Monthly Archives: December 2012

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.

The Workplace Holiday Party: Should I Stay or Should I Go?

Should I go the Company Christmas Holiday PartyYou know it’s coming. You see the flier in the break room, you get the email, or maybe you find the announcement in your paycheck. Either way, the workplace holiday party is quickly approaching. For some employees, that internal struggle builds inside while stressed with the same question that plagues them every year – “Do I want to go or not?”

It’s a good question. Different organizations have different expectations on attendance, participation, and etiquette at a holiday party. Depending on how personal you are with your co-workers, the holiday party could feel like one of the most awkward two hours of your life trapped inside a room.

If you have to ask yourself this question, you may not want to go. If you’ve been with a company for several years, you may know what is acceptable; but if you’re new to the job, expectations may not be so apparent. Here are some things to consider before deciding whether or not to attend the workplace holiday party.

Your Employer is Saying “Thank You”
Your managers, leaders, and executives know you work hard, but they can’t always express that gratitude in more ways than just saying, “Great job, and thank you.” For many employers, this is their big chance to let employees know how much they appreciate them. If you have a company holiday get-together, feel fortunate. According to the Huffington Post, only 44% of senior managers said that their company was planning an office holiday party this year.

Now is Your Chance!
So you think your co-workers are boring, annoying, or just unpleasant? Is the company party a drag? Change it! They won’t get any more fun if you avoid them. Maybe all you have to do is make your own fun. Still, keep in mind your company culture and workplace etiquette, but these types of events are only as much fun as you put into them.

This also might be a chance for you to develop or learn new skills. Consider asking your HR department about who plans and organizes the holiday party and volunteer your time if possible. If you can plan and prepare a holiday party that you would want to attend, you and your co-workers are much more likely to come. It can also give you a chance to demonstrate your involvement and passion to leadership and senior executives, which could lead to future career opportunities.
Real Life Has Real Responsibilities
We all have personal lives outside of work, with some of us having family responsibilities. While some employers see their workers as a family, they may fail to remember that employees all have duties and obligations after closing time. Remember what is important to you, and keep them first on your list of priorities. They might conflict with the company holiday gathering or they might not. Just be true to what means the most to you.

Having a good, fair, and balanced judgment will help you make the decision to attend or skip the office holiday festivities. There’s a lot to consider, but it should be more than just not feeling like it. Don’t forget to tell us your favorite workplace party moments in the comments section below.

Choosing the Right Attire for Your First Day

People in UniformIf you’re about to start your first day at a new job you’ve probably given a lot of thought to what you’re going to wear, but have you figured it out yet? Check with your employer to make sure you know what the company dress code is. Do you know what they mean by professional or casual dress? Do you wear something like what you wore to your interview, or should you dress more casual? Does the attire you have in mind fit into the dress code? Knowing exactly what to wear can be confusing, but it’s important to dress to impress from day one to reassure your employer that you’re the right person for the job. Here are some guidelines for five common dress codes to help you figure it out.

This is the most formal dress code, and it’s usually reserved for business environments. It includes suits, button-down shirts, ties, and dress shoes for men. For women, this attire includes blouses and pant suits or skirt suits with nylons and high-heeled dress shoes. Some professions require this type of dress on a daily basis, while others require it only on certain occasions, such as business meetings, presentations, or sales calls. Suit jackets are typically a must for the professional dress code, so don’t leave home on your first day without one.

Business Casual
The business casual environment is professional yet relaxed. Men wear dress slacks and button-down shirts but often leave their ties at home, and women wear skirts or dress slacks with blouses. Jackets are optional, but are an easy way to dress-up your attire, so it might be a good idea to keep one handy just in case. Wearing khakis and a polo shirt embroidered with the company logo is also usually appropriate for this dress code for both men and women. For men, casual loafers and dress shoes are acceptable, but sneakers and sandals need to be left at home. Women can wear high-heeled shoes or flats, but sneakers, flip-flops, and beach sandals are not appropriate.

For some offices, a casual dress code is only allowed on Fridays. For workplaces with an every day casual attire, khakis, jeans, polo shirts, casual shoes, and clean sneakers are generally appropriate. Make sure to leave jogging suits, worn-out attire, sandals, and revealing clothing at home. If your new workplace allows casual attire but you’re not sure how much to dress up or down for your first day, khakis and a polo shirt are a safe bet to start off with until you learn what’s acceptable.

There is no set standard for an industrial dress code because jobs within the industry require different attire for safety and necessity. For example, construction sites may require steel-toed boots while other businesses simply require closed-toed shoes. Jewelry or baggy clothing may be prohibited for safety precautions. Shorts may even be acceptable for some positions, while others might require long pants. So, check with your employer to ask for specific details about the dress code to show your professionalism and safety awareness.

If your new position requires a uniform or special attire, make sure you know the guidelines for how to wear it. Depending on the company and type of position, you might be required to iron your uniform or wear additional accessories such as a belt. You might also be limited to what you can wear in addition to your wardrobe, so ask about whether or not it’s OK to wear jewelry or hats. Check with your employer to see if you’ll be provided with a uniform or if you’re required to purchase all or part of it yourself, and whether you’ll need to pick it up prior to your start date or during your first day on the job.

With these guidelines you can choose the right dress code for your first day. Whatever type of dress code your new work environment requires, you can demonstrate your respect for the employer and your professionalism in the workplace by following these guidelines.

2-4-6-8 Here’s How to Motivate!

Motivate Yourself at WorkAt some point in our career, we’ve fallen into that rut. That mysterious slump that can drag our productivity down to a near halt. Our brains check out and we do the minimum amount of work needed to avoid getting in trouble. Some workers hitting a slump might not get that bad, but the temptation and desire to slack off can slowly grow into a career problem sooner than you think.

Sometimes seeing the fruits of your labor takes longer than expected. Success takes time, which is often longer than you’d like. Because success doesn’t happen on your time, it can be easy to get discouraged, making it harder to achieve the success you deserve.

The key to motivation is to find small achievable goals that will help keep you consistently on track. You will have to look deep inside yourself and discover what you want to accomplish at work and how you are going to do it. Here are some things to ask yourself that will help jumpstart your motivation and get your workplace mojo back.

What Are You Doing?
The most important thing you can do to get motivated is to define your purpose, and figure out why you are working. While some workers look for jobs that are fulfilling or enjoyable, others are just trying to find something that pays well or just enough to feed their family. There isn’t a purpose that is better than the other, it’s a matter of finding the one that works for you. Once you find your driving factor, the prospect of accomplishing that purpose helps set up your career goals and keeps you motivated.

What Does That Have to do With Your Employer?
Now that you’ve found your workplace purpose, take a moment to think about what your employer sells, makes, or provides. Take what the company does to sell or serve its product and figure out how you can use that purpose to fit within your role. The more closely you associate your goals with your company’s goals and services, the better you’ll be able to motivate yourself to do what’s necessary to get your job done.

If you are unsure about your employer’s goals and motivations, ask your manager to set up some time to discuss the company. If possible, include an upper-level director who can give a different perspective. You can get some direction and a possible boost of motivation when talking to upper management.

What Does That Have to do With Your Team?
Odds are, you work with other people. They rely on you every day to get the job done. Your team has specific goals and purposes that fit into your employer’s goals. If your team hasn’t already defined their goals, ask to layout your team’s key objectives and goals that will drive sales, increase awareness, or whatever purpose your employer has. Hearing from your co-workers about what needs to be done and why it’s so important can be the extra kick you need to find motivation.

Another way to find motivation beyond focusing on goals is to ask for extra tasks or minor projects to be completed. Taking a break from your daily tasks can give your brain and body a chance to recharge while still being productive.

What Are You Going to do to be More Ambitious?
You’re bored with the normal, right? That’s why you’re in this slump. That’s why you need to break away from the safe and secure. Find out what you can do to contribute to your team’s objectives and be daring. Don’t choose anything that is too risky, but give yourself a challenge that is exciting and inspires you.

Motivation starts from within. Once you find your inner drive, you can work to overcome the challenges that you could face. What are some ways you’ve found motivation at work? Let us know in the comment section below.

What Are Your Toughest Interview Questions? Take Our Poll!

Job Seeking and Career Advice PollEarlier this year, business news website Business Insider ranked the 25 most difficult companies to interview with. Some of the better known companies that made the list included Facebook, Amazon, and Google.

Another interesting tidbit about the ranking was that it included percentages and ratings for negative interview experiences and employee satisfaction, so that you can decide for yourself if difficult interview questions lead to productive and satisfied employees.

With some of the biggest companies in the world being known for difficult interview questions, it made us wonder what are some of the most difficult interview questions you’ve been asked? If you have a unique question not on this list, let us know in the comments section below.