Anticipate what your sponsor may need and get it done. Your contribution is not about doing “favors” or giving a little bit of help to someone. Your effort needs to be more significant: pushing the most important agendas forward. Try providing assessments and reports that they haven’t necessarily asked for but that will greatly assist them on the key projects they are focused on.

Don’t:
Assume that your sponsor knows what you want from them.  First, it is essential that you are clear with what you want in your career. What are your goals? Are you seeking a promotion or a  role with broader responsibilities? Are you looking to move to a different office? Maybe you’re interested in taking on a specific project. Then communicate these goals to them at the appropriate time. Make it easy for your sponsor to support you.

Do:
Recognize that there will be a period in which you will be investing time and effort before a sponsorship relationship actually materializes. You need to consistently show potential sponsors that you are committed and that you can produce results that will help them. They also need to trust you. And building trust takes time. During this period, it is your job to initiate updates and to keep them informed of your contributions.

Don’t:
Mistake sponsors for mentors. A sponsor is not someone who you should let see your weaknesses, and they are not a shoulder to cry on. Remember, you want your potential sponsor to have every reason to push for and advocate for you. Don’t leave any doubts in their mind. You can certainly use mentors and coaches for moral support and encouragement to help you overcome challenges or difficulties, but make sure you are differentiating between who is who.

Sponsors are critical in moving you career forward. Understanding the relationship with your sponsor and how you engage them is the key to securing one: Be clear on what you want from the relationship. Invest time in cultivating your relationships, build trust with your target sponsors, and deliver extraordinary results.

3 Ways To Instantly Upgrade Your Resume

In a job search campaign, making sure you stand out as a candidate is critical. Sometimes you’re up against hundreds of other applicants. This is why your resume should not only indicate that you’re qualified for a job, but also help you represent your brand and the unique value you will bring to your future employer.

Here are three ways to upgrade your resume:

1. Highlight measurable results or key achievements instead of job duties.
You don’t want your resume to read like a list of job descriptions. Instead mention achievements with metrics or specific feedback you received. This is a great way to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Concrete results such as “Achieved revenue growth of x%” or “Cut $x in expenses within 6 months” are easy to understand and immediately give your abilities credibility. If you were the first to try and succeed in something, mention it.  It shows your ability to try new things, think outside the box or go above and beyond what was asked.

2. Increase your fit factor to prevent your resume from getting pre-filtered by Applicant Tracking Systems. 
Recruiters look through a huge volume of resumes and can only spend seconds on each one. Make sure they instantly see an obvious fit for the job they are trying to fill. That means tailoring your resume and cover letter to each position you are applying for. As time-consuming as this sounds, it is worth doing. Some companies use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS’s) that search for matches in keywords or phrases to pre-select candidates. Where possible, use the exact terms mentioned in the job description you are applying for. Use “trouble-shooting” instead of “problem solving”, if that is what they have used in their job description. Research the company’s focus areas, challenges, and goals so you can include specific ways in which your skills can be a part of their solutions or strategies. Then, tie these skills into your pitch in the cover letter.

3. Show progression and leadership throughout your career to convey drive and commitment. 
Ideally, your resume should show any increases in seniority over time through position or title changes. However, you can also demonstrate progression, even if you had similar titles, by illustrating increased responsibility or being asked to handle more complex or high profile projects.

A strong resume is vital. It’s your ticket to a job interview, and the interview in turn is your gateway to securing the employment you’re seeking. From that point of view, your resume is really one of the most important documents that you’ll ever create. The tips described here will help you to create the strongest, most effective resume possible, getting you that much closer to your goal. Best of luck.

 

Be Present At The Office To Prevent Burnout

Hone your skills at “being present” at the office to prevent burnout…

We all read and hear about ways to avoid burnout.  It usually involves tips on how to recharge, like taking “time off” and getting away from the office. However, there is something you can actually do IN the office and that’s be more present.

You may have heard about the “being present” movement. Whether or not you’ve considered the concept in a spiritual sense, there are certainly lessons that we can learn about putting the practice of presence into our every day practical life.

Being present has a double meaning. There is being present as in physically in attendance. And there is also being present as in now, in this moment in time. In short, be here now.

Not being present is easy. There is work to do, phone calls to make, emails to send, bills to pay, errands to run, and kids to pick up at school. There is so much going on, both past and future, that it’s no wonder that it’s hard to focus on the moment. Not being present is easy. Being present can be very elusive.

We live in a world of distraction and busy thoughts. We’ve grown to become multi-taskers. The challenge is that with so much going on, we lose the ability to really focus on one thing. We lose our presence here and now in the moment.

We need to learn to take the time to notice, appreciate and cherish the good things that we’re experiencing at work. There may be sources of delight, joy, or comfort that we just aren’t taking the time to notice. Slow down and take the time to look for these positives. Savor them. Carve away those moments to “recharge” and break away from the stress and worries of work.

Block out the noise.

When you’re experiencing busy thoughts, you might imagine your fingers closing to shut the buzz out to help signify that you’re blocking them out. You might even want to physically make that gesture as a marking point that you’re changing your level of focus. I just made the gesture as I was writing this and I found it to be a powerful physical marker.

Take a breath. Take a moment. 

When you take a moment to focus on your breathing and you consider the correspondence between what’s happening in that instant, you’ll start to understand that you are doing absolutely nothing. The feeling of appreciating a moment of nothing can be very soothing and help you to regain your focus.

Be a witness. 

Notice exactly what is happening. Observe it. Name it. Stand aside from it.

Let the rest go. 

Whatever is not there in that moment, let it go.

Rather than worry about what needs to get done for a client, or at home, or whatever is next your to-do list, be fully present and focus on what you are doing right in that moment. Take stock of what is happening around you. Give it your attention. Be in that moment. 

For example, when working on a difficult problem, it’s very common for people to feel stressed, frazzled, and overwhelmed. When those feelings escalate, your mind races to other worries and begins to pile them on top of each other. Push out that noise and recognize what is actually going on. If you’re learning something, consider that to be exercising your “new learning muscle.” Just because it’s new and challenging does not mean that is has to be negative. There may be stress because it takes exertion to learn something new, but that can be a positive stress. Stop and recognize the moments where you can learn something new, whether it is a new skill or you’re learning something new about yourself.

While speaking with a co-worker, focus on the conversation. Stop your mind from worrying about other things, like the schedule for the rest of the day, that phone call you need to make, or the dry cleaning you need to pick up. Focus on the person you’re speaking with and value the relationship. Realize that relationships and people are precious. Even if it’s only a brief conversation, give it your attention. Find value in the exchange, whether it’s something business-related or the ups and downs of parenting; invest in the moment with a proper commitment of focus before moving on. When you take the time to pay attention to people and you invest in listening and exchanging, good things start to grow.

When you see a familiar face in an elevator or at a meeting, realize that this is an opportunity connect with someone. If your paths have crossed before, they are likely to again. Take the time to invest in that moment that you’re sharing with them. It’s an opportunity, and it does not need to take a long time to seize that opportunity.

What about when you’re listening to a presentation? Does your mind wonder to other things? What might happen if you really made the effort to tune in? You may be surprised by the insights that your busy thoughts might otherwise have caused you to miss.

Consider your physical surroundings. Where do you work? Is there a view from your office building, not necessarily right at your desk but somewhere that you pass regularly? Do you ever stop to appreciate that view?

What other opportunities have you been missing to connect with people? Take the time to notice a book that someone in reading in the cafeteria? Or take a moment to notice and also compliment someone if they’re wearing something nice. Especially take a moment to commend someone if you’ve heard that they’ve recently made an achievement. It only takes a moment to focus your energy and to be present in that personal connection and the results can be invaluable.  

Think of being present as meditation without meditating. Find the stillness. Choose your point of focus. Let go of the all the extras. Just as all the moments of stress will become the formula for burn out, all the accumulated moments of “presence” will contribute to a more focused, relaxed, happier you.

How To Build Your "Success Wardrobe"

There’s a difference between knowing that we should “dress for success” and actually internalizing the how-to knowledge to cultivate a “success wardrobe”. Here to give practical advice and tips about style-making for the workplace is my guest and independent style consultant,  Juliette Kim.

How to Build Your Success Wardrobe

By Juliette Kim

We all remember in school that one girl who had that “it” factor.  She knew how to wear clothes a certain way to make herself look like that best versions of herself.  When everyone was just wearing a plain t-shirt, she took that same t-shirt and tied a knot on one side and made it look cool and different.  This is what we call style — making even the most mundane outfit personal, fun, and uniquely you.  Style is important because it is an outer and visible extension of you.  If you have good style, it helps portray confidence and self-awareness, both of which people are usually drawn to.

In the professional arena, it’s still possible to have style without tying your suit jacket into a knot.  High-end, well-made staples mixed with more casual pieces and accessories can equal style in the workplace.  Many times, suit pants, blazers, and blouses tend to all look the same after a while.  But, these are the foundations of a professional closet that you can build from.  If you put a little bit of thought into it, you don’t have to break the bank to look “put together” or stylish.

There are three main things to consider when thinking about style in the professional setting: 

1) the fit of your clothes

2) knowing how to dress appropriately for your corporate culture

3) accessorizing

When you look at a stylish person in the work place, one of the top reasons they look polished and put together is the fit of their clothes.  Wearing a suit jacket that is too baggy or pants that are too loose or shapeless gives off the message that you are sloppy.  Wearing a blouse that is too tight or low-cut portrays a different kind of inappropriate message.  It is worth investing in a couple of nice pair of pants, skirts, and jackets from designers such as Theory, Elie Tahari, Calvin Klein, St. John, and Hugo Boss.  Ann Taylor, Banana Republic, and J. Crew, are more affordable options as well.  With these off-the-rack options, make sure you have a good tailor that you trust that can help you make changes to your pieces so that they fit your body well.  You would be surprised at how even just half an inch on the sleeve of a jacket can make a big difference.

Knowing what to wear and when to wear certain pieces portrays experience and awareness.  A sense that someone “gets it” and has innate knowledge gives people the impression that she is sophisticated.  Sophistication is also a huge component of style.  The first thing to consider when dressing for your job is your corporate culture.  Is your workplace business, business-casual, or casual?  An analyst at Goldman Sachs will dress much differently from a buyer at Barneys, for example.  You want to make sure you dress appropriately for your office.  Many people express concerns about looking younger than they are – “too” young — and how that may have hurt their career.

You’ve heard the phrase, “dress for the job you want, not for the job you have.”  Think about the women that are more senior to you.  How do they dress?  How do they carry themselves?  At the end of the day, as long as you look put together, how you handle yourself carries far more weight than what you are wearing.

Now for the fun part!  Depending on your workplace and the dress code (business, business-casual, or casual), where you can take the most liberties is in accessorizing and how you style your outfit.  Accessories are key when wanting to spice up the same outfit.  You can wear the same black/grey/navy jacket and pant/skirt combination and have multiple different looks depending on the jewelry and top that you wear under your jacket.  Having 3-4 necklaces with different styles can give an outfit a whole different look.  A long pendant, a colorful statement necklace, and dainty layering necklaces in different lengths are some examples of different style pieces.

Bold statement jewelry, bright colors, and patterns portray confidence.  You can play around with different patterns in your blouse or shirts that you wear underneath your jacket.  If you choose a bold necklace with a lot of colors, try to keep the shirt underneath a more muted color.  If you’re more conservative but want to push your fashion envelope a little bit, study some fashion bloggers such as Wendy’s Look Book (www.wendyslookbook.com), The Galmourai (www.theglamourai.com), or The Fashion Guitar (www.thefashionguitar.com) for inspiration.  Think about what part of their outfit you can see yourself wearing.  Study how they put their clothes together.  Even though some of these bloggers’ outfits are clearly not meant for the office, you can take even one component of their look and make it your own.  Another place loaded with great ideas is Pinterest (www.pinterest.com).

Your professional style is something that won’t come overnight.  Think about what you like about your current wardrobe and what you think may be lacking.  Draw ideas from some of your style icons at work, or even outside of the professional setting.  How do they put their outfits together?  It takes some introspection on many levels to come up with your style.  Even then, your style can change depending on the situation and trends.  Studying some of the aforementioned fashion blogs (there are thousands more) and browsing Pinterest for outfit ideas is a great jumping off point.  Additionally, do a quick spot check to see if your pants, jackets, and skirts fit you well.  If in doubt, bring to a tailor to have everything fitted to make sure everything flatters your body.  Above everything else, exude confidence.  Even if you’re not truly confident, fake it until you make it!

Juliette Kim  (Full Bio)

Juliette’s obsession with fashion began when she was a little girl. Her earliest fashion memory of her childhood is laying in bed at night and going through her inventory of clothes in her head and picking out outfits for the week.  Juliette never wore the same outfit twice in the same month while in elementary school.  

Juliette received her B.A. from Johns Hopkins University in International Studies which led her to live in Japan and Florence during her undergraduate years.  Juliette attributes exposure to fashion in Japan and Italy to sparking her interest in pursuing a career in fashion.

Shortly after receiving her M.A. from Columbia University, she worked for two New York-based fashion designers, Twinkle and WAYNE, whose collections have been carried by prominent retailers such as Barneys New York, Harvey Nichols and Anthropologie.  As the main Public Relations liaison for both labels, Juliette organized fashion shows for Mercedes-Benz NY Fashion Week and worked with the fashion editors of magazines such as Vogue, Harper’s Bazaar, WWD, Elle, InStyle, and Allure.  She was responsible for pulling together looks from the designers’ collections for future issues of these magazines.  While with these fashion designers in New York, she gained first-hand knowledge about the inner workings of how designers go from a spark of an inspiration to a full collection and how to style specific looks [that capture the imagination and creativity of the designer and those wearing the clothes].

Juliette is an independent personal style consultant in the San Francisco area.  She has provided advice on styling and current trends to various fashion boutiques and businesses.  She draws from her background in human behavior/psychology and experience in the fashion world in New York to understand and cultivate personal and professional style.  

How To Prospect Sponsors

There has been a lot of discussion recently about the importance of sponsors in advancing the careers of women and minorities.

Research conducted by the Center for Talent Innovation shows that with sponsorship, minorities are “65% more likely to be satisfied with the rate of their advancement.” 

Sponsors are not your mentors and are not necessarily your managers either. They are senior leaders in (and sometimes, outside) your organization with power and influence. They believe in you, have a seat at the table during decision making meetings and are willing to be an advocate for you – for a new opportunity, a promotion or to protect you, if needed.

The first question that you must ask yourself is: “How do I find my sponsor(s)?”

When prospecting sponsors in your organization, look for leaders who:

1. are not in “maintenance mode”. It is not good enough that they are senior. They need to be expanding and growing their careers and are proactively seeking out new talent and support for their agenda. Who are the movers and shakers?

2. have a platform you can get behind. They are leading a group, initiative or project that interests you and/or you have the skills that would be very valuable to them.

3. believe in sponsorship, understand the nature of sponsoring, and know how to do it well.

4. have integrity and a solid reputation. They don’t need to have the same style or approach as you do, but you want to know they operate in a manner that is consistent with your values and that being associated with them will not jeopardize your reputation.

So how do you learn more about the senior leadership in order to begin prospecting? 

You can start by reading their bio’s or articles written about them. Try talking to people who have worked with them or has been around longer and, therefore, offer a more informed perspective on who’s who in the organization. Listen carefully during town halls or other meetings where you can hear from senior leaders, especially those outside of your direct reporting line. Ask them questions to get to know them firsthand. Pay attention to internal memos and news about people on the move, new appointments, announcements about projects, committees, and who the guest speakers or panelists are at events. Volunteer to be on task-forces or other committees where you might gain direct and indirect exposure to the senior managers in your organization.

As you learn more about them, start a list of potential sponsors, based on the criteria above.Sponsors can be a critical component to putting your career on the fast track. Seeking potential sponsors is only the first step, but an important one. Choose wisely as you will be investing a significant amount of time and effort to engage, build trust and deliver for these people if you truly want to maximize on the sponsorship relationship.

Like Water Off A Duck's Back: How To Deal with Negativity In The Workplace

Have you heard the expression, “to let it roll off you like water off a duck’s back”?

Rumors. Complaints. Criticism of the workplace. Glass-half-empty colleagues.

When faced with negativity in the workplace, these things can be an obstacle to overcome. Like water rolling off a duck’s back, let the negativity slide off of you.

In any workplace, there are almost certainly a handful of toxic or disgruntled coworkers who want to spread their misery. It could be their personality, or maybe they’ve had a bad experience with a boss, or they simply aren’t a good fit for the organization. Whatever the reason, some people have consciously or unconsciously become a downer.

You may think that you’re focused enough that you won’t get sucked in, but sometimes it can happen before you realize it. You might find that your time is being wasted listening to the negative talk, or if you’re not extremely cognizant you might even get drawn into joining the negative talk yourself. Perhaps you’ve even said a thing or two in the past that you now regret. Most importantly, the negativity can leave you feeling emotionally drained and distracted. Without monitoring, your motivation could start to run down the tubes.

Chances are, your bosses have also noticed that your colleague is a bad apple and the last thing you want is to be guilty by association with that person. Not only that, you will be thought of as a poor judge of character.

So how do you deal with the toxicity?

Prevent the negativity from getting to you:

1. Surround yourself with people who are positive.

That doesn’t necessarily mean people who are “always happy”, but solution-oriented people whose approach is to focus on improvements when faced with challenges and disappointments.

2. Set your own positive tone.

Let the people around you know that you’re not interested in their negativity. Give short responses and avoid building the conversation. Acknowledge what they’ve said and move on. “I’m sorry to hear that,” and change the subject.

3. Redirect.

Make the conversation a constructive one by asking what they have done to try to fix the situation. You might also suggest that they speak to someone who can help them. Often negative people aren’t interested in these solutions, but by replying in a constructive way they might start to get the message that you aren’t joining in on their complaining.

4. Beware.

Be wary. Negative people come in all forms. From advice, to a heads up, to a joke, or supposedly “friendly” small talk. Listen carefully to what people are saying and what their intentions really are.

Stay focused:

1. Check the source and facts.

If there is truly an issue of concern, use your own sources that you trust to investigate and determine if it is important and if you can or should take action.

2. Remember that it isn’t your job to change their minds or fix their problems.

Once someone is disgruntled, their performance will usually begin to suffer, or maybe poor performance is already an issue. Even if someone is talented, while disgruntled they will be blind to the solution, they won’t communicate effectively, and they won’t be able to build trusting relationships with their bosses or colleagues. When someone isn’t giving their 100% commitment and effort, they won’t work well in a team. With these people, the “issue” they’re coming to you with is really just the tip of the iceberg. Your involvement likely won’t do much to help fix their problem and is more likely to distract you.

3. Have clarity and remember your mission.

Why are you there? Why is this job, or project, important to you? What are your goals? Once you remind yourself of the end result you are working towards and the relationships that do matter, you will find that you don’t have the time or energy to indulge in the negative conversations.

 

Career Development Tip: Having Effective One-on-One Meetings

Most managers use one-on-one meetings as a way of keeping a pulse on what is going on with their teams.  It took me a while to figure out that these meetings were not just important for managers.   They were also a key tool for me in developing my career. I learned that whether you maximize these meetings or not can result in significant differences in performance, career progression, and overall job satisfaction.

Some managers like a formal structure with a clear agenda of discussion points, but most often these meetings are fairly informal. Early on in my career, I wondered what I should talk about. I filled the time by providing business updates or escalating problems with a project. These were perfectly legitimate topics and often seemed like pressing issues at the time. But one manager made it a point to incorporate career management discussions at these meetings.  I was lucky to have her as a manager and still consider her a great mentor. Not all managers are like her and you may find you need to prompt these conversations yourself.

Having career management discussions doesn’t mean repeatedly asking your boss about when they are going to promote you and/or give you a raise.

So what does that entail? It involves preparing and focusing on these three things at every meeting.

 1. Your contribution and value. Let them know about key achievements and wins, ideally with tangible results. As interested as they may be in your work, managers are busy. Help them by making sure they are aware of the ways in which you are contributing to the organization. Prepare statistics or other evidence relevant to your accomplishment, or feedback from a client. Also, ask them about what the most important priority is for them and how you can help. Keep them informed of what types of skills you have. They may have an assignment for you where those skills can be very useful.

2. Your insights. Keep your manager in the loop on concerns you have. Maybe it is about a project, the team, or how department meetings are run. Be mindful of how you communicate this. You don’t want to come across as simply complaining. Articulate what specific things you think need to be improved and why. It is even better if you can propose potential solutions. Not only does your manager become aware of what needs to be fixed (and won’t be blind-sided later on), she will begin to trust you as someone who will voice your concerns and hopefully see you as a partner who can help her resolve issues or problems that arise.

3. Your career goals. Don’t wait until review season or the announcement of promotions to talk about your career goals. Whether it is a desire to take on a new project, seeking a role overseas, or how to stay on track for the next promotion, you should be weaving these conversations into your one-on-one’s regularly. Establish your career goals and timeframes in a more formal plan, which many companies do now. Then in your meetings, you can ask your manager if you are on track, or what specific actions you can take to get you closer to those goals.

The end goal of having these conversations is building trust and transparency that is mutually beneficial.  Managers learn about what is going on and benefit from your insights. You’re able to remind them of what you bring to the team and how you can help them, a powerful incentive for managers to support you and your career goals.

A Commonly Overlooked Mistake When Making A First Impression (Especially By Nice People!)

Recently, I was offering some tips on job interviews. I reflected on some of the mistakes candidates make. And there was one that most people overlook. It is not about how you dress or how unprepared you are for the interview questions. But this mistake can cost you not only your first impression, but what I would call the ‘likeability’ factor. Yes, even for the nicest people.

So what is it? It is projecting low energy.

It is lack of energy in your body language, eye contact, and in your tone. These things convey a lack of enthusiasm. Your demeanor screams “I am not interested in being here and would rather not speak to you if I don’t have to”. Even if that is not how you feel at all!

In most cases, you may be unaware that you are giving off this kind of vibe. In fact, you might think you were being reserved or even respectful by being subdued.  The truth is low energy makes your audience dread every minute they have to spend with you.

When you find yourself with the opportunity of creating a first impression, ask yourself what kind of energy you are projecting.

Four things you should check, even before they greet you :

  1. Are you smiling confidently?
  2. How is your posture?
  3. Are you making eye contact?
  4. How is your tone of voice? Do you sound like you are reading a textbook or do you sound excited to be there?

If you need to raise your energy level ahead of time, try listening to music that pumps you up, read a passage or look at pictures that get you motivated. Try standing instead of sitting while you wait for the event or interview to start.

Don’t let this mistake jeopardize an important interview or opportunity to leave a great first impression.

Why “Don’t Take It Personally” Is Useless Advice And What To Do Instead

We all know feedback is critical in career development. It helps you grow. It highlights things you didn’t know about yourself. We get it. And receiving positive feedback is always nice. A thank you or a great job does wonders for me if I am having a rough day. But the “constructive” feedback…?

When someone starts off with “Don’t take this personally, but…” alarm bells go off in my head and I am bracing for what is about to come next.

Unlike grades on an exam, constructive feedback about your work or abilities feels personal. How do you not take it personally? Some people have a “thick” skin. Most of us don’t. And a lot of people I know pretend not to care, but they do.

So how do you overcome the fear of getting feedback? A while back, a friend told me about a strategy she uses. While it doesn’t remove the sting completely, it has helped me in getting over that part more quickly. So here is the tip:

Every time you get feedback, critique the feedback. Just like you would review a book or product. Ask yourself:

  1. Is the person really qualified to give me that feedback? Do they have the right intentions?
  2. Is the feedback useful to me? Did they actually tell me something about myself that I can or should change?
  3. Did they provide real examples?
  4. Did the feedback include suggested actions I could take?

If the answer was YES to all four, then it was great feedback and gets four stars (★★★★), if it was only two, then the feedback was alright, but not worth dwelling on.

This process helps to defuse the defensive energy that you are overcome with and allows you to step back and see the feedback in a more matter of fact manner. It also reminds you of why feedback is important in the first place – to help you, not them.

Remember, you aren’t trying to please everyone or seek their approval, certainly not of the people who aren’t there to be supportive. The end result of good feedback is a game plan: “What am I going to do about this?”

The next time you get feedback that makes you tense up, cringe or even want to cry…stop, take a deep breath and “C.T.F.” – critique the feedback.