Being A Pro At Being A Professional: 3 Reasons Why Professional Organizations Are Important

professional organizations_Aug2013_webSo you landed the big job. You’re officially a “professional.” So, what now? It isn’t time to put your feet up and bask in your accomplishment! Your career development doesn’t just happen overnight, and promotions and raises are earned, not gifted. But, how do you develop yourself? How do you make yourself a valuable commodity not an expendable? Hit the ground running in your career by joining a professional organization. According to the Center for Association Leadership, there are more than 1.9 million organizations currently in the U.S. which means there are plenty to choose from.

Finding the organization that is right for you and your field is important. You may have to do a little research or it may be as simple as asking your coworkers or colleagues what they are a part of. Once you find the organization that covers your field, you may have to pay for a membership, but many employers are willing to pay these dues for you. If they don’t, it’s okay. Just look at the money you spend on dues as an investment – maybe one of the most important investments you will ever make. Now that you’re in and have become part of something larger than yourself, I bet your next question is, “what is this going to get me?” Below are three ways professional organizations can help you grow your career.

Network, Network, Network
Networking can give numerous opportunities to further your career. Rubbing elbows with your peers opens up a forum for idea exchange. This open line of communication can drum up new business, new friendships, great concepts, and maybe even future career opportunities.

Conventional Conventions
Many organizations have one or more conventions every year. At these conventions, there are breakout sessions, keynote speakers, and round tables where you can learn and collaborate with your peers in your industry.  These opportunities allow you to grow as a professional as well as stay on the cutting edge of your field, while establishing dialogue with individuals in your field.

Developing the Leader in You
Organizations generally have boards or committees that are in charge of club operations. Becoming a member of the board is often as easy as asking current leaders about opportunities to join the board or committee in charge. Becoming a part of the leadership in an organization can develop important attributes found in great leaders that can help advance your career. Not to mention, your peers will have a front row seat to the display of your leadership skills. The amount of involvement is completely up to you. Since it’s typically a volunteer position with a “term system” similar to our own government, you decide how involved you get. If you’re interested in taking on a more time intensive positions make sure you discuss this interest with your manager, as the more involved you are, the more time intensive the position can be.

These are just a few benefits to being a member of an organization geared toward your industry. If you have another way that your experience in a professional organization has helped you, please share in the comments section below.

The ABC’s of Learning to Like Your Boss

ABC_LikeYourBoss_July2013_WebWhen you’re with someone at least 40 hours a week at work, it can make life a lot easier if you like being around that person. And that’s especially true if that someone is your manager. Depending on how well your interests and personalities match up, though, liking your boss may not be easy or come naturally. But, it’s not impossible. Just try to follow the ABC’s.

Accept who your boss is.
Bond over a similar interest.
Communicate regularly so you understand your boss’ communication style.
Decide to have a positive attitude about your boss.
Empathize with your boss.
Focus on your boss’ strengths.
Guard against gossiping about your boss.
Hear what your boss is truly trying to say.
Identify areas of the relationship you can improve on.
Join with your boss for a common cause.
Keep trying – don’t give up.
Laugh together.
Meet on a regular basis to discuss projects and goals.
Notice when your boss does something right.
Offer to help your boss with a big project.
Prevent miscommunications or hurt feelings from getting out of hand.
Quit making your boss the bad guy.
Recognize when your boss is trying to improve.
Steer clear of things you know you disagree on.
Talk with your boss about their professional and personal goals.
Understand what drives your boss.
Visit with your boss if there is an open-door policy.
Walk a mile in your boss’ shoes.
eXtend your boss grace when there’s a mistake.
Yield your need to always be right.
Zap your negative attitude.

What bit of advice do you have for building a positive relationship with your boss? Let us know in the comments section below.

3 Ways to Build Influence

Influence_July2013_webWhen considering change and development in your career, it’s important to factor in your sphere of influence. Before you can impact a decision or bring forth an idea, you’ll need to establish a respected and involved in the process. To help define your place, it’s important to take proactive steps to develop your relationships, skills, and knowledge. Your sphere of influence is your ability to impact decisions and actions. It’s about being trusted, respected, and having a say in the decision making process.  So, here are three ways you can build influence.

Be Reliable
Your ability to influence a conversation or decision begins with trust. One of the best ways to build trust is to be reliable. This includes being on time, avoiding gossip, being honest, and being consistent. Respect is earned over time and you can gain that by consistently taking care of your workplace tasks well.

Be Knowledgeable
This can be the most fun and interesting part of building your influence. Staying on top of industry trends, changes in market conditions, and technology developments in your field can lead to some great opportunities to build your influence. Make sure you’re aware of current events, legal changes that may impact your business, and your company’s current progress on its goals. By sharing what you’ve learned with your manager or applying your knowledge to your projects, you’ll demonstrate your desire to add value to the business and develop your skills.

Be Connected
Your relationships at work with your vendors, and in your professional community not only create opportunities for you, but are an asset in your sphere of influence. Make sure you’re building a network within your company. If your manager can rely on you to complete a requisition form in a short deadline or process a large shipping order because you’ve built relationships outside of your department, your ability to connect and collaborate will no doubt be an asset to the company. Additionally, by having relationships in your community, you may be able to contribute to sales development for your company. The value of connections with others is not to be underestimated.

In regards to the ideas here, how do you work to demonstrate reliability, and stay knowledgeable and connected? Share in the comments section below your personal tips for developing influence.

Going Above and Beyond at Work

GoingAboveandBeyond_June2013_webCareerBuilder recently shared a survey by Harris Interactive that asked “What is the strangest thing your boss has asked you to do?” The responses ranged from asking for money to seeking a surrogate mother to helping with pets. Requests like these can be awkward. But how should you handle a more typical assignment at work that is still beyond your job description? Here are few things to consider when evaluating a new request.

Can You Learn New Skills?
If you’re asked to take on a new task, like pitching in on a project or managing a contract with a new vendor, consider the opportunity to learn a new skill. If you’re not sure it aligns with your role, ask your manager to clarify your relationship to this project. Sometimes, a particular project won’t be in your current job description because it’s a new advancement for the company and it’s not yet on anyone’s responsibility list. However, if you’re worried the project would pull you further away from your critical role, don’t be afraid to share that concern.

Is it Safe?
While companies often have standards and rules in place to keep employees safe, you shouldn’t hesitate to ask what policies and procedures would directly apply to a new project. If you’re asked to do something new, find out what the training process will be and how your work will be reviewed. Showing your concern for getting the job done right should be appreciated. If necessary, check in with your supervisor or HR team to clarify whether the task and the work environment are in line with company standards and procedures.

Are You Qualified?
Ask your manager why he or she believes you are qualified to take on a new project. If it’s a task someone else has handled, ask what their experience and education was before they began the work. If the requested task isn’t part of your job description, you shouldn’t be embarrassed to say you don’t know how to do something or that you don’t understand the task.

To make things easier, now’s a good time to clarify your role prior to additional requests coming up. Get a copy of your job description and review it with your manager. An easy way to approach this is by telling your boss you want to make sure you’re clear on your responsibilities and essential job functions.

While it’s important to stay open to new opportunities at work, make sure they align with your professional goals and expertise to ensure the highest level of success. Do you have a story of when an extra task turned into a great skill building opportunity? Share it in the comments sections below.

It’s Normal to Face Criticism When You are Driven

Driven and criticismThe Greek philosopher Aristotle is famously known for saying, “Criticism is something we can avoid easily by saying nothing, doing nothing, and being nothing.” No matter where you want to go in your career, there will be others who will, rationally or irrationally, try to talk you out of it. Criticism is inevitable if you want to be successful.

Think of some of the greatest figures in history: Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Confucius, and Christopher Columbus. They all influenced and shaped the world today, but they also received, and sometimes still do, some of the most harsh and intense criticism. Don’t let outside forces get in your way. Here are ways to cope with and accept the fact that criticism will happen when you strive for success.

Tune Out
Unless there is something you can take away from constructive criticism, you’ll have to tune out the clutter of negativity coming at you. It’s important to stay focused on your goals and objectives, so you’ll have to learn the value in tuning out everyone around you some of the time.

Depending on how strict or involved you want to be with your schedule, take some time every week or at the end of your workday to review your progress and see where you are with achieving your goals and objectives. You’re far more likely to accomplish things if they are in print and in front of you. Continually checking your progress will keep you on track and help build your drive and motivation.

There are several benefits to embracing a positive attitude, even if you don’t feel like it. There will be very real hurdles and challenges to overcome throughout your career and a positive attitude won’t protect you from them, but it will keep you afloat and motivated when they happen.

You don’t have to climb the corporate ladder alone. While there may be others who will try to tear you down, there are just as many, if not more, who want to lift you up. That’s why it’s important to have a group of friends and mentors who can give you fair and constructive feedback on your endeavors.

Nobody is perfect and everybody will make mistakes throughout their career. That is why it’s important to accept responsibility for your mistakes and weaknesses and develop strategies to improve them. It’s not so much the fact you fell, but rather about how you get back up.

To stay on track to realize success, you need to have an idea of what you want to achieve. It’s important to be very clear and concise about why success is so important. When you have an end point to focus on, it’ll be harder for others to lead you astray.

If you feel like the weight of others is too much, remember that it’s normal and to shrug it off. Many times, the criticism is unnecessary. It’s like what the late motivational speaker Zig Ziglar said, “Some people find fault like there is a reward for it.”

Advance Your Career Without Being a Jerk

Climb the corporate Ladder without being a jerkWe’ve all heard the saying, “Nice guys finish last.” It’s a common phrase, but it seems to fly in the face of all proper etiquette when dealing with others. Being respectful, kind, and generous are usually key soft skills that employers look for when looking for job candidates or finding someone to promote into management.

Some of you might know what it’s like to be the nice guy. You respectfully do what you’re told, but that guy, who is being loud mouthed and demanding, gets all the attention and opportunities. The good news is that the office jerk doesn’t always get the prize. Here are some ways you can take comfort in knowing that nice guys can make it to the top.

It’s a Pain to Maintain
The office jerks often seem like they are always getting the opportunities because at first glance, they convey in a group setting that they have the most power. A study published in Social Psychological and Personality Science suggests that the more discourteous someone acts, the more others believe that the offender has power. Naturally, this person’s status is elevated and becomes a prime candidate for promotion or leadership.

The problem is leadership with that kind of behavior is unsustainable. These people tend to focus more on their ego than their team members, which will hinder performance and cause employers to question their leadership. If given enough time, they might job hop at the drop of a hat to another employer that hasn’t seen through the self-promotion and noise to see the jerk as he really is. They may climb the corporate ladder quicker, but they don’t stay there very long.

Assertive Not Aggressive
The biggest problem that the workplace nice guys face is that they can be so courteous that they become passive. They are concerned that if they assert themselves others will think of their behavior as aggressive, but assertiveness is that happy medium between being passive and being aggressive.

Being assertive is a matter of finding that balance of speaking up when you have an idea or opinion while respecting others who are already talking, disagreeing with requests if they are unreasonable, offering suggestions to compromise, and asking for favors and help without demanding it.

If you’re unsure where that line is, ask your manager or mentor to observe your behavior and alert you when you do things too passively or aggressively. You’re demonstrating a desire to improve your leadership and soft skills, which will already place you in a promotable position.

Integrity is Key
Generally, the most common thing the workplace nice guys have going for them is their integrity – they will do what they promised. The common trait most employers look for, other than the specific skills needed for the job, is integrity. Listening, understanding, and recognizing others are all traits that fall under that reliability. It builds trust with your management, and when you’re a little more assertive when letting your boss know about all that you’ve done, you’ll be a prime candidate when opportunity knocks.

How do you feel about the Workplace Nice Guy? Do you think it’s true that only jerks get ahead in the workplace? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

5 Ways to Show and Earn Respect

give and earn respectMutual respect in the workplace creates a solid foundation for positive teamwork and professional success.

Respect isn’t a given, but if you show respect first, it usually follows quickly in return.

Here are five ways to foster respect in the workplace.

1. Speak words of affirmation – Recognize the efforts of all those you work with, and express your appreciation for a job well done. Everyone appreciates an acknowledgement for their time and completed work. It may be as simple as saying a sincere, “thanks,” “good job,” or “awesome work.” When you say positive things, your encouraging spirit makes an impact on all those you work with, fostering general goodwill.

2. Listen before speaking – Make it a habit to listen first and speak second. Make sure you understand what is being said and aren’t just waiting for your turn to talk. Waiting to respond until others are done talking can avoid misinterpretations and miscommunication. You can acknowledge the person and show them that you’re listening by nodding your head or responding non-verbally. Don’t be afraid to ask for clarification if necessary. Listening not only enhances your understanding, it demonstrates professionalism and respect as well.

3. Act with kindness – Be courteous, polite, and kind to those around you, treating them equally and fairly. Speak with a positive tone, offer help or guidance if needed, and use others’ ideas to improve your own work, recognizing their input. Treating others as you wish to be treated, or better, and having a positive attitude will help you remain optimistic and give you the capability to tactfully and politely work through any situation. Be kind in every aspect of your work, from returning a phone call when you said you would to opening the door for someone else.

4. Display integrity – Trust is the foundation of strong co-worker relationships. Be honest with your co-workers and your supervisors, even when you have to admit you’re wrong or that you’ve made a mistake. Speak, act, and react with professionalism and integrity, no matter what the situation. Displaying your integrity throughout all aspects of your work will allow others to trust you, but in return, you also have to trust them.

5. Demonstrate a strong work ethic – Demonstrating a solid work ethic goes beyond showing others that you’re reliable and can get your work done accurately and timely. When you’re dependable, others can look to you for guidance and support, fostering teamwork and trust. Once you’ve shown you can complete your tasks as assigned, while keeping a positive attitude, you may gain not only respect, but also more responsibilities and opportunities. A strong work ethic is more than doing what you’re asked; it’s also being proactive to prove your reliability.

Fostering mutual respect takes time and effort, and doesn’t always come easily. So, use the guidelines above to demonstrate respect and trust toward others, and you’ll gain their trust and respect in return.