4 reasons to let your boss know about your accomplishments

managerA woman I work with whispered to me that one of her customers wrote her an email complimenting her on a job well done. I congratulated her on her accomplishment and told her to tell our boss.

“No way,” my colleague said. “I don’t need to show her what I’ve done. She knows.”

I argued my case for a brief moment and then realized that convincing my colleague to promote herself was a lost cause. She’s just not that kind of person. She would rather people see her great work—she does great work—then point it out to them. She doesn’t like to “brag,” in her words.

If you’re like my colleague and don’t feel it’s necessary to promote yourself, consider the following points.

1. The philosophical question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” comes to mind in the instance with my colleague. I reason if your manager isn’t around to hear or read of your accomplishments, she won’t hear it; there’ll be no sound. All the good work you’ve done may go unnoticed and unrewarded.

So bring your boss into the forest so she can hear the tree fall. Of course a tree makes a sound when it falls, but the sound doesn’t reach human ears. Only when human ears hear the tree will they believe it made a sound.

2. It’s okay to promote yourself in a tactful way. The wrong way to self-promote would be to announce during a meeting that your customer said you’re the best thing since sliced bread. This will cause your colleagues to turn to each other and mouth, “What a braggart.”

The correct way would be catching your boss alone and making her aware of the flattering email you received, without going into detail ad nauseum. If you are more introverted, simply forwarding the email to your boss would be fine (it also creates a paper trail for future recall.)

3. If you don’t promote yourself no one will. Do you think your colleagues who are eyeing a promotion that is suitable for both of you is going to promote your greatness, instead of his? Hell no. Additionally, he might make it clear that he is the best person for the job by touting his accomplishments any time he can (even when it’s not warranted).

You are the captain of your ship, so don’t let anyone else steer it. By no means am I saying to look for opportunities to self-promote. No, promote yourself when the time warrants it.

4. Your chances of advancing at work will be greater if you promote yourself. My colleague believes her results speak louder than words, and this may be true; but the spoken word can better reinforce her results than if she were to say nothing…or not send an email.

Advancement comes to those whose performance are recognized. You may be equally strong, or stronger, than one of your colleagues; but if your colleague tactfully promotes himself, he will probably get the nod when it comes time for advancement at work.

You may feel the same way my colleague does about self-promotion. You may be a person who believes self-promotion is bragging. Read this article from Susan Cain’s Quiet Revolution: Success without Self-Promotion.

But ask yourself this: will I kick myself for not at least forwarding an email to my boss? Is it possible that she would appreciate knowing about my accomplishment? If the answer to these questions is yes, promote yourself in a way you’re comfortable with.

5 reasons why what you know about your introversion can limit you

BrainstormingFortuneLiveMediaToday I think about how being mindful of  my preference for introversion may affect my actions. Like a self-fulfilling prophesy, this knowledge occupies my thoughts and sometimes prevents me from doing what I’d like to, what I should do. So the question is would it be better to be ignorant of who I am?

How I direct my energy. Because I’m an introvert, I should prefer not going to an evening business networking event after a hard day at work. Introverts should take time to recharge their battery, not exert themselves by socializing after a day of being around people.

Instead: I have the energy to attend social or networking events despite believing that my energy should be saved for reading a good book on my Kindle, while munching on Gummy Bears. I must fight the generalization.

How I communicate. Extraverts rule the world when it comes to small talk. Because I’m an introvert, my ability to make small talk consists of 140 characters of carefully chosen words. Entering a room full of strangers, expected to make small talk, should make me anxious and want to run from the room screaming like a lunatic.

Instead: I can make small talk with the best of them, as long as I’m not battling a motor mouth for airtime. I’ve often dominated the conversation in the lunchroom much to the surprise of my colleagues. I must fight the belief.

How I listen. As an introvert, I’m supposed to listen to people…and like it? Accordingly I should actively listen and wait until the person has said his/her 5,000 words. Extraverts, according to common belief, are off the hook when it comes to listening intently–they’re free to talk nonstop because…that’s the way it is.

Instead: I find it hard to listen to people who believe they’re all that. If there were an off button on some of the loquacious Neanderthals I meet, my right index finger would ache. I am totally cool listening to people who believe in equal rights in conversation. I must politely end a one-sided conversation, as well as be cognizant of my over talking.

How I learn best. Introverts are said to learn best through writing and research, rather than by talking to others. This implies that we’d rather receive e-mails than talk with our colleagues’ in their cubicles.

Instead: It is true that I enjoy writing, but I don’t get my kicks by spending a whole day at my computer researching topics like the Sabin Oxley Act and writing a 30-page whitepaper on it. I like talking with my colleagues as long as it’s productive and doesn’t drain my time, so I must extend my self more often.

How about those meetings. Apparently I can’t participate at meetings because I think too much before talking and, thus, lose my chance to express my brilliant thoughts. The same goes for brainstorming. When others are coming up with hundreds of ideas and throwing spaghetti against the wall, I’m supposed to remain quiet until I have an idea that will stick.

Instead: While it’s true that some extraverts suck the air out of a meeting room, I can throw my weight around as good as the next guy. True, I’m not a fan of brainstorming, but sometimes it works if facilitated by the right person. Instead of over thinking, I must speak up more often and express my great thoughts.

I’ll be the first to admit that knowing the characteristics of an introvert sometimes shapes my actions at work, as well as in my daily life. I wonder how I’d act if I was ignorant of who I am. Would I act more like an extravert? Nah.

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5 tips for promoting yourself in the job search

baseball

When I made our town’s Little League All-Star team, I ran to my neighbor’s house where my father was helping him fix a lawnmower. I burst into the garage and told my father with pride that I’d made the team. Instead of sharing my excitement, he told me not to brag and turned to finish working on our neighbor’s lawnmower.

I’ve thought for a long time that that day my father taught me an important lesson about humility. Now I’m not so sure it was such an important lesson. Some believe that our inability to promote ourselves is due to being told as children not to brag. To brag is inappropriate; to be humble is honorable.

This inability to self-promote often rears its ugly head in my workshops when my customers declare they cannot “brag.” I assume, like me, they were told not to brag as children.

I also understand that their confidence is shattered; and when you’ve been kicked in the gut, it’s hard to muster up the ability to talk about yourself in a positive, yet objective way—which is to say, not brag. Here are five tips on how to promote yourself during the job search.

  • Understand your audience. Know what interests potential networkers and employers. If you have the “stage,” this makes self-promotion all that much easier. This gives you free reign to highlight your accomplishments and related experience, as long as they apply to the job search and eventually the position for which you’re applying. If, however, you’re in the company of people who have no interest in what you’ve achieved, save touting your accomplishments for the proper audience.
  • Back up your accomplishments. As a jobseeker, your accomplishments will seem more authentic if you have evidence to back them up, perhaps in the form of recommendations, awards, or outstanding references. As well, if you can quantify your accomplishments with percentages and dollars, they will carry more weight. What others say about you, I tell my customers, carries more weight then what you say about yourself. And always be truthful; never lie about your achievements. Lies will come back to bite you in the ass.
  • Be relevant. Any self-promotion has to have relevance. If the employer is looking for someone who has demonstrated superb written communications, you should not talk about the numerous presentations you gave before packed houses; you will come across as a round peg for the employer’s square whole. Think back to the times when you wrote the company newsletter and got published in trade magazines.
  • Don’t overdo it. Avoid using words like “great,” “outstanding,” “the best,” etc. It is far better to provide facts than conjecture. For example, “I was the best counselor on the staff“comes across as bragging without any substance. Better put would be, “Among my colleagues, I was given the highest-level customers on a regular basis. I was trusted by management to give them the service they needed.” Yes, you were the best.
  • Give credit where credit is due. I often tell my customers that they should talk about their accomplishments, because that’s what employers want to know; what they’ve accomplished. But when they’ve worked with a team that achieved a common goal, this needs to be expressed. No one likes a smoking gun who takes all the credit.

The simple fact is that you as a jobseeker must promote yourself, because you can’t rely on others to be there by your side in your job search. We’ve been taught not to brag, like the time I rushed to my father proud of making the town’s Little League All-Star team, but we have to realize that promoting ourselves at the right moment isn’t bragging.

Photo, Flickr, Roiz, Roiz, Play Baseball

7 awesome traits of the introvert

I wrote this post a year ago but feel it’s time again to plug the introverts for their greatness. 

When I ask my Myers-Briggs Personality Type Indicator (MBTI) workshop attendees if they think I’m an introvert or extravert, they usually guess wrong. “But you’re so lively and loud,” they say.

What do they expect from me, Dawn of the Living Dead?

Those of my attendees who guess wrong believe that to be sociable and animated one must be an extravert. I don’t blame them for guessing wrong, because society has been under the impression that showmanship belongs exclusively to the extraverts.

The ability to speak in public is only one of seven traits the introverts demonstrate. Following are the remaining six:

We think before we speak. Dominating a meeting is not our style; we favor something akin to Parliamentary Procedure. That doesn’t mean we don’t have intelligent things to say; we just don’t like to compete with the extraverts who learn by talking. The problem with our method of communicating is we might not get the opportunity to get our brilliant thoughts out in the open.

We rule when it comes to research. We learn best by researching topics on our own and, as such, prefer the computer over dialog. Extraverts learn best by throwing around ideas among their colleagues and friends. We find staff meetings unproductive unless there’s an agenda and some sense of order. Brainstorming is usually a waste of time to us.

We hear you the first time. We’re considered great listeners. But we don’t appreciate being talked at. We’re perceptive so you don’t need to stress your point with 10 minutes of nonstop talking. You don’t like caviar, you say. And you had a bad experience eating it when you were a child. Got it.

We love to write. Writing is our preferred mode of communication, but this doesn’t mean we’re incapable of talking. We just don’t have the capacity to talk from sunrise to sunset. Writing allows us to formulate our thoughts and express them eloquently. There’s no denying, however, that our workplace favors those who talk; so there are times when we put down the pen and let our voice be heard.

We’re just as creative as the next person. Our creative juices flow from solitude, not open spaces where people throw Nerf footballs, eat cookies, and attend wrap sessions until 10:00 pm. If you see us working intently in our offices or cubicles, we’re usually enjoying “moments,” so don’t break our concentration. Nothing personal; we’ll join you at the pool table when our work is completed.

We can stand being alone. We don’t need constant attention from others; rather we enjoy the time to think and reflect on life in general. Some might consider this as standoffish, but those are people who require a great deal of stimuli and don’t understand the beauty of Quiet (watch Susan Cain’s YouTube video). We develop long-lasting friendships with fewer people, as deeper is better than broader. Don’t pity us if you have 20 friends and we have only five. We’re good with that.

My MBTI workshop attendees are not far off the mark when they guess I’m an extravert; I do have the ability to put on the Robin Williams act, or revert to a serious Bill Belichick persona. I put 100% into teaching the finer points of the job search, and as a result my exit from the room is quick and toward the stairway to where I can retreat to my computer.

Talk more; 5 reasons why your job search and performance at work require it

This article contrasts one I wrote on talking too much. What’s the balance many, including I, wonder?

We’ve all been in the presence of people who don’t talk much, if at all. It can be frustrating or downright agonizing, particularly if you’re sharing a car ride with them or at a party or working beside them. As uncomfortable it is for you, the consequences for the dead-silence types can be devastating to their job search and occupation.

I’ll be the first to admit that making small talk is not my forté, but I do all right when the moment calls for it. I’m better at asking questions to draw out information from anyone without sounding like a CIA interrogator.

I often wonder about the times I talk too little, why a failure to communicate comes over me. The reason for this, I believe, is lack of confidence and a touch of insecurity. I’m an articulate person. I might commit a misnomer here and there or forget what I was going to say, but for the most part I can communicate my thoughts and ideas.

I wrote about the opposite end of the spectrum, people who talk too much—a documented disability in some cases—and the effect it has on their job search and ability to function at work. I also believe that people who fail to talk at crucial moments hurt their chances in their job search and at work. Below are five areas where people must talk.

Networking—In your job search, networking in social settings, at networking events, and professional meetings; demonstrating your verbal communication skills is essential to success. People need to know what you want to do, what skills you possess, and the accomplishments you have under your belt.

Networking is a daily activity that permeates every aspect of our life. We network for the best mechanics, baby-sitters, great restaurants, and more. Networking to find a job obviously serves a different purpose than finding a trustworthy mechanic, but in all cases you have a goal which can only be accomplished through effective communications.

Telephone Interviews—First rule: don’t assume the telephone interview is only a screening, where you’ll only have to answer questions about your technical skills and salary expectations. They’ve become increasingly similar to face-to-face interviews. My jobseekers have been through multiple phone interviews—behavioral-based included—before a final face-to-face.

When you leave your contact information on voice mail, also include your personal commercial as something that will set you apart. You’re interested in the position and feel you’re the right person for the job because 1) you have the necessary experience, 2) meet all the requirements, 3) have job-related skills, and 4) the big one…you have quantified accomplishments that prove what you can do for the employer. Don’t be surprised if the hiring manager answers the phone; it happens, so be ready to talk.

Interviews—If you don’t talk, they won’t hear you. This is where your confidence must be abundantly clear. If you want to pretend you’re on stage, fine. This is your greatest performance. Preparation is the key. You know that you have to understand the job and company inside and out; but there is one other thing you have to know by heart…your résumé. Knowing your résumé will help you talk about yourself, particularly if you wrote it yourself.

Some of my jobseekers admit that they like an interview where they don’t have to talk. Letting the interviewer do all the talking is fine with them. It’s a good sign, they tell me. Wrong. Letting the interviewer talk non-stop prevents you from getting your key points into the conversation. How will they know you, if you don’t talk?

Meetings—You’ve secured a job. Your willingness to talk is just as important as when you were looking for a job. Employers like those who appear confident and who can engage. Have you ever been to a meeting where a group of people—not necessarily introverts, but more likely—never talk. Afterward they’ll approach a colleague and express their feelings about the topics covered, but not during the meeting. Why, I ask you?

Don’t rely on meeting leaders to ask for your opinion if you’re remaining silent. I’m sure you have great ideas, so why not express them. One person in my MBTI workshop said that all the extraverts talk over everyone. First of all, I don’t see that as a common practice. Second, fight back. That’s it, raise your voice to show you’re not timid; you can talk and have great ideas. The meeting leader will appreciate this.

Promotions, Special Requests—Nancy Ancowitz, Self-Promotion for Introverts, writes, “All too often, introverts get passed over for job offers and promotions while more extroverted colleagues get all the recognition….” I’m not saying that introverts are deficient and require help. But as an introvert, I tend to like writing more than speaking, because I express my ideas clearer on paper.

However, when it is required to use your verbal voice, such as following up on an e-mail about scheduling a special meeting for that company-paid training, you have to be on. You have to be psyched up for the moment; and even if you’re sweating, your stomach aches, you want to jump out of your skin, you still have to use the verbal communication skills that have been latent since you earned the job.

Where’s the balance? Talking too much can be detrimental to your success. We know people who make our minds go numb from their incessant babbling. They make us want to run in the opposite direction. But there are also those who don’t talk, which as you’ve seen can sabotage a job search and performance at work. There is a balance between the overly loquacious and the utterly dead silent. There are extravert types who can listen as well as they talk and introvert types who can talk as well as they listen. You know people like this, so emulate them…for the sake of your career.

5 times when nonstop talking can hurt you in the job search and at work

talking too muchIf that got your attention, good. I don’t know any other way to say it; I hate it when people talk too much. This is a personal issue of mine, a lack of tolerance, perhaps; but incessant talking makes my mind go numb.

Nonstop talking not only drives people like me nuts; it can have a negative effect on your job search and at work. Following are five times when you need to modify your talking.

Networking events: When you’re at a networking event and the person with whom you’re speaking only talks about himself, it goes beyond annoying. It’s downright disrespectful. I recall once talking with a woman at a business networking event; rather she was talking at me non-stop. I eventually wondered if she needed time to breathe. Nope.

Professional meet ups: Another way talking too much can hurt you in the job search is when you’re at a meet up and you don’t allow the facilitator or the attendees to get their points across. This really inhibits the sharing of information and advice, creating a counterproductive environment. You can see the irritation spread around the room like a black cloud. People begin to stir in their chairs, roll their eyes, and sigh. This is a clear sign that it’s time to shut up.

Interviews: Talking too much will definitely hurt you at an interview. One of my workshop attendees told the group that an interviewer told him at the conclusion of the interview that he talked too much. He admitted that he had to work on his problem because it hurt him at other interviews. I felt like giving him a hug for his revelation.

I was the victim of a woman who talked too much when I interviewed her. I think she was nervous. Nonetheless, she lost the position five minutes into the interview when she talked without pausing. She was responding to, “Tell me about yourself.”

In the workplace: People who corner you at work are a major annoyance, particularly when you’re trying to get some work done. Take a cue from someone who’s trying to complete a project at the 11th hour. Notice when their eyes drift to their computer and they repeatedly say, “Ah ha, ah ha…” It’s time to bring your talkative self  somewhere else, like the water cooler.

Company meetings: The talkative types come out of the woodwork at meetings, don’t they? Their need to be heard can extend meetings way beyond their deadline. Managers notice this and resent those who disrupt the agenda, unless they’re the talkative ones. When called on it, the offenders become belligerent; their feelings are hurt. I say, “Too bad.” Uber talkers need to know when their talking is a nuisance and curb their words.

To see if verbal verbosity is a psychological disorder, I Googled, “talking too much disorder” and came across a number of people who have various opinions, as well as those who are struggling with this problem. Some attribute it to attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), bi-polar disorder, and even “communication disorder.”

A particular study caught my attention. Communication Addiction Disorder, Joseph B. Walther, Dept. of Communication, Cornell University, Presented at the annual meeting of the American Psychological Association, Boston, August, 1999.

In one paragraph he writes, “While extraversion and sociability are characteristics which, when exhibited appropriately, confer attributions of credibility and may be pro-social, personal experience, history, and literature are replete with anecdotal accounts of people who talk a great deal to negative extents. Terms such as “talk too much,” verbose, long-winded, gossipy, dominating, etc., all speak to the notion that auditors devalue others who verbalize beyond normative levels, and that lay interpretations of such behavior result in negative attributions.”

Sadly, loquaciousness may be unavoidable, as the author states: “Additionally, talkaholics reported that they had been unable to curtail their talkativeness activities. “When asked if they had ever tried to talk less, most indicated they had but many added comments such as ‘Yeah, but I can’t do it.’ ‘I can’t stop talking.’ ‘I am driven to talk.’”

I’m not sure after reading this if I was proud to have discovered it, or suffer from “intolerance disorder” (not a real diagnosis). One thing is for real, talking too much has a negative effect on not only me but others as well. So if you are one who can’t stop talking, the road to the job search and beyond may be a long one.

Brainstorming; does it work for introverts?

BrainstormingOn a visit to my brother’s school (he’s a principal), I noticed a whiteboard in his office with various notes on the school’s vision written on it. “Brainstorming session?” I asked. He nodded.

I thought to myself that I wouldn’t want to have been in that room when a group of people were throwing ideas against the wall like spaghetti to see which ones stick. Furthermore, there were probably others who felt the same.

Brainstorming is good, right? Brainstorming is where great ideas come from, right?

Susan Cain, the author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, explains that introverts excel in closed environments as opposed to open ones. A self-professed introvert, she supports the belief that a closed environment brings out creativity in introverts, not open environments like those depicted in the movie about Facebook, Social Network. I agree with this assertion to a point.

The work environment Cain describes precludes open brainstorming sessions where employees hold impromptu brainstorming sessions in an open setting, or arrange spontaneous meetings at a minutes notice. Totally unacceptable for the introverts in the group.

open work environmentAs an introvert I consider brainstorming sessions a waste of time, if there is no semblance of order and structure. I grow weary of meetings that resemble a social gathering, where the majority of the talking is done by the extrarverts. However, a well-run meeting that covers all the topics in a quick manner can be extremely effective.

What has proved to be effective with introverts is paring them up with someone to solve problems, rather than chaotic brainstorming sessions. Even if one works with someone who is not in total agreement. “Working alone is good for creativity – but being paired with someone who thinks differently from you can lead to more creativity yet,” states the article.

Why introverts appreciate closed work environments with offices and cubicle supports a number of beliefs about them, such as they learn and gather more through independent research. They don’t want the distractions of colleagues walking into their work-space uninvited. A closed environment also gives them time to recharge their batteries if they’ve been interacting with groups or speaking in front of an audience.

thinking2Does this mean introverts are anti-social? No, but they’re not like their counterparts who seek out the company of others. Although it’s true some introverts, such as the stereotypical programmers, need almost complete privacy; many introverts can join the fracas and engage in office conversation. But, again, their preference is to be alone when it’s time to get down to work.

Read what Cain says in the article about the importance of solitude for introverts: “Solitude, as Cain says, is a key to creativity….Steve Wozniak claimed he never would have become such an expert if he left the house. Of course, collaboration is good (witness Woz and Steve Jobs), but there is a transcendent power of solitude.”

What does this mean for the job search? Jobseekers can gain a lot from understanding their introversion or extraversion preference. At interviews they should make careful note of the work environment and ask questions pertaining to collaboration (brainstorming). If introverts get the sense that brainstorming plays a significant role in the decision process, it may not be the organization for them. Extraverts, on the other hand, would be happy to know that they’ll be among the social, freewheeling types.