Fearing A Layoff? 5 Things to Focus on Instead

When friends or family members get laid off, it’s difficult to see them struggle to get back on their feet. Unfortunately, no one can guarantee job security – even in the best of times. So, here are a few things you can do now to prepare yourself in case of an unexpected layoff.

Focus on Networking. It’s never too late – or too soon – to start networking with your peers and other professionals. You don’t have to be looking for a job to build relationships, so get out there and reconnect with old friends and co-workers while also getting to know new people. If you’re laid off from your job, you’ll be able to quickly and easily turn to your network for support and job leads.

Cut Extra Spending. Make an effort to cut your spending and increase your savings by determining if each purchase you’re about to make is truly a “need” or a “want.” Avoid spending extra money on “wants” right now, and instead put that money into savings. Your co-workers can probably empathize with you as you cut back spending, so don’t be afraid to decline an invitation for lunch or happy hour with your co-workers. If you’re unable to find a job immediately after a layoff, you’ll be glad you saved some extra cash to make it through the tough times.
Create a Budget. Whether or not you anticipate a layoff, create a budget you could follow with a reduced or eliminated salary. Write down every expense you have and how much each one costs. Then, select several things to cut immediately and some you could cut later, if you become unemployed. Consider cutting back on items like eating out, entertainment, and clothing. Keep track of your daily expenditures to make sure you’re sticking to your budget, and then save or invest what you have left. You might also want to visit with a financial advisor to create a personalized financial strategy.

Clean Up Your Files. Clean up your computer files if you manage personal documents on your work computer, such as pictures, e-mails, and other downloads. Save the files you need to a CD or e-mail them to your personal computer. Then delete those unnecessary documents from your work computer. When you begin collecting your portfolio items, be sure that you’re only taking copies of acceptable documents, such as public newsletters you wrote or graphics you designed. Make sure to leave behind company documents that don’t belong to you.

Set Doctor Appointments. If you’re covered by a company health care plan, schedule all of your regular doctor appointments and refill all of your prescriptions. Ask about three-month prescriptions and preventative medication so you can be prepared in case your insurance costs increase or coverage stops.

If you’re uncertain about job security, some things to prepare for might be obvious, like updating your résumé and viewing online job boards. Focusing on these five things can increase your confidence and ease your stress because you’ll be better prepared if you face an unexpected layoff. Remember, as important as preparing is, don’t forget to stay positive and remain focused on your tasks and projects at work.

Earning a Promotion: 3 Things You Can Learn from Your Boss

Your boss was given the responsibility and the corner office for a reason, so if you’re looking for a promotion, look no further than them for guidance. Observing your boss and following their lead will give you a leg up when you’re ready to seek a promotion. Here are three things you can focus on and learn from, so start paying attention.

Management Style – Every leader has a different way of leading their team, including your boss. So, watch how your boss interacts with your co-workers, delegates projects, and recognizes accomplishments. Also, notice how your co-workers react to their behavior to learn what works and what doesn’t. You’ll realize that different personality types require different types of leadership styles. For example, your boss will most likely allow high performers to self manage more than new employees. Demonstrate this knowledge when you interview for a promotion by talking about specific management scenarios that you would use in each situation.

Professionalism – Observe your boss interacting with their peers, supervisor, and other company executives. Pay attention to how they handle situations – both good and bad. A world-class leader respects their co-workers and superiors and earns their respect in return. Also, take note of when your boss is praised for their work and what they did to earn that praise. By emulating their behaviors, treating others with respect, and acting and reacting professionally, you can build your leadership ability and presence within the company.

Wardrobe Choices – You might not consider how you dress to be important to your career, but it does matter when you want to get ahead at work. You don’t have to wear $1,000 suits to receive a promotion, but you do need to dress professionally. Observe what your boss wears to the office every day. Are you wearing something comparable? If not, you’re not helping your professional image. So, follow your boss’s lead and wear similar clothing styles. That doesn’t mean you have to copy their wardrobe shirt for shirt or shoe for shoe, but if your boss is wearing a suit every day and you’re wearing khakis and a polo shirt, it’s time to step it up a notch.

Earning a promotion takes more than just being well-versed in your subject area, industry, and company. Companies want to develop well-rounded individuals into leaders who can represent their company professionally. That’s why people who know how to manage others, act professionally, and dress the part have a great shot at moving up the career ladder. And, who better to learn from than the individuals your company already trusts and respects as leaders?

What have you learned from a manager that helped you develop your career? As a manager, what advice would you give others to help them move up the corporate ladder? Share your thoughts with us in the comments section!

Improving Workplace Relationships. 3 Ways to Enhance Your Listening Skills

From entry-level workers to managers to CEOs, all employees want to be appreciated and respected by the people they work with. Everyone wants to be heard, listened to, and understood. By being a good listener, you’re showing respect to others. So, here are a few tips to polish up your listening skills and help you improve your workplace relationships.

Acknowledge the Speaker. When you’re listening to someone, send them verbal and nonverbal cues to let them know you hear what they’re saying. You can acknowledge them with eye contact and head nods, and respond with an enthusiastic tone. Avoid crossing your arms – this makes it appear that you’re not interested in what they’re talking about or sends the signal that you’re on the offensive.

Fight Distractions. Work is a busy place, and usually, there’s something or someone fighting for your time and attention. But, avoid doing other tasks when someone is talking to you. Ignore people walking by, your e-mail inbox, and the phone so you don’t come across as ignoring the speaker when you’re distracted. Concentrate on the person talking and what they’re saying so you can fully understand what they’re talking about.

Don’t Interrupt. Most people have a habit of interrupting others when they’re talking because everyone wants to be heard and give their input; however, interrupting comes off as disrespectful toward the speaker. No matter how enthusiastic you are to respond, allow the speaker to finish their thought before you speak. Allow them to explain before you chime in to add to their ideas. Then, formulate your thought and respond to them. This will keep you from jumping to the wrong conclusion or coming across as rude.

Listening is a skill we begin learning at a young age, but it’s only mastered with lots of deliberate practice. So, use these listening techniques every day with every one you talk to, including people at work. Over time, you might just see your workplace relationships improve as your conversations take on a more respectful tone and others feel the respect they crave.

Quirky Workplace Habits – Have You Noticed Any?

In a typical work week, you spend about 40 hours with your co-workers – probably more time than you spend with your friends and family, or even sleeping. Since you spend so much time at work, you’re bound to notice your co-workers’ behaviors and quirky habits.

What other workplace habits do your co-workers exhibit? Let us know in the comments section below.

Friendships After a Layoff. Where Do You Draw the Line?

With nearly 700,000 job losses reported in February, more and more people are being affected by layoffs. Whether you know someone who has lost their job, or are now unemployed yourself, dealing with a layoff is difficult. It’s normal to turn to your friends for support, advice, and guidance during difficult times. But, where do you draw the line when your friend is your co-worker and you’re the one that was laid off?  Can you still be friends after a layoff? Yes, you can, but chances are, it won’t be easy. Here are a few things to keep in mind to help you sustain your friendships, even after you’ve been laid off.

Be Careful Who You Reach Out To.
After you’ve been laid off, it’s in your best interest not to reach out to your former co-workers for support. Those who are still employed may fear losing their own jobs and be unable to sympathize with your loss. Instead, talk with your other friends or family members for the support you need.

Be Mindful of Your Conversations.
If you choose to talk with a former co-worker after you’ve been laid off, be mindful about your conversations. Since friendship is based on many commonalities besides work, find something else to talk about. If the conversation heads back toward your current job situation, talk about the positive aspects of your job search, but avoid talking about your former workplace or the circumstances surrounding your layoff.

Avoid Group Gatherings.
Avoid spending time with a group of your former co-workers, because the topic of work is bound to come up. You’ll feel out of place and be reminded that your former co-workers still have a job and you don’t. So, decline any offers to attend group events when only former co-workers will be in attendance. Instead, ask each of your closest friends to meet you one-on-one so you can continue your relationship outside of the workplace in a comfortable setting.

Some friendships don’t make it through a lay off because of the stress, embarrassment, and the lack of communication that can occur. No one likes the strain that a job loss can place on a friendship, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. To make your friendships last through your layoff, make sure you reach out to the right people, are careful of your conversations, and avoid large groups of former co-workers.

Charming Ways to Talk Your Way Out of a Meeting

Have you ever attended a meeting that you felt was not beneficial to you or that you weren’t able to make a contribution toward? You’re not alone. Most everyone has spent some time in a meeting thinking, “I could be doing something productive right now if I wasn’t here.” While you can’t always change how an unproductive meeting is managed, you can change whether or not you attend. Although you won’t be able to get out of every meeting, you can charm your way out of some of them. Try using these three ideas to attend fewer meetings.

Politely Decline. Sometimes you’ll be invited to a meeting but won’t be required to attend. Determine if this meeting will affect you directly, so you’ll know if you really need to attend or if you’ll receive any value from it. If you feel you or your team or company won’t benefit from your attendance, politely decline the invitation so you can spend your time doing something more productive.

Request to Skip It. When you’re on deadline, working on a big project, or just need to catch up on your work, ask your supervisor if you can miss a meeting. Explain to him that you feel you have other priorities that need to be taken care of first and will be more productive by continuing to work. Also, be sure to tell him how you and the department will benefit from your time spent elsewhere and the money that the company can save by you working through the meeting, if that’s the case.

Do Your Part Ahead of Time. When you’re expected to attend a meeting to simply report an update on a project or make some other small contribution, do your work before the meeting, and then decline attending. Send an e-mail to the group containing the information you would report at the meeting. If you need others to take action on something for you, you can also request this in an e-mail or phone call instead of waiting to talk with them at the meeting.

Meetings aren’t productive if you don’t receive any value from them or contribute to them, but you can be more productive if you carefully choose which meetings to attend and which to skip. Try using one of these three techniques the next time you’re asked to attend a pointless meeting. It may surprise you how many unproductive meetings you’ll be able to charm your way out of if you approach them the right way.

Check out these posts for more ways to get more out of your work day.

Are You Abusing Your Computer Privileges? 5 Ways Not to Use the Internet at Work

If you have access to a computer at work, it’s easy to get sidetracked and waste time on the clock. In fact, most employees admit to wasting part of their day on non-work-related activities, with 48% of those employees wasting time by using the Internet, according to a study completed by Salary.com. Are you one of them? Whether you are, or have just thought about it, here are five things to avoid doing on the Internet at work. After all, it’s the company’s dime and the company’s time, and it’s doubtful you’re getting paid to not work.

Socializing – If you have a MySpace or Facebook account, you might be tempted to spend some time updating yours, but don’t do it. Using your personal account probably won’t help you in your career unless you’re in a very niche field, so stay away from your social network while you’re on the job. Some companies even restrict access to social media sites like these specifically to keep employees from wasting time there.

Personal Business – You might use the Internet to pay your bills or make a doctor’s appointment, but it’s best to limit these activities to a non-work computer. Make sure you pay your bills from home, or use a public computer lab to take care of your personal business. This can also be a security issue. Some companies monitor keystrokes, so by typing in your password, you may accidentally give it away. Taking time on the clock to use the Internet at work for personal use shows your employer your lack of commitment to get the job done that you’re paid to do. 

Job Hunting – Looking for another job while you’re still on the job is a big no-no. If you’re looking for a new opportunity and the Internet is at your fingertips, it might be tempting to search job postings online, but don’t do it. Respect your supervisor, co-worker, and company by completing a job search on your own time using your own resources.

E-mailing – You might be able to check your e-mail from anywhere you are as long as you have an Internet connection. But it’s best not to check your personal e-mail at work using the company’s Internet. You also need to be careful about using your work e-mail for personal use. All of your work e-mails are owned by your company, and even if you delete them, they can be re-accessed. Use your own time to catch up with long lost friends and forward chain e-mails to your family instead of wasting time at work. Instead, spend your time learning a new skill or helping out a co-worker.

Shopping – Online shopping is easy and convenient, but when it has no relation to your job, leave your shopping habits at home. Don’t be tempted to use the company’s Internet to buy the latest DVD or a new pair of jeans. Instead, run to the store on your lunch break, or shop on the weekends when you’re not on company time. Also, your credit card could be vulnerable to hacking when you use it at work.

The Internet makes almost everything easier and more convenient these days. But, it can be a hindrance in your job, or even in your career, if you abuse the privileges you were given at work. So, avoid using the Internet inappropriately at work, and give your best to the job you have. Trying to fight the urge to surf the Internet? Check out these ways to use your extra time wisely.