Monthly Archives: September 2012

It’s Go Time. Be More Decisive at Work.

Being more decisive at workAlmost everyone has suffered “analysis paralysis” at some point in their lives – that moment when you spend too much time examining the possibilities and options of action and nothing is accomplished.

While most people have no problems making mundane decisions like where to eat, what to wear, or when to do chores, for many, the idea of being responsible for a decision that could end badly is a crippling fear. The fear can be even stronger when you start a new job. It’s easy to feel out of place and scared of making a wrong decision. In reality, going out of your way to avoid decisions can hold back your career more than you think.

Hesitations Bring Complications
Becoming decisive at work can help you prove yourself and demonstrate to leadership that you are an important asset. When you avoid or fail to make a decision, you’re missing out on a learning opportunity. Even if you make the wrong choice, you have still learned something new – and that’s what experience is all about.

Being indecisive is still a decision because you’ve chosen not to decide. You may feel like it’s being aggressive or too assertive to make a decision, but that’s only if you don’t learn from the experiences. Then it becomes stubbornness.

Pulitzer Prize winning writer for the New York Times, Anne O’Hare McCormick said, “The percentage of mistakes in quick decisions is no greater than in long-drawn-out [uncertainty], and the effect of decisiveness itself ‘makes things go’ and creates confidence.”

Cultivate Courage
You may not be the Cowardly Lion on his way to Oz singing “If I only had the nerve,” but growing confidence and courage make a big difference when trying to make decisions. One way to help build bravery is to constantly try new things. You don’t have to work on being decisive outside of work either. Ask your manager if it’s possible to get different assignments that you’ve always wanted to try. Your work might have some groups or clubs that will let you try some new activities you’ve never done before.

When trying new things at work, start small, make it happen, and then expand on your success. When you see how things outside of your comfort zone are done, you can connect them to challenges with your job, which can help give you the confidence to make decisions when the need arises.

Practice Makes Perfect
Making decisions is a skill and needs to be practiced on a regular basis. It’s like a muscle in that the more you practice and the more you work at it, the stronger it gets. Next time you find yourself with a decision to make, time yourself and see how long it takes for it to get resolved. Next time, try to beat that time.

You can also practice by giving yourself deadlines. Depending on how difficult decisions are for you and how serious the decision is, you could give yourself three minutes to three days. Practice keeping to your time limits and avoid falling back into your normal routine. You don’t have to do this alone. Ask your boss and co-workers for advice, and get them to help you stay accountable, encourage you to keep going, and applaud your progress.

In the end, it’s better to be boldly decisive and risk being wrong than to agonize at length and not be able to make a decision. What are some tricks you’ve used to be more decisive?

Tips on Managing Your Emotions at Work

Man Failing to Manage Emotions at WorkHave you ever been upset with a co-worker or boss? Have your emotions caused you to do or say something you regret? Everyone experiences emotions like frustration, anger, and worry in the workplace at times. Whether problems at home carry over to the office, tools aren’t working properly, deadlines are near, or a co-worker presses your buttons, it’s important to control your emotions and keep your reactions professional at work. Here are a few ideas on how to cope when feelings start to get out of hand.

Recognize your hot buttons.
If you’re frequently upset at work, you probably already know what emotions you need to control. Something that draws out a strong emotional response is called a hot button. Take time to understand what your hot buttons are, so you can be prepared ahead of time with how to handle situations that arise. Though you may not be able to change your internal feelings, you can control your reactions.

Create a strategy.
After you’ve identified your hot buttons, think about ways you can deal with your feelings. Create a plan of action to decide how you’re going to react when certain situations present themselves, especially if the same thing keeps bothering you. For example, you may need to take a walk, count to ten, or start on projects earlier if you stress about meeting deadlines. This strategy may include talking to your supervisor to help you create a plan or smooth out interpersonal frustrations.

Write down your feelings.
Some people find journaling their thoughts in a notebook offers a way to deal with intense emotions. Try jotting down how you’re feeling and why you feel that way. By writing out your thoughts, you can release some of your pent up emotions, and also deal with the issue personally without escalating it to others. Be sure to store your journal in a secure area or at home.

Listen to music.
If you feel like you’re constantly being bugged, slip on some headphones and listen to music or audio recordings. Ask others around you to not disturb you when you have them on, but be sure to have the volume turned low in case others need to speak with you. Simply listening to music can be a soothing way to calm your overwhelming emotions. But, be sure to avoid creating frustrations for others who may see your actions as a way of isolating yourself. Limit the time you put on your headphones, and always be available to a co-worker or manager when they need to talk.

Take a look at yourself.
When you still find yourself losing control of your emotions, you should always take personal responsibility to change yourself first, even after trying other ways to cope. If you think about why you’re upset and you can’t seem to change it, try considering a new perspective on it. You can change yourself for the better, and in the end you can change your emotional reaction.

Dealing with emotions in the workplace can be tricky, but many people face these challenges. Making the effort to control your own emotions before they get out of hand will not only enhance your ability to work, it will demonstrate your professionalism. Controlling your emotions might be difficult at first, but with a few tricks, you can recognize your triggers and move past them quicker.

How to Rock a Group Interview

Interviewing can be scary but group interviews can be a nightmare. Answering rapid-fire questions, navigating group dynamics, and carrying a clear conversation can be intimidating. Here’s some advice on how to impress during a group interview.

Meet and Greet
It’s great if you know in advance you’ll be in a group interview – even better if you get the names of those involved. However, if you don’t, make sure to take this part of the conversation slowly. Shake hands and greet each person, jot down their name, and ask what their role is and how it interacts with the position you are applying for. This is a good time to get your footing and observe group dynamics, so don’t rush introductions.

Facilitate Questions
In a group interview it’s easy to fall victim to poor planning on the part of the interviewers. If they don’t jump right in with questions after introductions, offer a brief overview of your work history and point out a few key skills or experiences that you believe make you a good candidate. Make sure to actively listen to the questions being asked. Chances are, you’ll be nervous, and if two people are talking over each other a question could get lost. You may need to take notes to capture all the questions so that you can do a better job answering. As in any interview, restating the question for your own clarity is acceptable and will allow you some time to formulate an answer. Allow for questions from everyone involved, and if someone in the group hasn’t had a chance to ask a question, address them by name and ask if there’s anything they would like to know from you.

Seek Information
Often a group interview can allow you to experience group dynamics and workplace culture. Use your time to ask a few questions about the environment and team projects. Not only is this a good time to learn, but keep your eyes open because there may be body language or internal communication here that gives you a deeper glimpse into the workplace. If something deeper does seem to be brewing about a particular topic or question, remain neutral, this isn’t the time to align with a possible future co-worker or pick sides on an issue. This style of interview gives you a glimpse into company culture and dynamics, adding some food for thought to your decision about accepting a job if it’s offered.

Group interviews can be intimidating, but they can also be fun. It’s a chance to understand the team you are considering joining and show off your communication skills. What are some ways you’ve excelled during a group interview? Let us know in the comment section below.

How do I Network When I Don’t Know Anyone? A Guide to Working the Room

How to Network Alone When You Don't Know AnyoneEverybody has been there before. You walk into a networking event, industry professionals meeting, or social hour and don’t know anybody there. For some, it wouldn’t be much of a problem because it’s an adventure to meet new people and make connections, but that’s not the case for most. Networking can be awkward, uncomfortable, and downright intimidating. What’s a person to do?

Whether you’re looking for a job or advancing your career, networking is an important tool. Building strong working relationships can help open doors to landing a job with a desired company or improve your trade by seeking advice from others for guidance and support. But, building a network from scratch can seem like an impossibility.

You don’t have to be well connected to make connections. Everybody starts somewhere and you can have fun, meet people, and grow your network without knowing anyone in the room with these easy tips.

Have a Plan
With just about everything in life, it’s best to have a little strategy before going blindly into a strange place. You’re not strategizing military formations in a war, but you should be prepared if knowingly going somewhere unfamiliar. Before going, catch up on the latest industry, community, and national news. Being caught up on the latest headlines and having an opinion on it can help you start conversations with others and demonstrates your passion and expertise in your field. If you’re attending an event, find out who is going to be there, learn about them, and think of a question or two to ask them. When in doubt, people love talking about themselves, so try to have a few open-ended questions just in case.

Pick Your Targets
Depending on your personality, you should find people you think you would fit in with. A more open, outgoing person might target those who are getting the most attention or the biggest crowd. That’s probably where the most interesting conversation is and your chance to shine. For the more introverted person, look for people who are by themselves or in smaller groups. They may not be very outgoing and are likely feeling the same pressure you are, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t a potential resource of information and leads.

Break the Huddle
Many people feel like walking into a circle of people at a social outing is unwelcome. They feel like they are intruding on a conversation that they weren’t invited to. It’s generally acceptable to walk into a conversation at a social event. The more outgoing people don’t see it as an intrusion, but an inclusion into the conversation. If you’re unsure about joining a group of people, walk closely to the group. Casually observe the conversation and get the attention of someone in the group. Once you make eye contact, send a nonverbal greeting their way and wait for a response. If you get one back, introduce yourself and join the conversation.

Talk Genuinely
You may feel out of your element when talking to a group of strangers, but that doesn’t mean you should stop being yourself. Don’t worry about acting the way others expect you to – be yourself. Always be courteous, respectful, and mindful of etiquette, but don’t accept invitations or participate in anything that feels out of character. Many can see through it and  it can hurt your relations in the long run.

Being genuine means being honest with others. Actively enjoy and convey interest in conversations that are actually of interest to you. If you aren’t interested in the conversation, you don’t have to continue being a part of the discussion. You’re missing out on opportunities to make stronger connections with other people. If you need to leave a conversation, exit gracefully by saying something like, “I need to refill my drink. It was a pleasure to meet you,” “I need to step out. It was great talking to you,” or “It was wonderful getting to know you. I hope you have fun tonight.”

Follow Up

Meeting people and building relationships at an event will be much more effective if you keep up with them after your first meeting. Following up with those you meet demonstrates your reliability and interest in your new contact. It doesn’t have to be anything in-depth or boring. It could be something as simple as sending a funny or interesting link related to your conversation, asking how things went after a particular event they were preparing for, or scheduling time to meet for lunch to discuss something if your contact offered to help you with a job search or career development.

Everyone is a stranger until you meet them. Once you get past the fears and be yourself, you’d be surprised how many wonderful people you can meet and relationships you can build when stepping a bit out of your comfort zone and enjoying yourself. Let us know some of your best networking stories in the comments below.

Is Your Boss a Creativity Killer? Take Our Poll

Job Seeking and Career Advice PollA recent CareerBuilder study found that only 41% of employees believe their managers inspire creativity at the workplace while 64% of leaders believed they do.

Engaging with company leaders is important to your professional development. It provides an environment that allows you to express your creativity, giving you the ability to handle bigger and better projects. We want to know if your creativity is encouraged or stifled at work. Let us know in the survey, and share any stories about workplace creativity in the comments section below.