#1 Desired Trait? ENTHUSIASM!

If skills, experience and academic education alone were all it takes to impress upon an employer that you’re the right person to hire, there wouldn’t be any need for interviews. Employers would simply look over the resumes that come in, and presumably the first one that checked off all of their needs would get selected and the rest put aside. That is not how it works.

Interviews are held of course, most often in person, but in some cases are held over the phone, via a video link, or in a screening test or questionnaire which both lead up to an in-person get together.

The reason those employers set up meetings between applicants and their own representatives – pegged as interviewers – is to size up the person in areas that aren’t indicated on the résumé. Essentially the employer wants to meet to assess your personality, attitude, friendliness, ability to engage with them, your communication skills, first impression; all in an attempt to decide as best as possible if you’re the kind of person that will fit into their organization.

It might seem obvious to you that you want the job. I mean, otherwise, why would you have applied? People who apply for jobs however have varying degrees of excitement and enthusiasm for the work to be done. Some apply out of desperation, some are just kicking tires, seeing if they get any response, others are genuinely interested in the jobs while others are running away from the jobs they have now and almost anything else would seem to be preferable. So one’s motivation for applying in the first place is often a key question for an interviewer to determine.

This idea of determining ones motivation is why questions like, “Why are you applying for this position?”, “What do you know about us?” and, “Why are you leaving / Why did you leave your current / last job?” of interest. These kinds of questions are designed to have you respond in part to your motivation for wanting to work for this company you are being interviewed by.

So if for example you don’t know much about the company you are applying for, this could show you don’t actually know or seemingly care if the job and company will be a good fit for you or not. Your lack of interest in putting in any effort to find out before applying tells them you might just be on a fishing trip – trying to see if you can get a job offer by putting in a minimal effort. Is this an indication how you’ll go about things if they did hire you too? Probably. After all, if you aren’t investing much energy in finding out something that should be pretty important to you personally, you’re not likely to invest much energy in the work the company expects you to do on their behalf now are you?

Showing a high level of enthusiasm for the opportunity before you is first and foremost what an employer wants to hear and see in the people they hire. When you are genuinely enthusiastic about the job or career you’re interviewing for, you send a very appealing message. You’re going to work with enthusiasm, enjoy what you’re doing, make an investment of your physical and mental capacities and in short, you’ll be connected to the work you do.

So you’ll show up on time, be present mentally when you’re there physically, get along with your co-workers, and your overall energy and work ethic will add to and not draw from the overall goals of the organization. Let’s sum things up by saying you’re going to be an attractive addition to the team.

How do you convey enthusiasm? Ah, good question! Look and sound positive, sit slightly forward and make good eye contact. Ask questions throughout that show a real interest. Mention things you’ve discovered through your earlier research about the job, their clients/customers. Identify any opportunities you’re aware of that your uniquely qualified to respond to. Ask about future challenges, culture, expectations and reply to what you hear by thoughtfully adding how you will enjoy engaging with these same things.

You can tell when someone isn’t really engaged in what they’re doing and so can an interviewer. Ever been on a date where the other person doesn’t seem invested but is going along until they can finally get away? You can tell by their glances elsewhere, their lack of conversation about anything meaningful and their posture that this isn’t a good fit for either of you. Pretty much the same thing with a job interview.

You might actually see the word, ‘enthusiasm’ in a job posting or you may not. It’s never a bad idea to bring it out right from the first moment of contact, all the way through to the handshake you respond with as they say, “Welcome aboard!”

Having said that, continuing to show enthusiasm for your job on a daily basis will help keep you in mind as a positive person and influence on others you come into contact with. Who knows? Could be that your genuine enthusiasm for what you do will gain you respect and perhaps even lead to being considered for advancement as opportunities arise within the organization in the years to come.

With Enthusiasm as always,

Kelly Mitchell

Don’t Let Your Past Taint Others First Impressions Of You

When you’ve had a run of bad experiences such as being let down by others, denied opportunities for advancement you felt you deserved, or flat-out been rejected for jobs you feel you were perfectly suited for, you can start to feel cheated, robbed and hard-done by. Unfortunately, not only can you feel these emotions, but try as you may, they can start to manifest themselves in your behaviour, facial expressions and comments. In short, you can become unattractive to others.

Now this is extremely unfortunate when you meet others for the first time; others who may just be in a place immediately or shortly afterwards to help you out. However, you can well imagine that if their first impression of you is a brooding, negative, all-too serious kind of person with a permanently furrowed brow and constant look of exasperation, you likely aren’t going to be at the top of their list when openings arise.

Sadly, this my dear reader, might just be something you are blissfully ignorant of. It’s true! Now I can’t say for certain of course not having met you, but do yourself a favour and without noticeably relaxing your facial muscles or attempting to consciously smile, grab a mirror and look at yourself. Imagine you were meeting someone for the first time now and what would they see? Of course you might argue that if you were in fact meeting someone for the first time, you’d definitely put on a smile. Ah but wait; that facial expression and overall impression staring back at you in the mirror is the face you’re projecting to people everyday when you’re at your normal self; just walking or sitting around. This is what others see all the time when you’re being your authentic self.

There are clues of course that something is amiss. Could be that people are asking you if everything is okay, or if anything is wrong. Puzzled, you might say things are fine and ask them why they ask, only to be told that you looked troubled or upset. If you are just being your, ‘normal self’, and you’ve not had these kind of comments in the past, something has changed in how you present yourself to others.

Now again, you might have cause to feel the way you do; let down, perhaps kept down, held back from promotions, denied interviews for jobs you wanted or interviewed and rejected far too often. These setbacks are certainly frustrating and it’s hard not to take them as personally as they are after all happening to you. However, taken on their own as individual not connected events, these disappointments may well be not so much indicative of your qualifications or experience but rather the outcomes of a very competitive job market. In other words, more people are applying and competing for single jobs these days and many of those are highly qualified. So if you are applying for jobs, you’ve got a lot of competition.

Of great importance is to make sure the jobs you apply to in the first place are jobs you are truly competitively fit for. Ensuring you meet the stated qualifications – from an objective point of view mind – is integral to your success. Applying for jobs well outside your area of ability on the hopes that someone will take a flyer on you just isn’t going to meet with a lot of success. So if you do, you set yourself up to fail with a high degree of regularity.

Look, have you heard it said that many Recruiters and interviewers decide in the first few minutes of a first meeting if they like you or not? Sure you have. That first few minutes is nowhere near the time it takes to accurately check your education, experience, qualifications and overall fit. So what are they using to make these appraisals? They – just like you and I and everyone else by the way – use our first impressions. How you look, the tone of your voice, your facial expression, mood, dress, posture, personal hygiene and yes your attitude – these come together to create that first impression. After those first 2 – 5 minutes, the rest of the interview is really all about confirming or changing that first impression.

This is why it is so highly important that you don’t allow your past to affect your present if your past is a growing number of poor experiences. Yes, you do have to be authentic and real, not some phony, all-positive and artificially smiling person. Being ‘real’ is important. However, it could well be that given a chance to prove yourself in a job, or getting that promotion would see your old positive self return; the self you truly are most of the time.

Like I said, you might not be fully aware of how your body language and facial expressions have changed; what you think you’re covering up well may be very transparent to others. If you wonder just how things are, and you’re up for some honest feedback, ask people who’ve known you for some time and give them permission to tell you the truth. Could be they’ve noticed a change – and not for the better – but they’ve been reluctant to say anything out of concern for not wanting to hurt your feelings and strain a relationship.

Your first impression is one thing you have complete control over.

Simple Ways To Get Ahead At Work

Trying to figure out how to get ahead at work? Angling for some big future promotion perhaps? There are simple things you can do – and do now – positioning yourself positively to take advantage of opportunities when they arise.

  1. Be punctual. This means being where you’re expected on time. Get a good reputation for showing up when you should.
  2. Be reliable. Be one of the employees with the solid attendance record.
  3. Use your manners. Make the words, ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ part of your every day language as well as, ‘excuse me’ and ‘may I?’
  4. Take responsibility. Be accountable for yourself; both your achievements and your shortcomings.
  5. Avoid gossip. Gossip is the Devil’s radio. Avoid being in conversations that put others down, refuse to spread potentially damaging remarks about others.
  6. Bring enthusiasm. Go about your work with a genuine excitement and love for what you do.
  7. Know the purpose of your work. Always strive to know how what you do on a daily basis contributes to the overall organization and the impact of your work on the end results, products or services.
  8. Show respect. Give people their due; for their time, experience, skills and abilities.
  9. Appreciate differences. Acknowledge and seek to understand varying views, opinions and outlooks.
  10. Stay relevant. Ensure your practices are best practices.
  11. Network. Connecting with people and having conversations with them brings you to mind with familiarity and avoiding being seen as only an opportunist.
  12. Work with integrity. Apply yourself, working to establish your good reputation built on honesty and sound moral standards.
  13. Have fun. Bring out the humour when appropriate. Flash a smile, share a laugh.
  14. Pitch In. Roll up your sleeves when help is needed, get involved and get noticed.
  15. Be courteous. Whether needing supplies from a Clerk or calling for a Caretaker to unplug a toilet, courtesy always gets you off to a good start.
  16. Dress appropriately. If you have to ask yourself if you can get away with wearing something, you probably shouldn’t. Know the dress code.
  17. Be positive. Like attracts like; be positive and you’ll attract others who in turn will energize you and make your workplace a better place to be.
  18. Laugh. Physically and emotionally you’ll feel better as will those around you.
  19. Do the work. Whether paid or volunteer, do what’s expected of you instead of being perceived as smoke and mirrors.
  20. Show your pride. Your accomplishments are your legacy.
  21. Celebrate others. Recognize and show appreciation for the accomplishments of others around you. They’ll appreciate it.
  22. Think. Pause before you speak and organize your thoughts.
  23. Listen. Open yourself to receiving others’ ideas, needs and wants.
  24. Improve. Learn, take courses, train, reduce errors, get better, emulate the best.
  25. Contribute. Do your part, sharing something that improves things.
  26. Encourage. You may never know how much a supportive word means to someone who needs to hear it; say it anyhow.
  27. Be kind. Open a door, ask if you can help, share a load. Kind people are always in demand.
  28. Be patient. Go easy on yourself; with others do likewise.
  29. Check it out. Bypass guesswork and get the facts. It saves time and money.
  30. Be accountable. If you’re to work on Monday, don’t party so hard on weekends you take every second Monday off to recover. Think nobody sees this trend? They do.
  31. Be approachable. Whether it’s an open-door policy or being non-judgemental, be receptive and welcoming to those around you.
  32. Lead. Show some initiative, show your vision and your ability to work with others to meet common goals.
  33. Share credit. When others deserve it, make sure they get their due.
  34. Prepare. Get postings for career moves now and take steps to get the skills, courses and expertise for the jobs you’ll eventually apply to down the road.
  35. Be healthy. Get out for a walk, eat healthier, stretch often, park further from the workplace, cycle in and back.
  36. Update the résumé. Get and keep it up-to-date with courses, dates, titles all known so you’re ready for openings with short application deadlines.
  37. Build references. Forge relationships with the people you’d like to count on later to speak well of your skills, abilities and performance.
  38. Get known. Take on new things that bring you into contact with others you otherwise wouldn’t be exposed to.
  39. Watch the hygiene. Brush your hair and teeth, use deodorant and mouthwash.
  40. Take an interest. Ask how others are doing, inquire about their hobbies, what makes them happy. Show awareness, acknowledge their ‘thing’.
  41. Get organized. If you had an unexpected absence, would others be able to quickly find documents, know your schedule and complete your work? Make it easy for others to do so, especially where you mutually collaborate.
  42. Mind your time. Adhere to the designated length of your breaks and meal breaks. Abusing these by over-extending your leave will work against you.
  43. Flush! Sounds trite and trivial, but if you routinely leave the shared washroom a mess, you may be discovered and you don’t need the reputation that follows.
  44. Be considerate. Leave the odd note of thanks for the people who clean your office; the ones you never see.
  45. Praise effort. Results are highly desirable but results don’t happen without effort; initiative therefore is to be commended.

So there you go; 45 suggestions to help you get ahead at work: and not one costs a penny.

Replaced When You’re A Top Perfomer

When an employer decides to part ways with an employee, it’s typically when the employee is underperforming; they fail to meet quota’s, miss too much time away from work or their behaviour is problematic. I suspect most of us would agree that these reasons lend justification when the parting comes. However, what is less immediately understood is why an employer would remove an employee from their position when they are excelling; performing at a high level.

Think it doesn’t happen? Well of course it does and furthermore, it’s not a bad thing. It’s often in the best interest of not only the company but the employee themselves. “Surely not” I can hear you thinking. “How could dismissing an employee who is performing at a high level of excellence be in the best interest of the employee themselves?”

Well, re-read my opening paragraph and you’ll notice I never said the employee was being dismissed at all. No, I said the employer might remove an employee from their position. The difference is significant and not just a play on words. Dismissing an employee means the employee and the employer part ways. Removing an employee from their position leaves open the possibility that the employee is retained by the employer but put into a new position; a position that makes better use of that employees knowledge, experience and qualifications. So yes, it can be in the best interests of the employer and the employee.

From an employers perspective, the worst time to replace an employee is when they are performing badly. This is the typical time when people are replaced not of their own choosing of course. You see the employer has a problem that can’t be allowed to continue in this case. There’s pressure to find the right replacement, someone with a better attitude, appropriate skills and who can quickly address the immediate needs of the company so production can return to full capacity.

The best time to replace an employee? An interesting way to look at things I admit, and not one the typical worker thinks much about. The best time to replace an employee is when things are running efficiently, there’s no crisis at hand, production is high, morale is good. As for the employee themselves, the employer; (the good employer I should say) sizes up the employee and while they appreciate the good work they do, wants to retain the employee over the long-term and seeks ways to both provide new personal challenges for them and seeks to leverage their excellence the best way they can to benefit more people in the organization.

In other words, if you’re doing great work, your employer might just want to put you in a position to best spread that performance excellence around, hoping to capitalize on the chance you’ll influence others to work similarly. This new work could result in a promotion, or a change in work duties to keep you stimulated, keep you motivated and satisfy your own needs for creativity or change.

Now not everyone realizes they need change when to those around them it’s obvious. Change is neither inherently good or bad, yet many people hear the word change and feel a rise in their own anxiety level. “Change? Oh, I don’t think I’m ready for change”, they say. Yet change is not only necessary but sometimes highly desirable. Many professional athletes reignite their careers and take their performance to new heights when they are traded to another team. They may not have wanted or asked for the change, but quickly adjust out of necessity to meeting new teammates, putting on a different sweater and learning how to contribute with their new co-workers.

An employer may as I say have an employees best interests at heart when they take a top performer out of their comfort zone and put new challenges before them. Perhaps an employer sees a bigger picture here; looks at past employees who excelled in their jobs but who, left too long in the same position, started to rot away. By moving the top performer around, they just might lend their expertise and improve performance in a long-standing low performance area, or they might have to take on the new responsibilities that come with a promotion.

The trick for an employer is to sell not only the employee affected but also the other workers affected by the change on the positive implications of such a move. If a great employee has a severe aversion to change; perhaps their one weak area, the intended reward could backfire. The high performance employee might be adversely impacted and a drop in productivity occurs in the short-term. Don’t explain the move to co-workers and they might get the wrong message; perform at your best and the company will move you to a job you didn’t ask for.

Not all leaders in an organization work on the top floors of the office towers; some of the best leaders are the people on factory floors with their shirt sleeves rolled up, steel-toed boots scuffed up and broad smiles on their faces. Being in a position of authority does not a leader make. It’s an intelligent organization that realizes leaders are needed at every level and so are top performers.

Perform to the best of your ability; see where it takes you. When you make yourself replaceable for the best reasons, opportunity may come knocking.



There Is Always Work To Be Done

Do you have the kind of job where you’re in full view of the boss or other co-workers from the time you arrive until you leave at the end of the day? If so, you’re probably having your time at work scrutinized pretty thoroughly. Management has a pretty good or excellent idea who pulls their weight and who isn’t performing as well as they should.

However in many workplaces, individual workers are often working out of earshot and out of eyesight of their Supervisors and Managers. If you work in this kind of environment, you’re trusted to be actively engaged in whatever it is you get paid to do; you’re expected to be productive and accountable.

When there are files waiting on your desk to be examined, actioned and passed on it’s easy to see at a glance who has cleared their desk and who has work piling up. If you’re on the road traveling from one location to another, someone presumably could track where you’ve been and how long it takes you to get to your next appointment, the mileage you’re claiming to have driven etc. Some workplaces have security cameras which not only protect the premises but can inform management of the work habits of their workforce.

If you have the kind of job where others rely on you to do your bit and pass on items so that others can do theirs, your productivity can be measured if others have to wait for you on a regular basis or not. Ah but what about the many people who work behind closed doors or in relative isolation? What about those who are largely working independently and don’t produce goods that can be graded for quality?

We shouldn’t be surprised to find there are some – perhaps many – people who drift from time-to-time; who play the odd game of Solitaire or Minesweeper. Maybe it’s not as obvious either; maybe you’ve got someone in your office that routinely walks around and seems to always be socializing. You know, they walk around three or four times a day up and down the corridor chit-chatting, and you suddenly wonder to yourself, “Don’t you have any work to do?”

We’re all built different though aren’t we? When the workload is heavy we all tend to get at; bear down and roll up our sleeves and put in a solid effort. Well, most of us. However, when the workload is lighter you can spot the workers who look for additional work to be done and those who don’t.

Walk into a mall when customer traffic is relatively light for example and if you’re observant you’ll see what I’m referring to in the work ethic of staff in the stores. Some will stand in clusters chatting amongst themselves as if there is nothing to do until customers come in. Others will re-fold clothing, dust shelves, take products and become familiar with what they do, how they work or the guarantee that accompanies them. This product knowledge makes them a better salesperson.

Employers are impressed with staff who take the initiative to better inform themselves on their products and services. They like staff who look for work to be done whether it’s cleaning or ensuring the merchandise is attractively displayed and accessible to potential buyers. Unfortunately, this kind of behaviour can’t always be taught. Oh I agree people can be told or shown what to do when it isn’t busy but to actually take the initiative to do it when you’re not being watched? There are many who only perform when they are seen; who reckon, “What’s the point? No one is going to notice.”

There’s always work to be done; be it big or little. Here’s something to ponder…if there isn’t any work to be done, why are they paying you? To get ahead and distinguish yourself from other workers and just possible angle for a future promotion, you’d be wise to be on the lookout for the little things you can do that improve the experience of those around you.

Work in a restaurant? Polish the cutlery, fill the salt and pepper shakers, read the specials menu so you remember what to promote. Work in a customer service role where the public stands before you? Check the stapler so it doesn’t ever run out, fill the paperclip holder, make sure you’ve got the hand sanitizer bottle at the ready and full. Small stuff that on the whole might just go unnoticed until somebody asks why you’re filling up the stapler because it never seems to run out – only to be told by you, “That’s because I check it a few times each day.” Hmm…

Look ahead at the calendar and see what you’ve got coming up in the next month or two. What can you do now in some down time that will make that busy time just a little less hectic? If you have the time and you are permitted, can you help someone else out in your workplace and in so doing essentially make a deposit in the bank of goodwill so that they might return the favour down the road. Just make sure you do your own work completely before leaving it to assist others.

The best employees always look for things to do and stay busy, justifying their employment and getting themselves noticed in the process.



Career Planning Vs. Happenstance

You’re going about forging your career path and personal reputation in one of two ways; by design or by happenstance. Which is it?

If you go about your career and building your personal reputation by happenstance you get points for being genuine and authentic, but you score low on forward-thinking, long-term planning and most importantly putting yourself in a position to seize opportunities you want as they arise. People who come into contact with you in your business or work life will form opinions of you based on their interactions with you and by observing your actions with others.

Now that’s not bad actually; people forming their opinions of you based on your actions. However, with little forethought for future planning, you may be viewed as perfect for the job you currently hold while on the downside not being seen as having upward potential within an organization. The next job or two on the career ladder no doubt require additional skills and subtle changes in behaviour, thinking and/or actions, and you may not be communicating to others that you have the additional skills, motivation, leadership etc. that is required.

If we turn and look at forging your career path and personal reputation or branding by design, how you go about things changes.

Take a Lion Tamer in the circus. You and I might not intimately know the person but we can imagine the job and the job description; essentially demonstrate to the audience how you can direct the Lion to do certain things and do it safely while appearing to do so with a great deal of danger and risk. Wow them with entertainment and survive the encounter with the ferocious King of the Jungle!

Okay, a little dramatic but that’s essentially the job. For a time, the Lion Tamer may be happy and content to play the role from town to town, from month to month, even year to year. At some point, the Lion Tamer might say to her or himself, “Is this all there is? I want to do more.”

The others who surround him in the circus may look at him as simply, The Lion Tamer. She or he’s been doing it for years, they do a great job of it and they’ve built a reputation so well amongst their peers that no one sees them as doing – let alone wanting to do – anything else. What then of the ambitions of the Lion Tamer who grows increasingly hungry for a change? Maybe they want to take on a role as Master of Ceremonies or Business Manager for the circus. Suddenly those around her or him are challenged to see the person who is the Lion Tamer in a different light. This can be a huge challenge if they’ve never seen or been exposed to seeing the Lion Tamer any other way.

What if however, the person who tames the lions indicated an interest in learning the business side of the Circus and routinely split her/his time between working with the big cats and on  their own time read business publications and journals, befriended the Accountant, talked long into the night over drinks with the current Business Manager and saw what went into moving the Circus from town to town with audiences lined up and ready to invest their entertainment dollars.

If the Lion Tamer got around to applying to be the Business Manager down the road, it wouldn’t come as a surprise because those around him would say, “Not a surprise. We all saw it coming. Good for her/him, we’re in good hands!”

Okay enough about Lion Tamers. (Why Lion Tamers came into my head this morning is beyond me.) What about you? You might be pretty good in your job; maybe we could go as far as saying you are wonderful in your job. At some point it’s conceivable that no matter how happy and challenged you are, you just might want an additional challenge, an increase in responsibilities and pay, or a shift in your responsibilities.

Does that make sense to you? I think most of you will agree the job you’re in now isn’t the job you want to retire from; depending of course where you are on the age scale. Now then is the time to start doing a little forward thinking. What positions within the organization can you identify that might be of interest to you personally? Would applying for those positions be something you’d like to do this year, next year, 1-3 years from now? What can and should you do therefore to position yourself to take advantage of the opening when it comes about?

Positioning yourself is done in two ways; ensuring you gain the skills and qualifications to apply with confidence and ensuring others in the organization perceive you as having the interest, skills, qualifications and personal fit for the role. Don’t be fooled into thinking you can acquire the skills and qualifications alone and advance. It’s often who in the organization knows you and sees you as being a strong candidate.

You might want to have a low-key conversation with your Supervisor and express your long-term organizational goals. Maybe you ask for learning opportunities, temporary assignments, mentorship, additional training etc. Maybe a conversation with someone in Human Resources would be helpful or with your bosses permission, an introductory meeting with someone in the role you’re after to get their insights.


How To Get Ahead In The Organization

Not all of us are bound for glory at the top of the organization. Quite frankly, not all of us value being at the top at all. For those however who do want to rise from the rank of the entry-level, there are a few things you can do that will increase your opportunities of moving up. Identify your goal. Rather than letting fate determine where you end up, look at the organizational chart where you work.

Name the job. Identify what for you is be the ideal position to be in that would make use of your skills and satisfy your desire to be in a position that you’re happiest. You’ll do this throughout your career by the way, so if you identify a position that’s really three or four moves away, look closest at the move one up from where you are now in that sequence of upward movement.

Check your skill set. It could be that you’ve already got all the requisite skills required of the job you identified in the step above. If you do, wonderful; you’re positioned to apply with confidence if and when that position becomes available. If however you can identify skills and qualifications you lack at the moment, you’ll be happy to know that although you’re lacking, you have made an important discovery. Now is the time to start looking into how you can acquire what you need. Is it a course, a certificate or degree program? Is it leadership on the job in some kind of project?

Establish a timeframe. This step requires you to realistically step back and look at where you are and where you intend to be and accurately measure the time between the present and arriving where you plan to be. This is a crucial step not to be overlooked. While you can’t predict perhaps when someone will vacate the position they now occupy that you covet, you can make some educated guesses. How long for example has the person been in the job? What’s their age? Talk to them and find out their plans by taking an interest in their career path. Is your company contracting or expanding?

Share your vision. If you’ve got the kind of employer that values succession planning and whom takes a real sincere interest in employee development, share your goals with your supervisor. The boss is in a position to get on board with your plans and can approve training opportunities that will give you the necessary skills that you determined earlier you lack. It could also be that the boss knows more than you do about other employee’s plans and while they are unlikely to share that information for reasons of confidentiality, they can give you good advice on what to do now so you’re ready when the time comes.

Network. This step is often the one that people grumble about. Not sure really why that is, but if you don’t warm to the word, ‘network’ than how about converse, talk, engage, mingle etc. Don’t let the word stop you from doing what is essentially just getting to know and be known by the people who may be in the best position to help you in your career moves.

Be authentic. Can you spot a phony? Sure you can. Don’t be the woman or man who is the office bootlicker. If you flatter others in a disingenuous way, you’ll be pegged a mile off. You don’t have to tell people of influence that they look amazing every day or that you soooo admire them and every decision they make. Do this and you set yourself up to be used and abused. You’ll be known as such an obvious step climber that you’ll be given the worst jobs to do that nobody wants just because in your mind it will look good so you’ll do them without complaint or objection.

Put in the time. Not always, but typically speaking, those that contribute more of their own time beyond what they have to, advance. When you put in extra time you’re sending out the message that by your actions you’re committed. If you are putting in this time and being authentic about it, (see the point above), you’ll probably be doing so at some point because you care and you want results. While more time alone doesn’t mean you do better work or achieve better results, it does send the message that the company is important to you, and you’re not above investing yourself in its success

Get feedback. You need to know fairly early and often how you are perceived by others. Seek out some honest opinions about how your personality and character fit with what the organization is looking for. You may have all the skills and qualifications for a job, but if you get denied it again and again, it’s likely that you’re not seen as a good fit for other reasons. When you ask for feedback make sure you listen more than you speak, and take the feedback openly. If you get defensive and argue about that feedback, people will dry up and fail to give you what you really need most; honest feedback.

Like I said, not all of us want to move up in the companies we work for. Positioning yourself now to take advantage of future opportunities is wise advice though.



A Better Frame Of Mind

Whether you’re out of work and looking for a job; feel trapped in your current one and are looking at a transfer or promotion, or yes even burnt out and counting the days to retirement, do a self-check on your state of mind.

You see how you feel is no doubt being picked up by those around you, those you meet, and those you work with now. How do you want to be perceived and viewed and most importantly is the way you want to be viewed by others close to how you feel?

It is a good practice to do a self-check from time-to-time no matter how you feel. For example, when you’re working doing your job, try to keep the same expression on your face and get to a mirror. Without relaxing any facial muscles, smiling or changing in any way, look at your face reflecting back at you. What do you see? Are there furrowed brows, crease lines on your forehead, droopy eyelids or a frown? What does you face communicate to you as you look at yourself.

As you stand there, change a little at a time. Add a smile, relax your jawbones or stop clenching your teeth. Breathe out and in deeply a few times and then re-examine the face in the mirror. Does it now seem different to you and if so in what way? If it does, why does your, “I’m in the middle of work” face look different from your, “I am consciously relaxing” face?

Most importantly, does your face communicate openness and do you seem approachable? Or does your face send the message that everyone should steer clear of you? If you’re trying to position yourself for that promotion or transfer, it might help your cause to look positive, engaged, pleasant and approachable. Remember that positive people generally like surrounding themselves with others who are positive. If you go around looking hostile, burnt out or miserable most of the time, you just might attract others who look like you do; misery does like company. The danger here is that once surrounded by others who are negative, you might find yourself much more miserable and having a dour outlook on things you once felt positive about.

Reminding yourself that you, as a member of the organization which employees you have a role to play in keeping the culture and atmosphere a positive one is critical. Too many times I’ve listened to unhappy employees blame Management for the rotten atmosphere they say they work in. We all have a part to play in making our workplaces an enjoyable place to work, and while it can be the case that some others just seem to look for reasons to be negative, you need not be one of them.

One thing you can do with respect to your self-check is compare how you feel about your job on a typical work day with your time away from work. Do you feel anxious the day before you return to work or do you look forward to going into your job? While you don’t have to love the work you do with giddy infatuation, you should certainly enjoy the job and being around most of those you work with as you’re going to be spending a significant amount of time working surrounded by these people. If you’re not happy most of the time, if you don’t feel inspired or feel that your work is meaningful, why are you still dragging yourself in? Look around, life is too short to spend it in misery. Start planning your departure from this line of work or employer, and then be gracious when you leave for something better.

Now if you’re out of work, you’ve got to work hard at projecting your demeanor; coming across as someone who will have a positive influence in a new employer’s workspace. If you are brooding, look frustrated, look far too serious and weighed down with personal issues, it’s unlikely you’re coming across as attractive to those who might be in a position to hire you.

Of course when you’re unemployed and need to work you are under stress. The anxiety of mounting financial liabilities and any shame or embarrassment you might be experiencing by being unemployed can be a burden for sure. Add in some other stressors in your personal life and it gets harder to constantly project that rosy exterior that says, “Life is good and I’m glad to be a part of it!”

Yes I get that. You need to understand or perhaps be reminded that your issues are exactly that – your issues. Potential employers don’t really concern themselves with resolving your issues because they have no investment in you until you join their ranks. To join their ranks, you and I both know you have to come across as qualified, experienced and a personal good fit; meaning you have to be attractive in some way.

So, mind what you think and how what you think is being communicated non-verbally through your facial expressions and your body language. Move with confidence, smile more – even if in the early days you find yourself having to force this trial period. Like most habits one tries to change, alter or adapt to, things become more matter of fact and routine the more you do them.

And you’re never fully dressed without a smile!

Transitioning To Management

It’s time to make the move into a supervisory role.

The first thing that’s essential is to know why you want to apply for a management position. Is it the increased salary that’s attractive, the opportunity to lead, a new challenge or is it just because there’s nowhere in your organization to go but up and you figure if you don’t apply it may appear to others that you have no ambition? In other words are you running away from your current position or embracing a role with more responsibility and authority?

I was speaking with someone recently who is in the process of transitioning into a supervisory position. When I asked her why she wanted a senior position in the company she works for now she started with, “I think I’m ready…” Whoa. Let’s stop right there. I asked her, “Are you ready or aren’t you? Can they afford to put you in a senior position where you would be an example to others if you only think you’re ready?” I took two short sentences and spoke each out loud to her; “I think I’m ready”, and “I’m ready.” The second of the two is more assertive while the first suggests there is some doubt in your mind.

When you are currently working in a front-line role and want to transition into a position of leadership, there is a lot more required than just submitting your application and going to an interview. One of the key things to realize is that on a daily basis, the people who may be in a position to advance your career; people who may in fact be on the interview and selection panel in the future, have to start seeing you differently in the here and now. The challenge becomes therefore how to go about your business and fulfill your current responsibilities yet at the same time be pegged as management material.

For starters, it might start with dressing yourself differently when you leave home each day. Do the people in the role you are going after wear clothing that differs from those in the role you have now? If so, you’d be well advised to notch your attire up a grade and start introducing new clothing choices into your wardrobe that reflect the position you want. Simple things like your choice of hairstyle and grooming require some attention too. If you’ve got long hair you wear down to the middle of your back and it has a tendency to fly around, you may want to consider getting it more under control; off your face and up or maybe even cut and styled in a new look. A sharp, crisp look.

Now while you shouldn’t abandon all your current co-workers and isolate yourself from the very people you might be supervising in the future, you should consider mingling with the people you want to become your peers in a position of higher authority. Start doing a little research now and find out what you have in common, and see if those things will help spark conversations.

One of the most obvious things you may need to do is start to be more assertive and confident about your decisions in the work you do now. Making a decision to take on greater responsibilities while working on joint projects might be something that up until now you’ve avoided. Leaders lead as they say, so now is the time to show others that you’re not intimidated by a greater workload, and you can handle additional responsibilities. These are the kind of decisions that will either provide you with the examples you’ll find extremely helpful in an interview or betray you with if you pass them up. Being able to cite examples of your leadership, successes you’ve brought to projects and your ability to take on additional work is critical.

It’s also a good idea to speak with your immediate supervisor and let him or her know that you have aspirations of advancement. Tell them how much their leadership has been helpful to you and follow with a request for their guidance, opportunities to learn such as approval to attend training sessions or be put in positions of leadership where you can hone your skills.

At the outset of this piece, I indicated it is critical to know WHY you want to advance into a management role. Not only are you going to be asked at the interview, but you can bet anyone you speak with such as your boss or a co-worker is going to be curious too. Good advice is to frame your answer not around what you want, but rather address how you see opportunities to positively influence how people go about doing business and add to the organization.

Focusing in on how your experience on the front-line has given you the necessary appreciation for how the customer or client relationship is  forged, but wanting to be in a position to positively guide and mentor people is far better than saying you’re ready for a change.

One last suggestion I have is to determine what’s in the way of your advancement and take the steps to remove that barrier. Whether it’s additional experience, credentials, your lack of ambition or effective writing skills, addressing those things now can greatly help you overcome flaws which otherwise might deem  you not ready.

All the best!

Our Small Deeds Define Us

When we are bucking for a promotion or want to be assigned some project or assignment, is it at these times when we suddenly change our character, act kinder to those in influential positions or conversely do we stay true to whom we are throughout?

Having just had Christmas pass, in a few of the movies I watched recently some of the characters in the shows mused openly about how kinder people were at this time of the year; why couldn’t people carry this kindness and thoughtfulness with them throughout the balance of the year? Usually these people wondered about others instead of turning the question inward and asking it of themselves.

Have you ever noticed that a child who wants something often is on their best behaviour? That an adult who wants a change in behaviour from a child often says something like, “Remember Santa’s watching”, or “Somebody is having a birthday soon aren’t they?” and the hope is the child is angelic henceforth. Thing is those strategies do work most of the time but only until the birthday or Christmas morning and then what? And are we really wanting our children to be on their best behaviour only under the threat of no presents on Christmas morn or no party to celebrate?

Why then should we ourselves be any different in our workplaces? Imagine if you will that you are told the person who currently holds the position you covet is close to retiring or some other scenario that creates a vacancy; a vacancy you’d like to take over. Okay now ask yourself honestly if you would say your current production, your attitude, your leadership etc. has put you in a position to be a logical candidate? Would you do more, do things better, put out a better attitude, be more cooperative, strive a little harder? Are you doing enough?

Some of us of course can honestly answer that we do invest ourselves in our work and were such an opportunity to arise, we would feel confident in being able to point at our record with pride. On the other hand, you might be doing exactly what is in your job description and not an ounce more. How you are doing that work might be suspect, but you meet the minimal requirements of your current job. Ask yourself, “Does my employer want to promote those who do the minimum in their jobs or those who perform at their best routinely and excel?

Of course you might argue that you have no further career ambition; that you are in the very position now that you have always wanted to be in and are content to remain so. That in my opinion is a wonderful thing and you are to be congratulated for finding your ideal position. Well done! Would you like to keep it? Or would you like to inspire others with whom you work, who do what you do in the organization to work with as much zeal and honest effort as yourself? These are reasons to invest yourself each day and throughout each day.

One of my valued colleagues who works in another city contacted me before Christmas and requested a previous article I’d constructed to share with a new colleague. He is concerned about him and his development, not wanting him to burn out early in a field where it is critical to have the stamina, endurance and positivity to continually make an impact. Dave is a shining example of a person doing his best and working consciously to be a positive role model through his daily actions for the benefit of a peer.

It is the small deeds we do, the words we choose, the actions we take, the time we give that make the biggest impact often on others. It’s when we are observed by others as we go about our routines, habits and the courtesy in our requests for help and appreciation for help given that impact on others. It’s our dependability when we show up each day for work and others view us as reliable. It’s when we stop and consider rather than impulsively decline to give more of ourselves that tells others we sincerely can’t take on something or rather that we can.

When we do small things like consider the workload of others when we ask them to do something for us, albeit a small extra thing, that we grow respectful in their eyes. When we send an email of thanks or acknowledgement, put a chocolate in their inbox or mail slot, maybe just ask how they are doing and actually wait for the answer.

One small deed may be nothing more than a single act. Two acts may be nothing more than a coincidence and three the start of a trend. Four small acts the start of a reputation and continuing small consistent acts solidify your credentials and character. In every day we have opportunities people to do the small things that really matter and make a difference. If you are waiting for the really big opportunities to demonstrate your attitude, leadership and character, you may find those moments few and far between.

Today start with a small act of kindness and thoughtfulness. Say thanks to a colleague, ask about their workload – their interests, their health. Send an email to a colleague and introduce yourself to someone. So many ways to do small things that collectively mean so much.