Monthly Archives: June 2008

Are You Promotable? Social Skills vs. Intellect

The days of being promoted at a company just because you’ve paid your dues are gone. People are being promoted for many different reasons – and not all of them are for a job well done. In Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist blog about social skills in the workplace, Tiziana Casciaro, a professor at Harvard Business School, said “people would rather work with someone who is likeable and incompetent than with someone who is skilled and obnoxious.”

Now, I’m not saying that people who absolutely do no work but have an insanely bright personality will get promoted ahead of those who actually add value to their department or company. But, it has to be said that your people skills are usually a major factor in whether or not you receive a promotion or continue climbing the corporate ladder.

According to experts, individuals are considered “promotable” when they are included in meetings where their co-workers are not included, told inside information that others are not aware of, given important tasks, asked for input on major decisions, and given increased responsibilities. If you find yourself meeting all these requirements, then you’re promotable according to their guidelines.

But, there is a big difference between being promotable and actually getting promoted. If you meet all of the above requirements and still haven’t received a higher position, there could be many different reasons that are keeping you from moving into your own office. If your company is growing and people are moving up around you, you might want to check your attitude. Also, ask yourself these questions and see if your behaviors are keeping you from getting that well-deserved promotion.

• Do you get along with your co-workers?
• Do you like your boss? How well do you get along?
• Have you ever undermined your boss’s authority?
• Are you clearly recognized for your contributions from your boss’s peers?

If you answered no to any of these questions, then you might have just answered your own question as to why you haven’t received that promotion yet. You may lack the social skills needed to move you to the next level. Employees who are disliked rarely receive promotions due to the fear that other employees will quit. So, even if you have the intellect to successfully run a team, but you’re short on the social skills you need to work with other people, then most likely you won’t be seeing that promotion any time soon.

But there’s good news! There are ways you can improve your social skills. As Penelope Trunk asserts in her blog, “if you just decide you want to do better, you probably will.” In other words, care about how others perceive you and work on re-establishing those relationships at work. The first step in receiving that promotion is repositioning yourself in the office as someone who gets along with others.

Cell Phone Etiquette in the Office

Have you ever been interrupted or disturbed by a co-worker using a cell phone in the office? You might even be the perpetrator and not know it. If your employer has a no cell phone policy, make sure to follow their rules. But if you’re allowed to carry yours with you, here are four tips for cell phone etiquette to keep disruptions to a minimum and keep peace in the office.

Use silent or vibrate mode – In an office environment where you are in close quarters with co-workers, the simple ringing of a cell phone can break your concentration or disrupt others. Turn your ringer on silent, or use the vibrate mode if you’re expecting a call. Or, simply turn your cell phone off altogether. Callers can leave a voicemail, and you can return your personal phone calls on your break, during lunch, or after work instead of during company time.

Keep talk quiet – If you do take a personal call on your cell phone while in the office, keep your voice down. Most people don’t want to hear the conversation you’re having with your sweetheart or your doctor, so be considerate of others. Better yet, take your conversation down the hall to an empty conference room, or step outside to talk.

Don’t talk in the bathroom – Cell phones and restrooms don’t mix. Period. No one in the bathroom wants to hear your conversation, and the person on the receiving end of your call doesn’t want to hear toilets flushing and running water, either. End the conversation before you go into the restroom, or return the phone call later.

Avoid using your phone during meetings – During a meeting, don’t answer your phone, text your friends, or check your e-mail. Otherwise, you’ll appear distracted, bored, and unprofessional. If you’re texting or e-mailing someone for important information pertaining to the meeting, let others know what you’re doing so they don’t think you’re being disrespectful. The best thing to do is leave your cell phone at your desk, and be sure to turn the ringer off.

Cell phones give us easy access to others, and vice versa, but at work they can be a tempting distraction for ourselves and interrupt others. Follow these cell phone etiquette tips the next time you take your phone to work so you won’t be the one committing a cell phone faux pas in the office.

The Real Questions Behind Interview Questions

Ever wonder why you didn’t get the job you thought you landed? Or, have you ever walked out of an interview scratching your head and wondering what was the point of some of the questions? Well, employers often ask questions that give them insight into the type of person you are, your experience and how you handle certain situations. Some questions can seem strange or off-topic if you don’t know the purpose of the questions asked.

To help you understand the questions behind these questions and prepare you for your next interview, take a look at the few examples below.

1. Question: Describe a time when you were working on a project and things weren’t going your way. What did you do, and what was the outcome of the situation?

The Real Questions: How do you handle yourself under pressure? Can you set goals and push past barriers? How do you manage stressful situations?

How You Answer: First, take the time to think of a project that was challenging but you provided a solution that was successful. In a few words, explain the project, its purpose, your role, the challenge, and the steps you took to overcome the issue and accomplish your goal.

2. Question: Describe a time you worked on a team project and there were obstacles to overcome. What were the dynamics of the team, and how was it handled?

The Real Questions: How do you get along with co-workers? What was your role, and how did you relate to others? Can you stay focused when working together on a team?

How You Answer: Briefly describe the project, your role on the team, what tasks and goals you set for yourself and/or others, the outcome of the project, and what you learned from that experience.

3. Question: Why do you want to work here?

The Real Questions: Do you know what we do? How motivated are you to work for this company? How well did you prepare for this interview?

How You Answer: Talk about why you’re interested in the position. Tell them how it relates to your passions, hobbies, or personal goals. Also, use this opportunity to build up the company’s self esteem and how it can have a positive impact on your career. But don’t brown nose – keep it simple. Provide details you’ve learned from your research about the company through the internet or from other employees prior to your interview. Show that you have taken the time to learn about the company and the position you’re applying for.

The next time you prepare for an interview, remember that employers are wanting more than just a yes or no answer – they want to know more about you and how you’ll impact their team. By knowing the questions behind the questions, you’ll have a better shot of providing the answers to set yourself apart and make their choice clear to hire you.

Saving Money on Lunch: How to Eat Cheap During the Workweek

You may find your discretionary income quickly disappearing each month as the high price of fuel has caused food prices to increase, among other things. While you might not be able to get rid of necessary expenses, you can at least cut down on your lunch budget. Here are three areas that can help you keep more cash in your pocket.

Packing Your Lunch
The biggest money saving tip is bringing your lunch to the office. If you usually spend about $10 eating out each day, you can save around $1,000 a year just by packing your lunch just two days a week. And, packing your lunch can be easy. Try buying frozen meals or making sandwiches that you can easily pack or prepare the night before. You don’t need anything else to worry about when you’re trying to make it to work on time.

Smart Eating Out
When you eat at a restaurant, consider carpooling with co-workers to save on fuel. At the restaurant, share a meal or appetizer with a friend or co-worker. Usually, restaurant portions are excessive, and splitting the meal can keep costs down for both of you. Many places also have affordable lunch specials that fit into a tight budget. Or, get a doggie bag and save half of your lunch to pack as leftovers later on in the week.

Bringing Snacks
By keeping healthy foods at work, you can snack whenever you get a little hungry. Munching on a container of cereal or fruit at your desk can help control your appetite and save you the cost of a quick snack at a vending machine. Snacking throughout the morning will keep you from ordering too much if you eat out. Also, consider bringing your own drinks to the office. If you were to buy a drink for $1 from the vending machine every day, that would amount to over $260 a year.

Your lunch budget is an easy place to cut down on your expenses. Plan ahead and think about these three factors and watch your expenses decrease quickly.

What do you usually do for lunch? Did you change your eating habits to help make up for high gas prices?

5 Things to Prepare Before Going to a Job Fair

Job fairs provide access to many different employers and a variety of positions to job seekers in one place. Getting an invitation for an interview or a job offer requires more than simply showing up. So, before you head out, prepare these five things, and take advantage of the opportunities job fairs create.

RésuméUpdate your résumé to include your latest employment information, acquired skills, and education. Create multiple versions, and tailor each one to a different job objective so you can apply for a variety of positions that interest you. Also, bring a generic résumé that you can use in any situation, in case another job catches your attention. Make sure to bring several copies of each version of your résumé so you can leave a copy with many potential employers.

Contact card – Design and print a personal contact card, similar to a business card, with your name and contact information. You may also want to include your degree, profession, or desired career on the card. Give these to potential employers in addition to your résumé, and you’ll stand out from other job candidates by looking more professional and well-prepared.

Self advertisement – Employers at job fairs meet with many different job candidates and probably don’t have time to talk to you for more than a few minutes. So, create a short pitch or speech to sell your qualifications to a potential employer in 60 seconds or less. Make sure to practice in front of a friend, but keep it conversational so it doesn’t sound forced. Your self advertisement should include important information such as your work experience, skills, and career goals.

Attire – Treat a job fair like you would an interview – go into it knowing you need to create a positive first impression through your appearance. Dress professionally, polish your shoes, and make sure your hair is in place. Don’t carry extra baggage such as a backpack or purse, because you’ll look less professional and probably fumble to shake an employer’s hand. Instead, carry a briefcase or portfolio folder to carry your résumé copies and business cards.

Questions – You’ll engage in conversation with employers as you hand them your résumé. So, before you go, research companies that will be there. Then, prepare specific questions you’d like to ask each potential employer you’re interested in working for to learn more about the position and the company. Also, make sure to be ready to answer common interview questions yourself.

You may meet your next employer at a job fair so it’s important to be ready, just as you would be for an interview. Your preparation can increase your chances of landing an interview and receiving a job offer.