Mentor Up: How to Pick the Right Mentor

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Whether you’ve been working for several years or are just preparing to enter the career world, traveling the path alone can be risky and hard. Surrounding yourself with people who can directly and positively impact your career is one of the key steps to take in any employment opportunity. Research shows protégés report more promotions, higher incomes, higher job and career satisfaction, and greater job involvement and commitment to a company than those not being mentored. Considering the benefits of having a mentor, the next question is how to get one. But, before asking someone to be your mentor, you need to know what to look for. So, here are some important aspects to consider in your quest for a great mentor.

Finding the right mentor.
A mentor is meant to challenge you. Do some research and find high-level managers or peers with more work experience than you. These individuals should be successful in their field, highly respected, and an all-around positive role model. Although it may be intimidating to approach such an esteemed and experienced professional, it’s important to surround yourself with people who have more knowledge than you do. The purpose of a mentor is to teach, counsel, and guide you to intelligent and beneficial career moves. Find someone who can help do just that.

Asking to be mentored.
Obviously, when selecting someone as your mentor, you need to ask them first. Begin by sharing with your potential mentor how they’ve already impacted your career, how you respect them, and why you want to learn from them. The more interest you take in a potential mentor, the more likely they will be to return the favor. However, you aren’t just asking them to guide you – you are asking for a major commitment. Make sure your mentors are willing to share their skills, knowledge, and expertise with you. Select people who seem to take a personal interest in helping you succeed rather than people who will toss you aside when their schedule gets hectic.

Having multiple mentors.
Because you’ll be choosing mentors for different qualities that put them at the top of their field, choose several. Leaders, although they may tell you different, have very little spare time to devote to full-time mentorship. Consider looking for someone in your own department, someone in another department of your company, someone in your field but with a different company, or someone that leads a charity organization you’re involved in. Having diversity in your mentors will provide you with relevant, yet different, opinions. Consider your group of mentors as your very own board of advisers.

Giving back.
Finally, remember that people don’t mentor just to be friendly. Mentoring can take a considerable amount of time, energy, and effort. Ask your mentor what you can do to help them. For some, simply seeing your appreciation and loyalty may be enough. For others, they may want to see you volunteer your time to mentor someone too. What’s most important is showing the initiative to give back to the mentor rather than simply taking from the relationship.

Moving up in an organization is increasingly challenging, however, having the right mentors by your side can help you climb the corporate ladder to success. Surround yourself with the highest quality people to create your own network of professionals.

 

To Date or Not to Date

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Chances are you have had a crush on a co-worker at least once during your career. According to a recent survey conducted by CareerBuilder.com, four out of 10 workers say they’ve dated a colleague at some point in their careers, while three in 10 say they married the person they dated at work.

Journalist and co-author of Office Mate: The Employee Manual for Finding and Managing Romance on the Job, Helaine Olen, said “The office has turned into the village of the 21st century. Where else do you spend 12 hours a day?”

For many working singles, Olen’s take on the office is entirely accurate. Many see the workplace as the most convenient place to find a mate, as it is the place we spend the majority of our time. Although workplace romances are more common than they were five years ago, they are still met with some skepticism. Keep the following tips in mind when considering a current co-worker for a future partner.

Check the handbook.
Some companies have strict dating guidelines, while others have no rules whatsoever. Before committing yourself to a new relationship, see what your office thinks of it. In some cases the required steps may be as simple as notifying a superior. Although this process may seem a bit awkward and unnatural, just remember it is better to cover all the bases to protect both you and your crush’s working situation. If your company doesn’t have a specific policy regarding inter-office dating, it is still wise to be especially cautious and forthcoming with management – especially if your relationship involves a supervisor/subordinate. Being open about the reality of your relationship will help you avoid the appearance or reality of sexual harassment, favoritism, and other risks that come with dating in the workplace. 

Weigh the costs.
As cynical as you may feel, consider what will happen if your new relationship doesn’t work out. Breakups are difficult enough without the added stress of having to see your ex every day at the office. Consider how you will feel when faced with working alongside your ex daily and if that is something you can work through. Although planning for failure may seem counterproductive, knowing how you’ll handle a potential situation may help you make important choices regarding your office romances.

Proceed with caution.
Although this piece of advice should be applied to all new relationships, it is especially important when it comes to inter-office dating. One of the largest benefits of dating a co-worker is the fact that you are able to establish a friendship prior to dating. You will have the opportunity to observe how your potential mate handles pressure, and also how he or she treats others during stressful times. Caution is necessary because it maintains professionalism in your office. If you enter into a romance carefree and spontaneously, your co-workers may view you as a serial dater. However, if you enter a relationship with purpose and thought, your teammates will see your commitment to a professional work environment.

Maintain professionalism.
Whether it’s fair or not, the moment your new romance is made public, co-workers will begin to judge your work more critically. Teammates are waiting for your relationship to interfere with your productivity, focus, and ability. It is imperative you show your teammates your continued dedication to your work, avoiding all distractions including those that come with romance. Avoid common mistakes like fighting in the office, public displays of affection, and cutesy nicknames. Although these things are all normal outside of the office, allowing them to become routine in the workplace will decrease your professionalism in the eyes of your team. Also, depending on the exact nature of any of these behaviors you could face repercussions, even if you are interacting with a loved one.

Finding love in the office is no longer a taboo subject. In fact, it is becoming more and more common. However, the way you choose to conduct yourself when in an office romance is vital. Carry yourself with the utmost professionalism, avoiding the typical pitfalls many couples make, and you will be sure to be voted the cutest couple of the office.

Recover From a Bad Conversation With Your Boss

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Perhaps this happened to you. You’re enjoying a typical day on the job when suddenly things take a turn for the worst. Tempers flare, words are exchanged, and regret sets in. You had a bad conversation, maybe even a fight, with your boss. Thankfully, these regrettable conversations are not always a deal breaker. You may be given the opportunity to redeem yourself, move forward, and continue to wow your employer. The trick is, how do you begin the recovery process?

Cool down.
During any argument it is natural to turn on our defenses, however, entering a resolution while feeling defensive is rarely productive. Take time to cool down and collect your emotions and thoughts. For each individual this time is different; whether you need five minutes or an afternoon, take the time you feel is appropriate and necessary.

Apologize.
Admitting fault is never fun. If after taking some time to cool down you realize you were in the wrong (yes, you actually did snap at that customer), approach your boss with humility and a resolution. But, apologizing is simply not enough. Be able to tell your boss why what you did was wrong and how you plan on avoiding similar situations in the future. Show initiative in taking steps toward a better you. Admitting fault when you still believe you were in the right is especially difficult, but it is vital in moving forward. When you’re having trouble finding fault in yourself, apologize for the way you reacted. Most of us say or do things we regret in the heat of the moment, so, if nothing else, apologize to your boss for your “momentary lack of professionalism.” Acknowledging that you were wrong, in at least some way, will show your employer you are taking some of the responsibility.

Move forward.
Unfortunately, many of us like to bring up situations that should be left alone. After apologizing, don’t continue bringing up the argument. Making light of the situation may seem like an easy way to get over the awkwardness but keep in mind, each time the conversation is brought up, your teammates are reminded of your moment of weakness. If co-workers, or even your boss, continuously bring up your meltdown, simply remind them the situation has been addressed and you are taking the necessary steps to move forward. In this case, the less ammunition you give your peers, the better. 

Arguing with an employer is undoubtedly awkward and even scary. The true test will be your ability to recover from the situation professionally. Showing the maturity to move forward will prove your ability to conduct business respectfully and graciously.

Break Your Web Surfing Habit

Websurfing_June2011_web With so many jobs now requiring employees to spend the day on the internet, distractions are bound to occur. Whether you are susceptible to Facebook, news stories, or checking your bank statements, we all have something that steals our attention and productivity. Although some workplace distractions are inevitable, there are some simple precautions you can take in order to avoid one-hour YouTube watch parties with your co-workers.
 
1. Acknowledge your personal high and low productivity hours. Do you hate mornings? Do you always feel especially tired after lunch?  Recognize your low points of the day and schedule your workload around them. That isn’t to say you are allowed to sit and do nothing during your slump, but by working harder during your best hours you will be able to ensure a more productive, effective day in the office.

2.  Create deadlines for yourself. It can be hard to stay on task if you have an unspecified time to produce results. If your manager doesn’t set a deadline, set one for yourself. Make your deadline reasonable; no time constraint should be unattainable nor should it be lackadaisical.

3. Listen while you work. Studies show that music impacts reasoning skills, the cardiovascular system, and moods. Use music as a powerful way to improve your health and focus during work. Instead of looking to the internet for entertainment, you can play your favorite song for some much needed comfort and inspiration. Listening to music can ensure you’re having fun and getting your work finished at the same time.

4. Block inappropriate websites. You know the websites you’re prone to look at when you should be working. To keep your eyes from wandering, block these websites during times you are supposed to be working. There are a plethora of blocking programs, including LeechBlock, that help curb your time spent on the biggest time-wasting sites. 

5. Change your attitude toward work. At the end of the day, if you are compelled to waste time, you will. The biggest obstacle in breaking your tendency to procrastinate is the way you think about your workday. If you are bored, uninspired, and don’t feel challenged at work, there may be something deeper occurring. Really consider your time at work and if it is worth your efforts. Although most procrastination is simply human, some may be a sign you are in need of a more fulfilling job.

There will always be things to distract you at work. Although getting sidetracked is nothing to feel guilty about, it is something that should happen in moderation. Strive to focus on work, give yourself breaks to refresh and rejuvenate your mind, and have fun. You’ll find the more you enjoy work, the less procrastinating you’ll end up doing. 

5 Things You Should Do Before Calling IT

IT_June2011_web We’ve all been there; the point of no return when technology has turned its back on us, leaving us high and dry. As frustrating as this scenario is, it is not uncommon, especially in the workplace. Keeping your cool when dealing with misbehaving or unresponsive technology is an important step on the path to staying sane at work. Although it is tempting to immediately call Information Technology (IT) when a computer crisis occurs, try following these steps before picking up your phone for quick and easy fixes.

1. Reboot: Yes, this idea is as basic as it sounds but you’d be surprised how many employees don’t try this simple step before calling for help. If your computer is giving you trouble, try turning it off and back on again. Believe it or not, at times computers get confused just like us. This confusion can sometimes result in the computer attempting an incorrect action and receiving an error message. The reboot will potentially clear your computer of confusion and save you an embarrassing phone call.

2. Check the plug: If you’re having trouble with one of the accessories attached to your computer, confirm that the hardware is plugged in and turned on. For example, if you are receiving error messages when trying to print, check out the printer. Is it plugged in correctly? Did you try plugging it back in? Is it turned on? If it’s a printer, does it have paper? Answer all of the basic questions you can think of because these are the preliminary questions IT will ask you. The closer you look at your hardware, the smoother your phone conversation with support will be.

3. Force quit: This quick and easy step may be the answer to all of your questions. For PC users, this command is known as Ctrl + Alt + Delete, while Mac users select Command + Option + Escape. Forcing your computer into this action will allow you the opportunity to look at your Task Manager. Task Manager will show you all the programs currently running, as well as those that aren’t responding or “frozen.” If you do have an unresponsive program, you will be able to manually quit via the Task Manager and, hopefully, free up your computer’s ability to run smoothly.

4. Support forums: Check out online support forums that offer general support and answers for your computer. Whether you’re a Mac or a PC, you should be able to find answers to basic questions others have had in the past. The research may also help you become more familiar with your technology, teaching you things you didn’t know before.

5. Gather information: If you have exhausted all other means and still need to call IT, know some basic information about your computer before dialing. Be ready to give IT the type of operating system you’re running, what applications were open when the error occurred, when the problem occurred, what error message came up during your issues, and what you were trying to do. Depending on your office policy, there may be other information you need to know, including warranty information, purchase date, and the serial number. When in doubt, gather what you can, call IT, and ask to call them back if you need to collect further information from your supervisor.

Without question, technology enhances life and makes our workload easier. That being said, it can also cause quite a few headaches when errors arise. Knowing these simple steps when trouble comes will save you time on the phone with IT.

Is Chronic Disorganization Taking a Toll on Your Productivity?

Do you lose valuable time at work due to disorganization? If so, you’re not alone. In a recent survey conducted by Express Employment Professionals, 51% of respondents said they lose up to nine hours a week due to desk or office clutter.

Now that we are past the recession, businesses are rebuilding their workforces and new work is piling up. With more to do, every minute counts. Let us know how workplace organization, or the lack of it, is impacting you.

 

Take our survey!

 

Risky Business: Six Risks You Should Take When it Comes to Your Career

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Finding and keeping a job can be two scary and challenging feats. Although there are steps you should take to do both of these, some risk is involved. Implementing some of the following risks to your career should provide some much needed direction and guidance.

1. Negotiate: Negotiating can be a risky situation because it needs to be approached with the correct attitude. Appearing too demanding or confident during a negotiation may leave the wrong impression, while allowing yourself to be pushed around is unsatisfying as well. Approach any negotiation with a calm, confident demeanor, understanding the fact that your request may be denied. However if you take the risk of losing a job offer – or job – to ask for what you want, you might just get it! That being said, if you are happy with where you are in your career, don’t negotiate for the sake of negotiation.

2. Disagree: Office disagreements can be difficult and awkward, but only if you allow them to be. Sharing your differing opinion with your employer and co-workers will establish yourself as an invested employee contributing to your company. Should a time arise when your disagreement is not appreciated, don’t panic. Collect your thoughts, attempt to explain yourself in a clearer manner, and keep your cool. Your office should appreciate your professionalism and voice.

3. Do what you love: Although this isn’t a foreign concept, not every individual applies it to their life. Discover your passion and go after it. You may falter along the way, but pursuing what inspires you is a great risk with an even greater reward.

4. Switch careers: As we mentioned above, loving your job is key. Leaving your current job for one more focused on your passions can give you a renewed sense of purpose and zest for life. Don’t be afraid to make the leap, even if it means taking a pay cut or starting at the bottom, again.

5. Vacation: Society has trained us to think of time away from work as an immediate career-killer. However, taking time for yourself allows you to reassess career goals and objectives, refuel, and come back refreshed. If you work hard while in the office, no one will question your taking a much-needed vacation.

6. Speak up: Volunteering to give presentations in or outside of the office will give you an edge. Countless researchers have found that individuals fear public speaking more than anything else. Although you may not enjoy the experience, being willing to speak publicly when others allow their fear to hinder them will gain you instant recognition in your employer’s eyes.

Although you may still have concerns about the above career risks, doing nothing can be just as damaging to your career and work-life balance. While you don’t need to do all of these things, accomplishing at least one in a timely fashion will give you beneficial insight into your career.