Monday, December 31, 2007

Career Advice Columnist, Heal Thyself

I woke up early this morning and thought about this being the last day of 2007. I thought about what I would write on my blog, and knew that I didn't want to write the same old stuff about how you need to make certain career resolutions, blah, blah, blah.

Instead, I spent some time lying in the dark and thinking about my own career and where I wanted it to go in the new year. (This is a sort of "physician, heal thyself.")I realized that before I made any decisions, I needed to spend some time thinking about what I've learned in the past year. I came to the conclusion that I've learned a lot. I've made some good moves...and I made some bad moves.

So, I'm not going to offer you any advice today. I'm just going to share with you lessons I've learned (and re-learned in some cases):

1. Life isn't fair. I lost work this year, and so did lots of other people. Not because we did a bad job, but because we were treated as numbers on a piece of paper. It reinforces my belief that everyone deserves to be treated with basic respect, no matter how busy or stressed I am.
2. Always take the high road. I've seen some pretty awful things written on the Internet this year, from both bloggers and from those who comment. Being foul, hateful and venomous doesn't accomplish anything. I never write anything like that, ever, not only because my mother raised me better, but because I think there are no anonymous postings on the Internet. If I'm not willing to put my name and address on a posting, then I shouldn't be writing it.
3. You lie down with dogs, you're going to wake up with fleas. LinkedIn, Facebook and MySpace are very popular, but that old adage about being known for the company you keep is still true. I need to be aware of not only who I'm associating with, but with whom that person is associating. My reputation is not something I want to fritter away in a moment of "who has the most links" bingo.
4. Be careful what you wish for. A lot of my wishes came true in my career this year, but I wasn't prepared for the downside. This year I'm going to be much more realistic and evaluate my options before rushing headlong into a "dream come true" situation.
5. Playing by my rules. I'm an information junkie, but I think this year I needed an intervention. I got too caught up in what other people were doing, and didn't spend enough time focusing on what was right for me at this point in my life. In 2008, I'm going to spend more time living my life the way I want, instead of focusing on how other people are living theirs.


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Friday, December 28, 2007

Being Successful -- But Miserable

There you sit, at the pinnacle of your profession. Successful, well-respected, making good money. It took lots of hard work, a little bit of luck and many personal sacrifices. Still, it was worth it.

Wasn’t it?

Unfortunately, many people in this exact position are saying “no.” They’re not doing something they like, they’re not happy, they’re not able to say they like what they’ve done with their life.

But those who are miserable and successful often feel the most trapped by their jobs. The money is depended on by families and they are bound with cement glue to the picture-perfect life they have created. They suffer silently, often only showing the signs of their inner turmoil by being less patient with their children, more authoritarian and autocratic at work and suffering from various stress-induced health problems.

People going through this often think about quitting their jobs, chucking it all because they just can't stand being so unhappy. Still, that may not be the best solution since finding happiness may mean simply making some adjustments to a current position. Either way, it’s important that if you are successful, but unhappy, you sit down with a piece of paper and take a hard look at your job.

Begin by:

1. Listing everything that bugs you about your job. From the fax machine that never works to the overtime to the abrasive boss. Don’t leave anything out, no matter how small or trivial. Now consider what you can change or eliminate from that list, and determine what is part of your job and what is part of the work environment.
Now, ask yourself this question: Is this the life you want? Is it what you dreamed of as a child?

2. Looking at time and money. When you determine that a change must be made, this is the time to bring in the family. Explain that you will be happier doing something else, but you will need their support because financial sacrifices may be needed.
Then, set up a timeline of what you are going to do, and when. If you have no real idea of what you want to do, limit yourself to exploring three new fields at a time. If you try to do more than that, you may become paralyzed by such a huge task.

3. Doing your research. Get on the Internet, network with other people, get interviews at companies that interest you. Find out what is needed for you to work in your chosen field by talking to everyone you can think of -- and then asking them for more people to talk to. If you're 50 years old, chances are you can't become a ballerina as you once dreamed, but you can look at jobs that involve the arts, graceful movements and creativity.

4. Going for it. When you’re spending as much time on making your dream a reality as on your regular job, it’s time to take the leap of faith and put all your time into the job you love.


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Thursday, December 27, 2007

Best Bets for 2008

I didn't get around to this week's Tidbit Tuesday because (duh) it was Christmas and I was busy spending time with my family and cleaning up dog barf from my Golden Retriever who ate half a bag of Peppermint Patties. (And just for the record, I will never eat Peppermint Patties again.)

So, I'm doing a Tidbit Thursday, which doesn't sound as catchy but will nevertheless be just as riveting:

* Hand me that wrench: In ranking the best careers for 2008, U.S. News and World Report dropped 25 profiled careers from its 2007 list and added 11 new ones. The story says that the best careers include some blue-collar jobs such as a firefighter or hairstylist, and government jobs, which always have the "luxury of continually paying employees well."

* Grandpa didn't sleep well, either: It's estimated that emloyees who are sleepy on the job cost the national economy about $100 billion annually in lost productivity, are more prone to absenteeism and accidents, and have higher stress and lower creativity. A new study may explain that insomnia, often blamed on job and life stress, also has another cause: a family history.
According to a new study, individuals with current or past insomnia were significantly more likely to report a family history of insomnia than were good sleepers who had never experienced insomnia in the past.
It's estimated that about 30 percent of adults have symptoms of insomnia, with most needing between seven and eight hours of sleep a night to feel rested.

* Rockin' job and good books: The New York Post profiled the real School of Rock dude that the move was loosely based on. Think you have it in you to teach the next Van Halen? Check out what Paul Green has to say about his job.
And, while I'm on the subject of the Post, let me direct your attention to a list it has compiled of their Top 10 picks for 2007's "notable career success books". On the top of the list is ... drum roll (And the other nine listed are pretty darn good, too.)


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Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Proper E-mail Use Critical to Career Success

Bill Lampton, Ph.D., president of Championship Communication, has served as a source for me many times when it comes to understanding how we can better communicate with one another at work. Recently, I asked him to discuss his newest efforts to teach us all how to be better e-mail communicators.

It's obvious that e-mail is here to stay, yet you say few companies really educate workers about how and why to use it. Is that the only reason that e-mail has gotten so out of control?
No, there are other reasons. We can’t leave the training up to companies alone. Just as parents need to define appropriate etiquette for dining and dating, they should tell their children that their e-mail habits create immediate impressions, too. Then parents can educate them specifically about what to avoid and what to do. Likewise, schools — including colleges and universities — should incorporate e-mail training into their courses.

Communication consultants carry a responsibility in this arena as well. For example, when I direct my all-day seminar on “Business Writing That Works,” I devote the last hour to e-mail guidelines. Usually this segment becomes the liveliest and most beneficial part of the day.

Fortunately, newspaper columnists — including you — write about e-mail protocol regularly. You’ll reach people missed by structured training sessions.

You give us rules for using e-mail such as making sure you use proper grammar and spelling, never writing an e-mail when you're angry and don't try to be funny. But does it really matter if our e-mails don't follow these rules? Why?
Yes, because failing to follow these standards will prevent us from:
• making a favorable impression
• becoming “top of mind” for raises and promotions
• selling to top-caliber customers
• reducing workplace confusion
• avoiding preventable conflicts
• maintaining morale during special challenges, like downsizing, when clarity
and conveying the right mood are essential
• enjoying the level of credibility we aspire to
• responding satisfactorily to disgruntled customers

OK, now tell us what is your most personal pet peeve with e-mails.
My decision on that is easy. Every day, I become impatient with “e-mail overkill.” Just as blabbermouths annoy me with their spoken waterfall of words, e-mailers
who don’t know when to stop get on my nerves.

For example, let’s say someone e-mails you, Anita, commending you for an article you wrote. Courteously, you reply. However, you didn’t mean to initiate daily correspondence. Next thing you know, you’re bombarded with a barrage of jokes (most of which you have seen before), personal histories, and questions about your family, hobbies, and more. Genuine professionals need to remember that “less is more” in
e-mailing. Consider: We have access to someone’s mailing address, yet we don’t send three, four, or five letters daily. We should use the same good judgment when we turn to the computer.

I have observed that the same people who used to flood our in-baskets with reams of paper memoranda now blitz our screens with repetitive e-mails. They tempt me to respond, “I understood you the first time.”

Are there instances where e-mail should never be used?
• When the topic is confidential (salary, grievances, reprimands)
• When only a face-to-face conversation can resolve tensions
• When you want to assure that you convey both content and intent accurately
• When it’s time for you to become more visible as a caring supervisor
• When the intended recipient works in the adjoining cubicle
(An exception: When both of you need a written record of the

Finally, what's the best way to sign off on an e-mail?
Sign off with a word or phrase that conveys friendliness without
sounding flippant.

Avoid, except with very close friends or family:
• “Cheers”
• “CYA” (Internet slang for “See you”) and similar e-mail shorthand
• Humor — “You da best, you da most”
• “Cordially” or “I remain yours sincerely” and other obsolete terms
• “Warmly,” “Your greatest admirer” and other expressions that could become
misinterpreted as romantic or at least flirty
• Any signoff that includes an exclamation point

Select a close that’s business-like yet not gushy

• “Best”
• “My best”
• “All the best”
• “Best regards”
• “Sincerely”


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Monday, December 24, 2007

My List of Heroes

Off the top of my head I can name 10 people who have either lost their jobs recently, have been forced to take early buyouts, or work for companies so under threat that they will probably begin layoffs as soon as the holidays are over.

But what amazes me about these people is that even though they are the breadwinners of their families, even though they are well established in their careers, not one of them feels sorry for themselves. When recounting the tough times they're now experiencing, in the next breath they always mention how much love and support they receive from their families and friends, how blessed they are to have their health, and how much they're looking forward to seeing what else life has in store for them.

Often we talk about how the heroes in our world are soldiers fighting thousands of miles from home, or firefighters or police officers who defend us every day. I certainly agree with those sentiments.

But when I think of people who have had their jobs yanked out from under them -- and they keep putting one foot in front of the other every day -- then I have to add them to my list of heroes. They're not doing anything other than trying to get a job so that they can put food on the table, send a kid to college and save something for retirement. They're not trying to be the biggest blogger on the Internet, have a business book bestseller or nab the spotlight every time they have an idea or come up with the next big "thing."

Nope -- they just want a job so that they take care of the people that matter to them. Sometimes they get jobs they hate, with horrible bosses and companies that don't care two cents about them. But they keep on going, always keeping in mind the things that are truly important in their lives. That's something I don't think we admire enough.

So, on this day, I want to say thank you to everyone who keeps trying every day, no matter what. You're my heroes.



Friday, December 21, 2007

Overcoming Predicted Failures

It's often an unhappy reality, but true: Once a boss decides a worker cannot succeed, then it becomes very difficult -- if not downright impossible -- to break that opinion. The manager often makes it more difficult for the employee’s suggestions to see the light of day, or argues with every idea the employee makes so that it is less likely others will pick up on the idea.

It finally can become so bad that the employee becomes transparent -- and the job becomes so difficult that the worker must leave in order to achieve anything.

The fallout is not only damaging to individual careers, but in a work dynamic calling on team efforts, group innovations and shared information, such actions can damage other workers and ultimately, the company.

Many bosses won't deny that they behave this way. They say they are just more controlling with what they perceive as "low" performers. In other words, they do what they want and get what they expect.

As a result, even though an employee may be capable of great things, once targeted as a low performer they may begin to act that way. The person begins to doubt his or her own judgement, withdrawing and offering fewer ideas for consideration. Still others may swing the other way and begin taking on huge workloads in order to prove their worth -- but quality suffers, and that only emphasizes the negative label.

But because it's so difficult for an employee to combat such actions, companies must learn to target such behavior by bosses who drive away workers simply because they have put their own prejudices into play. Some ways to do that include:

* Addressing the relationship. A meeting between the employee and the boss should not be a chance to give “feedback” to the employee (that often bodes ill for the worker), but rather a chance to address the relationship in an open and honest way. The boss can admit there is tension -- and that he may be responsible for problems in the employee’s performance. The worker should be free to discuss the manager’s behavior.
* Admitting that no one sets out to fail. Sometimes employees are not as capable in some areas as in others, so the boss and the worker need to decide the specific areas of weakness, and the manager needs to provide evidence that these flaws exist. This is a chance for the employee to compare his performance with others, pointing out strengths and capabilities.
* Owning up to assumptions. Understanding what each person's attitude is toward the other and how those tensions can be alleviated is important in moving forward.
* Moving forward. Once the dirty laundry has been aired, then the manager and employee should agree on performance objectives, and how their relationship can move forward. While new objectives may require some monitoring by the boss, an employee should be free of intense scrutiny as the performance improves.
* Continuing to talk. The employee and boss should agree to address any problems in the future right away, opening the door to more honest communication.


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Thursday, December 20, 2007

Lack of Delegation Can be Short-Sighted

Have you ever noticed that the people who complain the most about their workload often guard their turf at work like junkyard dogs? In other words, while they moan and groan about how much they have to do, they'd sooner sever a little toe than let anyone touch so much as a file folder or Post-It note on their desk?

Of course, they may tell themselves and others that the reason they don't delegate anything is because a)no one can do a particular task as well as they can; and b)it’s just easier to do it themselves rather than having to explain it to someone else and then having to watch over them every second.

So these people are swamped with work, constantly stressed and always under deadline pressure -- and usually taking that pressure out on co-workers. They don't stop to realize that their attitude affects more than themselves as they often become a bottleneck, more intent on hoarding their work instead of working towards the most efficient process possible.

And when they do delegate -- watch out. It's more than likely they'll be delegating confusion and resentment as they dump tasks they hate on someone else, or put little thought into whether they're giving the work to the right people with the right skills.

In reality, delegating is really on-the-job training, providing those in an organization a chance to stretch and grow. And if someone can’t delegate, then they’re actually hurting the business because it undermines trust and motivation among employees.

So, the next time you don't want to delegate, think about your true motivation. Is it really because you don't think someone else can do the work, or is it because you're afraid they'll do a better job than you? If you're personally insecure about sharing your little fiefdom, then consider this: Those who fear delegating the most are the most dispensable because they are not growing and taking chances.


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Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Childless Workers Deserve Fairness

There's no shortage of stories being written about the dilemmas of working parents. The problems of trying to balance the needs of family while maintaining a career are written about every day, and I know I've written my fair share of these stories.

But each time I write about the subject, I get mail from someone who is fed up with all the focus being on the needs of the working parent, and would like some attention given to the childless worker who sometimes gets the short end of the stick.

I think many of them have a legitimate gripes: they often are expected to work on or around holidays because they don't have a "family,"; they often are left to pick up the slack when co-workers leave early to attend a child's event or to care for a sick child; their desires to have a flexible schedule are often put on the shelf in favor of a working parent's request; they often feel socially isolated if they work with a majority of workers with children; and they feel they are rarely rewarded or recognized for their work in helping fill the gaps.

Generation X originally brought up these gripes years ago when they were the new kids on the block. Some of them are still childless, and they still complain. Now, GenY has joined the refrain, as they face a workplace that sometimes has evolved very little in terms of flexibility (which is why many of them would rather strike out on their own.)

Part of the problem is that employers have allowed bosses to use personal judgement -- instead of business sense -- to respond to the personal needs of workers.

For example, a boss may decide that a worker attending a child's school play is a more important request than the one from the worker who wants to use the daylight hours to train for a bike race. But the result is that the childless worker becomes angry and frustrated with the boss, possibly leading to that valuable worker leaving the business.

As more younger workers enter the workforce armed with important skills, the employer who ignores the childless worker's needs does so at its own risk.

The key, experts say, is give all workers as much control as possible over their work lives, determining how and when the work can best be completed. The result, they claim, is a greater enthusiasm by all workers to do the best job possible.


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Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Power of Lists

Even though Jay Leno has been begging me to come write for his show, I'm the daughter of a union man and not about to cross that writer's strike picket line. So, that leaves me free to offer you these gems for Tidbit Tuesday:

* What's in a list? Time magazine's list-laden issue also has a dart to throw at the lists we all seem to love (ahem, 45 Things...). Writer James Poniewozik notes that one of the reasons we love things like Letterman's Top 10 lists is because they give us a chance to challenge authority, to point out that the other guy is a moron. "A list isn't truly right unless it's a little bit wrong," he writes. If you want to see the other nine reasons we go list-crazy at the end of the year, check out the story. No. 1 is the real kicker.

* Working makes me sick: If you think that work is taking it's toll on your psyche, it could be that your body is also taking a beating just by showing up every day. Newsweek reports that the workplace may be hurting everything from your eyes to your back to your ears, and provides some insights on how to combat that toll, noting that "small adjustments can make a suprising difference in the quality of your day."

* What your boss says and what he really and Second City Communications have put together a list of how to truly understand what your boss is saying. It's sort of like a translation service for anyone entering the executive suite. Some examples:

Boss: "Great job on the report!"
Translation: "I'm taking credit for your work."

Boss: "I have to attend an off-site meeting."
Translation: "I'm having an affair."

Boss: "Let me give you some broadstroke ideas and you can fill in the rest."
Translation: "I still haven't learned how to create an Excel document."

Boss: "Headquarters has assured me we will not be affected by the merger."
Translation: "You are going to be fired."

Boss: "I'm not sure if what you are suggesting is in alignment with our core competencies."
Translation: "What exactly do we do again?"


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Monday, December 17, 2007

What Does Success Look Like?

In this blog, I try to provide information that I believe will be helpful to you. But today's blog post is different, because I want to learn something from you. It's simple, actually. I'd like for you to answer a question:

What does success look like to you?

Make your answer as long or as short as you want, and be brutally honest. Name 20 things or one thing. Give it some thought or write down the first thing that enters your head. There is no right or wrong answer. I'm just curious...

What does success look like to you?


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Thursday, December 13, 2007

Dignity and Privacy in the Workplace

Most of us have been guilty of it a time or two: Trying to get a peek at the confidential files on the boss’s desk, or perhaps gossiping with a trusted co-worker about another employee’s performance problems.

And while this may seem harmless -- you’re just keeping up on what’s going on after all -- it points out that the workplace needs some confidentiality guidelines. Think of it this way: Would you like it if someone were trying to get a glimpse of your last performance evaluation, or was dishing the latest dirt about your spat with a manager?

Chances are it would make you uncomfortable, and probably a little angry. While we may like to see every detail of a person’s life exposed on daily talk shows or on YouTube, it’s another matter when it’s our lives being discussed.

At the same time, you need to realize that talking about co-workers and bosses in an unprofessional way can find you in legal hot water depending on what position you hold in a company, what information you are discussing and with whom. Workers have been fired for everything from discussing salaries to gossiping about romantic relationships.

Now, there's no reason to be paranoid and think you can't shoot the breeze a bit at work. Just keep in mind that everyone deserves dignity and privacy -- and that should temper your actions and what you discuss.

With that in mind, here are some ways to improve confidentiality for all of us in the workplace:

1. During conference calls, make sure each person is identified before beginning a conversation. Ask that if anyone joins in later they be immediately identified.
2. Do not discuss your salary or anyone else’s unless it’s part of your collective bargaining agreement.
3. When making a phone call, clearly identify who is on the other end before speaking, and always identify yourself, even if you are calling a familiar number.
4. Do not attempt to get the boss’s spouse alone at the next office party and gain information. In fact, don’t talk company business with a spouse or significant other of an employee or manager.
5. If you’re discussing company business, always be aware of who is around you and who could overhear. Don’t let anyone sneak up behind you -- you might even go so far as to never sit with your back to the door when in conference or a private conversation.
6. Lock your desk and your files during lunch or at the end of the day, or when you’re going to be away for a certain amount of time, such as in a meeting. Take precautions to protect your computer information by keeping your password in your head -- not written down somewhere. Follow company procedures regarding removing laptops from the premises, and don't think those rules apply to everyone but you.
7. Use a paper shredder, and avoid putting confidential information into the recycling bin if it has not been shredded first.
8. When receiving internal mail, always make sure your name is on the front before opening, even if it was hand-delivered to you.
9. Unless you receive a supervisor’s permission, do not allow anyone to have access to information that you consider confidential.
10. Resist discussing a co-worker’s troubles (personal or professional) with another employee, even if you do it out of “concern.”


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Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Developing Your Adversity Muscle

At one time in your work life, you’ve probably tried it. A crisis arises and you do what you’ve been told will help: You breathe deeply, close your eyes, focus, and repeat something like “I can do it.”

And when you open your eyes, the crisis is still there and you’re no closer to a solution than when you started puffing away and sounding like the little engine that could.

Why is it some people are better able to handle tough times at work? Part of the problem may be that some of us are too accustomed to whining when things go wrong. Instead of dealing with problems, we become stuck in a cycle of blaming other people or targeting others with criticism that does little to help us overcome adversity. Further, some of us deal with difficult issues by just ignoring them, becoming more distanced from our own success because we won't address the hurdles in our way.

But there are several problems with these strategies, namely that they not only hurt careers, but they directly impact a company's bottom line. Organizations who have employees who cannot deal with adversity and move on are destined to be bogged down in discord and indecision.

If you want to become someone who is better able to deal with adversity and find ways to turn tough times into possibilities, try:

* Taking the wheel. How much control do you think you have over the problem? What can you do to impact the outcome? The more control you think you have, the better able you will be to react in a positive, productive way.

* Making yourself accountable. Whether or not you caused a problem doesn't matter as much as whether you're willing to step up to the plate and try to deal with it. Making yourself a victim won't help, but taking ownership and finding a solution will develop your ability to deal with adversity -- and that's something that bosses value.

* Keeping it in perspective. If you feel like you're standing in front of a runaway train when you have a conflict, you're more likely to feel the impact in all areas of your life. It's important to keep the work adversity in control, and try not to let it impact other areas of your life.

* Setting limits. Think about how long the adversity will continue, and tell yourself that it will end at some point. By looking for hope in even the toughest situations, you're saying to yourself that you're not willing to let this situation drag on forever. Such a mindset makes it easier to endure the tough times.


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Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Hot Jobs and Job Ruts

I came across a great quote from Casey Stengel to begin this Tidbit Tuesday: "They say you can't do it, but sometimes it doesn't always work."

Here are some items I also thought might be of interest:

* Turn your head and cough: Sixteen of the 30 jobs with the fastest growth are health related, reports the U.S. Department of Labor, while six are computer related.

Most of the remaining fast-growth occupations are in environmental services and education. The fastest-growing major occupational group—professional and related occupations—is made up mostly of occupations that generally require postsecondary education or training. Examples of these are physician assistants, network systems and data communication analysts, computer software engineers, database administrators, physical therapists, preschool and postsecondary teachers, and environmental engineers.

* Social work recall: Working with older adults has been a low priority for social work students, faculty, practitioners and employers, and has created an impending shortage of gerontological social work services, says The National Association of Social Workers - Illinois Chapter.

The chapter now offers retired social workers everything from computer skills updates, interviewing and personal marketing advice, as well as ongoing training on various aspects of working with older adults. A press release states that some return to work for financial reasons, while others are seeking personal and professional stimulation they found lacking in retirement.

* Enron, the sequel: Six years after high-profile corporate scandals rocked American business, there has been little if any meaningful reduction in the enterprise-wide risk of unethical behavior at U.S. companies, according to the Ethics Resource Center's 2007 National Business Ethics Survey®.

Interviews with almost 2,000 employees at U.S. public and private companies of all sizes for the survey show "disturbing shares of workers witnessing ethical misconduct at work - and tending not to report what they see. Conflicts of interest, abusive behavior and lying pose the most severe ethics risks to companies today."

* Smell the love: If you've ever wondered why you like some people at work, and not others, it may be your nose knows the answer. New research from Northwestern University suggests that humans -- like dogs -- pick up infinitesimal scents that affect whether or not they like somebody.

The study adds to a growing body of research suggesting that subliminal sensory information -- whether from scents, vision or hearing -- affects perception.

* Stuck in a rut: Fast Company recently asked Timothy Butler, a Harvard Business School professor and author, how you get "unstuck" at work if you have a mortgage and can't just go off and live in a cabin and find yourself.

Butler's answer: "I'm initially quite suspicious of the person who leaves it all and goes off to a cabin. That sounds more like a geographical cure rather than really looking at the issue itself. Often, negotiating impasse does not mean changing a job or what would be seen as a dramatic change. It does mean recognizing there's something missing and deliberately going about trying to collect information about it. The outcome may be as undramatic as a conversation with your boss about something you'd really like to be doing more or something you'd like to be doing less."


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Monday, December 10, 2007

Getting People to Listen to You

Sometimes it can be difficult to really make yourself heard at work. You give suggestions, but they seem to be ignored. You offer opinions in a meeting, but no one really pays attention. You can never get more than a minute of the boss’s time.

Perhaps the problem is not what you’re saying, but how and when you’re saying it.

Let’s say that you’re on the agenda of the next office meeting to give a brief rundown of a project you’ve been working on for several months. You’ve been scheduled as the next to the last item, right after a speech on parking lot safety tips and just before a note about employee benefit enrollment deadlines.

Chances are good that people will not be alert and listening by this point. In fact, they’ve probably started using their Blackberries to respond to e-mails, or text messaging their friends to say that they’re bored spitless in a meeting and can’t wait to escape.

In this case, you should work hard to have your position on the agenda changed before the meeting. Because no matter how interesting your project is, people are probably not going to be in the mood to be receptive and excited about it, simply because they’re tired and fed up and bored. Instead, by getting an earlier time slot, you have a better chance of getting others to listen to you.

Another way to get others to pay more attention to what you’re saying is by joining forces with an already popular person or group. For example, if someone in your office has just gotten major funding for a project, is there a way you can tie your work into that? By piggybacking your efforts onto something that is already well-positioned, you increase your chances of being heard.

Some other ways to get yourself on the radar with others:

· Schedule face time. The boss may be busy, but tell his or her executive assistant you need some one-on-one time with the boss and ask to be put on the boss’s schedule. It helps enormously if you’re polite, friendly and professional with the assistant so that you can get a time slot when the boss won’t be rushed or stressed. Always try to avoid Monday mornings or Friday afternoons, when the boss may be the most distracted.

· Being at the right place at the right time. If an important client or potential customer attends a certain gym, arrange to “run into” them. “Oh, I’m glad I ran into you. I’ve been meaning to give you an update of my project. I’m starting to wind it up, so can I call you this week?” This make it sounds like you’re doing a nice thing, and doesn’t sound needy or pushy.

· Avoiding interruptions. While some people like to schedule breakfast, lunch or dinner meetings, the atmosphere makes it difficult for someone to concentrate on what you’re saying. The serving of the meal, the chatter of nearby customers and other interruptions make it tough to keep the focus on your message. It’s better to try and have a meeting set for a private location where you won’t have distractions.

· Being prepared. Whether you’re speaking to two people or 200, if you want people to listen to you, you must do your homework. Be armed with interesting facts and work on using inflection in your voice as well as some hand gestures. Maintain eye contact. Watch how key players seem to gain the attention of others, and learn from it.

· Listen. The key to communicating well with others is learning to listen so that you can respond appropriately to questions and react to changes in the conversation. People will listen to you when they know you are listening to them.



Friday, December 7, 2007

Ethical Decisions and Business Gifts

I remember my first job in a small newsroom. About a week before Christmas, the managing editor handed me a sealed envelope, and with a smile said, "Happy holidays!"

My hands actually trembled with excitement as I tore open the envelope,envisioning a nice holiday bonus, something with at least a couple of zeros.

Imagine my stunned surprise to find not a nice chunk of change, but a gift certificate for a turkey from the local Piggly-Wiggly. The turkey price limit, according to the gift certificate, was $20.

Being that I was a 22-year-old single woman with a geriatric cat, a car that refused to start when it was too cold or too hot or too windy, I was a bit deflated.

That's why I'm always amazed to hear about holiday bonuses on Wall Street with six zeros (!) attached, and not even a hint about a turkey. Other people have told me that they've gotten everything from a trip to Hawaii to a week at Disney World for the entire family.

While many of us won't be seeing those kinds of holiday goodies, there are times when a client or customer or other business contact will hand us a gift that sort of takes us aback, and we do an internal "Whoa."

It's at those times you really need to do a gut check, says Dov Seidman, CEO of LRN, a Los-Angeles based company that advises employers and employees on ethics.

Seidman says that if you're offered a gift that is more than you could ever begin to buy for yourself, or if it somehow makes you obligated in some way to that business contact, the best response is to be gracious but say "no thanks."

The reason? Once you start to fudge on your ethics, once you put your personal integrity up for sale for season tickets to the Knicks or some other gift, then some day you're going to realize that you've gone down an ethical abyss that may be hard to climb out of.

"This isn't about what you can do, it's about what you should do," he says. "And making the right decision is often an inconvenience."

So, this holiday season, look at how and why you accept gifts all year long. Set some standards about when and how you'll accept a gift and remember that it's not just about the gift -- but how it looks to others.


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Thursday, December 6, 2007

What I Know For Sure

For months I have been anticipating the January issue of Oprah's "O" Magazine, because I was to be included in an article, with a mention of my book.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that I was in the DECEMBER issue of the magazine! Of course I'm still thrilled, just having a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that I flipped through that magazine (twice) while standing in line at various stores, and never saw it. (You can check it out here.)

Looking back, did my life change dramatically being in that magazine? No, I can't say that it did. But as I was reading Oprah's article about the thing she knows for sure (a regular feature), I came up with a few of my own:

* There always will be whiners at work. Doesn't matter how much they're paid, how good the boss is to them, how supportive their co-workers are, they're always going to find something to whine about.

* Copy machines work best when you slap them around a bit. Computers, not so much.

* On the day you're having bad hair, need to lose 10 pounds and have a pimple in the middle of your forehead the size of a dinner plate, you will be in an elevator -- alone -- with the CEO of your company for 15 floors.

* There are days when you work from home that you secretly wish you were back in the office. You want to wear power suits, eat lunch out and complain with co-workers about how you wish you were working from home (not).

* When all else fails, blame your Internet service provider. "I didn't get that e-mail you sent! You didn't get my report?! Darn it! I'm going to have to switch servers!" This is the modern-day version of "the dog ate my homework." No one can really disprove it, and most have -- or will -- use the excuse one day.

* Incompetence rises to the top. Sort of like algae. But talent also rises to the top, helping to dilute the morons who do it all wrong and get rewarded for it. You get to choose which path you'll take to the top. Keep in mind that morons usually self-destruct at some point, winding up being indicted by a grand jury or selling fishing charters for $7 an hour in some tropical port under an alias.

* I'm glad to have a job. I know that family and friends and good health are important, but anyone who has been without a job knows that having one is a heck of a lot better than NOT having one. Sure, I complain about work like most people. It stresses me out, depresses me at times and there are days I think longingly of that fishing charter business. Still, I'm glad to have my job because it also makes me happy, keeps me on my toes, challenges me and allows me to meet people doing something I love. That, I know for sure.


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Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Job Hopping May Have Consequences

It’s not uncommon these days for an employee to leave a current job for greener pastures. No one faults a person for taking another position that offers more money, greater prestige or bigger opportunities.

But what if this same employee takes the new job after being in a current position for only six months? Does the move still sound reasonable? Or, does it perhaps seem unprofessional, selfish and ungrateful?

That’s the fine line that many workers must walk when they receive another job offer soon after taking a new job. While no one would probably fault the worker who left after two years of employment, leaving a new position after less than a year may have long-term consequences.

For example, say you have three jobs within a two-year span. Somewhere in that job-hopping scenario, a boss or co-workers may begin to wonder why you aren't more committed to a job. Could you be difficult to work with? Only focused on your own goals instead of those of the company or the team? Are you switching jobs because you can’t (or won’t) do the work assigned?

While jumping to any conclusions may be unfair, if you switch jobs too quickly and too often, you can risk looking unstable professionally and personally. Further, leaving a new job too soon also may not be of any benefit to you at all.

Specifically, jumping ship without giving a current employer a chance to show you what’s available career-wise may put you in a worse position down the road. Maybe you're not getting a promotion simply because you haven't been with the company long enough. But instead of giving it more time to see what the future holds, you leave for another position.

Again, the opportunities you want don’t materialize right away because you're new and must earn your stripes. If you had stayed with the former job, might the boss now be ready to give you those new opportunities you so keenly desired?

Further, keep in mind that even if you are not completely satisfied with a current position, it doesn’t mean an exit from the job is necessary in order to be happy. If you can prove to the boss that you are a hard worker and dedicated to improving the company’s bottom line, then that boss might be much more willing to work with you on getting the desired job within the company. By showing your loyalty and commitment in staying put, you can make the boss an ally in helping create a job that fulfills everyone’s expectations.

If you're contemplating leaving a job after only a short time, here are some other things to consider:

• Focus on long-term goals. If a current position doesn’t help in any way to meet future career plans, then it may be time to simply move on. If you want to someday be a veterinarian, it doesn’t make much sense to stay in a job selling advertising if you've been offered a job in a vet’s office.
• Understand your passion. Sometimes people job hop because they don’t understand that the reason they’re unhappy is not the employer – it’s the job. If you love working outside, but continue to accept jobs that keep you indoors all day, then you're going to be unhappy.
• Absolute deal-breakers. If you're working at any company where there is something illegal going on, or feel that the boss or the business environment is unethical, then don't hesitate to look for another job as soon as possible.



Monday, December 3, 2007

M16 Calling Bond...Jane Bond

It's time for Tidbit Tuesday, where I try and find things to make you smile, think or just use as an excuse to avoid thinking about the fact that Britney Spears will be old enough to run for president in less than 10 years. Here goes:

* I'm movin' on up: has released it's first Top 50 list of the best internships for college students. The top three are: PriceWaterHouseCoopers, Ernst & Young and Deloitee & Touche. This list ranks the leading programs according to data such as pay and the percentage of interns who get full-time jobs, as well as student feedback.
According to the story , "Getting an internship used to mean a 10-week exercise in photocopying, sorting mail, filing, and fetching sandwiches. If you were lucky, there might be a company-wide picnic thrown in. Forget that image. The college internship has become nothing less than a high-stakes tryout to land the perfect first job. Think of it as the job interview that lasts all summer long."

* Life in cyberspace: As the global economy heats up and more of us work with others outside North America, it's important to understand what they're thinking and doing. Here's something to chew over: as more Chinese are exposed to the Internet, they "need not physically immigrate to an unknown country – they are managing life changes from their own homes," reports
It was found that in comparison to U.S. statistics on digital dependency:
• 61 percent claim they have a parallel life online (US: 13 percent).
• 86 percent report that “I live some of my life online” (US: 42 percent).
• 80 percent agree that “digital technology is an essential part of how I live” (US: 68 percent).
• 25 percent report not feeling OK when they are without internet access for longer than a day (US: 12 percent).
• 42 percent admit they feel sometimes “addicted” to the online life (US: 18 percent).
• 48 percent feel that “things online are more intense than things offline” (US: 12 percent).
• 61 percent report feeling strong emotions prompted by online interactions (US: 47 percent).
• 24 percent feel “more real online than offline” (US: 4 percent).

* No love for Swedish bosses: While Swedes have a reputation of being reserved, a new study shows they'll hug just about anyone except their boss. Nine out of 10 Swedes embrace somebody at least once a week, with women aged 30-44 being the most active huggers, according to the study presented by the Swedish Red Cross.
One-quarter had hugged a work colleague of the same sex, while 14 percent had embraced a co-worker of the opposite gender.
Only 4 percent hugged their boss.
More than 80 percent said it was appropriate to hug a person in mourning, while 55 percent said they would hug a stranger who had just found their wallet.
Sixty percent said hugging a vague acquaintance at a party was not OK.

* Calling all spies: reports that Britain’s foreign intelligence agency MI6 has opened its doors to a popular radio program, part of its bid to recruit the minorities and female officers it says it needs to spy on the country’s enemies.
MI6 allowed BBC Radio One – a station aimed mainly at young people – to conduct the first ever interviews inside its London headquarters.
The interviews were tightly policed – the MI6 chief of recruitment was referred to by a fake name, while the reporter’s movements inside the building were strictly controlled. The recruiter spoke about Britain’s need for a more diverse bunch of spies.
“People who have a different ethnicity can often go places and do things and meet people that those from a white background can’t,” he said. “There are some places that white males can’t go.”

By the way, Womenco is a new site aimed at women (duh...guess you figured that out from the name), and I've agreed to let them use information from this site that they find helpful.


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Holiday Workplace Weight Gain

It's December in the workplace, so you know what that means.

Pot luck. Pumpkin bread. A chocolate bundt cake. A candied nut plate the size of Manhattan.

What would the holiday time be without some goodies around the workplace to spread a little holiday cheer? I know I wouldn't want to work during such a time unless I had a hunk of fudge to see me through, but I also know from my Thanksgiving holiday foraging that I've got to be realistic and understand I can no longer eat the entire Hickory Farms super sampler platter and not have there be consequences.

And while most of us think we've pigged out enough over the holidays to pack on anywhere from five to 10 pounds, the truth is that it's more around a pound -- but we don't ever lose that extra little bit of weight. Eventually it adds up until we can't wait to get home at night to put on our pajamas because we can no longer breathe in those pants we wore to work.(I'm not speaking from personal experience, you understand.)

At the same time we're trying to avoid putting on the weight, we're consumed with the guilt that we might hurt someone's feelings if we don't try their famous lasagna at the potluck, or at least sample the homemade toffee and have a few bites of that cheese log. And that fact that the food is just sitting there, tempting us for hours, makes it even tougher.

So, the question is how to survive the holiday food bonanza at work while not hurting anyone's feelings or caving into your food cravings at the first whiff of those rum balls? Here are tips that might help:

* Make it a team effort. Enlist the support of others in the office that while you don't want to be a food Scrooge, having plenty of healthy alternatives is also nice, such as a fruit platter or whole grain crackers or breads with low-fat toppings.

* Provide support. Be encouraging of anyone who avoids the candy or maybe goes by the three-bite rule and only samples one special treat.

* Get moving. Plan holiday parties around events such as dance contests or meeting at the local bowling alley. Make the focus of the gathering a chance to get together and have fun, not just eat.


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