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

IntrovertToday 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 knowing 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 spoken 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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You landed a job. You still need to network on LinkedIn for 6 reasons

linkedinCongratulations, you landed a job. You used LinkedIn to get introduced to the hiring manager at one of your targeted companies. Although no job had been advertised, she agreed to a preliminary discussion after perusing your LinkedIn profile. She was impressed.

At the meeting she indicated that they needed to fill a marketing position that would require your degree of social media experience. She said she’d be in touch. When the company decided to fill the position, you were called for a “formal” interview.

You answered every question they asked to their satisfaction and even demonstrated your understanding of key issues the company had, and how you would solve them. The VP and hiring manager offered you the position on the spot.

LinkedIn played a large role in getting the job. Now you can take a breather from networking on LinkedIn, right? Wrong. Now you need to maintain and even ramp up your activity for six very good reasons.

  1. Don’t abandon your connections. Some of them were instrumental to your job-search success (especially the woman who alerted you to the unadvertised position). Keep your ears to the pavements for those who were also looking while you were. Reciprocate by introducing them to the people who can help them get to the decision makers.
  2. Build on your expertise and strengthen your brand. Continue to  contribute to your groups and join other groups to share your knowledge with industry leaders. You’ve become well-known in LinkedIn circles; you’re respected for your knowledge and are in prime position to further brand yourself as a social media expert.
  3. LinkedIn was part of your routine. You were on LinkedIn on a daily basis, connecting with new people, using the Companies feature to locate and get introduced to decision makers (remember the one who granted you the conversation?) Of course you attended personal networking events, but LinkedIn added to your overall networking in a big way.
  4. LinkedIn became a community. You met some great people who welcomed you to their network, exchanged messages with you, and encouraged you during your job search. Why would you give this up? LinkedIn is a community consisting of professionals with the same goal in mind, sharing information and social capital. You built some outstanding relationships.
  5. Your new company understands the importance of LinkedIn. The VP of marketing wants everyone in your group to be on LinkedIn to connect with potential business partners and customers. He also wants to enhance the image of the company. A company with employees who have great profiles is a company that means business. He’s looking to you to share what you know about using LinkedIn–you’re his expert.
  6. Continue to build your network for a rainy day. You were looking on LinkedIn for a job almost every day for the last three months, attending networking events, and connecting with people on a daily basis. Your online and personal networks are strong and served you well. Now, more than ever, you want to continue to build your networks for future job search activity. How does that saying go? The best time to network is when you’re working.

When you began your profile, struggled with making it strong, increased your activity, and really began to see its benefits; you never thought it would get you this far. You never thought you’d buy into it and be an evangelist of LinkedIn, spreading the word of its great attributes. Even thought you landed, you still need to network on LinkedIn.

7 awesome traits of the introvert

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. 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 Robbin 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 where no one can track me down with questions.

An introvert’s thoughts on talking to strangers and others

I was in my mid 40’s when I discovered I have a preference for introversion. Until then I thought I was an extravert, mainly because I can talk with ease to complete strangers. My ability to converse with strangers–which to me is no big deal– has won me the admiration of my wife.

My talking to random people has the opposite effect on my daughter, though; it embarrasses her. Before I even get a word out, she’ll hiss, “Dad, don’t talk to that guy.” Too late. “Oh my god, that’s so creepy.”

When I talk to strangers I prefer to talk to them on my terms. A good example would be at one of my kids’ soccer games when some parent from the opposing team would sit down next to me, and I would joke, “I hope your team takes it easy on us.” This would generally result in a pleasant conversation that could last the whole game.

Having a propensity to talk to strangers is a good thing, as it helps me in my work as a workshop facilitator. It gives me a comfort level that allows me to stand before large group of people unknown to me and spout words of job search advice. Because conversing with my workshop attendees comes so easy to me, they think I’m lying when I tell them I’m an introvert.

And talking to those I know.

There are definitely times when I don’t feel like talking to anyone, such as after my third workshop of the day. That’s when I’ll quick walk back to my cube so no one can accost me. Even my colleagues will get the cold shoulder as I turn my attention to the computer screen and barely respond to their words.

I must appear to be antisocial to my colleagues. I tend to eat very fast and don’t like to dawdle in the lunch room. I feel like I should tell them that I hate to eat and run, but that would be a lie. What I really hate doing is listening to the drone of conversation when instead I could be writing or preparing for another workshop.

Lest you think I’m a complete recluse, I love getting together with friends to watch some great European soccer. I’m friends with a couple who love soccer more than their kids. It’s great going over to their house when I’m fully rested. It’s not too late and there’s good beer around. We can watch the beauty of soccer unfold and barely have to say a word.

Other times I like to utilize my verbal communication skills are when I’m with my neighbor Joe and we’re talking about nothing in particular and repeating the same jokes we said the week before. I know that when I tire of talking with Joe that I can give some excuse about having to tend to the kids. I think he understands that my attention span wanes.

My penchant for tuning people out is part of being an introvert. I’m not overly proud of it, but I figure my tendency toward solitude gives me more time to think and filter outside noise. I’m not saying I’m a big thinker, because that tends to be as tiring as listening to others drone on and on; I’m just saying that I like to be able to think.

One time long ago while with friends they asked me why I was so quiet. I told them, “He who listen, learns.” In fact, I was simply resting my mind and enjoying listening to them play their stupid video game.

15 ways introverts like to be alone

Since writing this post, I’ve received some other ideas why introverts like to be alone. I will continue to add them in reverse chronological order. Please send me your ideas!

In my Myers-Briggs Type Indicator workshop I’m curious to know what stereotypes my attendees hold for introverts and extraverts. For the introverts some refer to us as loners and even recluses. But for the extraverts their descriptors are words like outgoing and friendly.

Needless to say, introverts get a bum rap from my attendees, while extraverts are the golden child.

I am amused  by how misguided the folks who hold negative stereotypes for introverts are–but I harbor no hard feelings toward them. I agree we introverts enjoy our solitude, but we are not loners by any means.

That said, I’d like to talk about times when we introverts are  comfortable just hanging with ourselves, despite what other concerned people (most likely extraverts) might think. These times may be everyday occurrences that are perfectly fine for introverts, and actually welcomed by them.

  1. Singing alone. Speaking for my lovely and talented daughter, singing alone is something introverts truly enjoy. She sings anywhere at any time, and I love just listening to her…even if she’s a little off tune.
  2. Attending sporting events alone. I played sports as a youth and young adult, so I enjoy attending the occasional sporting event alone. In our small city we have a minor league baseball team. I would much rather be alone to watch them play as opposed to listen to commentary from an extravert, who ruins the beauty of the game. Darn, I missed the double play.
  3. Gardening alone. Someone mentioned gardening alone, which sounds like an excellent idea. Gardening is enjoyable for some introverts, as it allows them to reflect and see the beauty of their work. However, as a youth my father gave me a garden to weed, a garden I promptly killed.
  4. Traveling alone. My wife has a friend who travels to great countries alone. She’s been to Tibet, Mexico, Japan, and others I can’t remember. Introverts enjoy traveling alone because it allows them to do it their way–they decide what and when to visit it. Furthermore, they’re not being hounded by an extravert who wants to travel 100 miles an hour.
  5. Shopping alone. Have you ever noticed women who casually walk among the clothing with sign of calmness on their face? Most likely they’re introverts who are enjoying the solitude. Beside them are the extraverts who are making their shopping trip an event, gabbing away and being perhaps a little loud. Both parties are happy, but just in a different way.
  6. Drinking coffee alone. To me, there’s nothing as soothing as camping out at Starbucks or other coffee shops, where other introverts understand the meaning of solitude. We can sit for hours on end tending to our business, while the extraverts gab away.
  7. Driving alone. This gives us time to think about the day ahead or contemplate what occurred during the course of work. Sometimes it will be awhile until I remember to turn on the radio.
  8. Fishing alone. We are perfectly fine fishing alone for hours on end. My brother, an introvert, once went out to fish alone and when 4 hours had passed, we got frantic and thought about going out to look for him. He was fine, though starving and out of beer.
  9. Being alone at a party. The moment to sneak away to the terrace, an empty room, or the bar is golden to the introvert. This gives us time to recharge our batteries, whereas the extraverts’ batteries are essentially on a battery charger during the party.
  10. Eating alone. We introverts are fine with dining alone. Extraverts might see this as being anti-social; but my suspicion is that they see dining with others as a time to talk, which seems counterproductive to me, as it gets in the way of my goal of eating. Sorry Keith Ferrazzi, Never Eat Alone is a great way to network; but when not networking, I prefer wolfing down my food.
  11. Watching movies alone. Introverts are also known to enjoy being alone attending the occasional movie or watching a Netflix video, which makes watching a Jason Bourne movie ideal for me, as no one in my family like this series.
  12. Reading a book alone is my idea of relaxation and stimulation. It settles me for the day; and I assume other introverts appreciate the time to escape the constant talk or “noise” coming from the television and radio and teenage voices–all at the same time if you’re in my house.
  13. Walking alone is not so bad, as it gives us time to think about what the day ahead will bring us. Reflecting is one of our greatest pleasures and gifts.
  14. Working alone. We’re at our most creative and productive when we’re left to work alone. Creativity, according to Susan Cain in her TED video, The Power of Introverts, occurs in solitude, not around hoards of people in open work spaces. We don’t need to constantly be around hoards of people to bounce ideas off; we’ll ask for a second opinion.
  15. Time to write in silence. Writing is our preferred mode of communication, so we like to be alone to write our thoughts. I personally like the time between 5:30 am and 7:00 am when the family still sleeps soundly, as it allows me to concentrate on what I’m trying to “say.”

This may lead some of you to think that introverts are shy recluses who want to avoid human contact. Not the case at all. Like extraverts we have gifts of communication, but they’re different and special in their own way. Extraverts should be cognizant of our need for solitude, just as introverts should be aware of extraverts’ need for being with people on a more regular basis.

6 reasons why introverts prefer to write

writing

Lately I’ve been receiving voice-mails from one of my customers asking me to call him back to answer his questions. Not to ignore him, I have primarily responded to his calls with e-mails. This is preferable to getting caught in lengthy phone conversations during a busy time of the day.

Trying to make the best use of my time at work makes me think of six reasons why introverts–I’m included among them, in case you’re wondering–sometimes prefer to write rather than converse over the phone or in person.

  1. Conversations can have no limit. Have you been involved in one-sided conversations, where you’re the one doing most of the listening? Although introverts are said to be good listeners, being treated as a sounding board is not their idea of fun. When communication is conducted with the buffer of e-mail, it is two-way and the introvert feels engaged in the conversation.
  2. Self-promotion is easier in writing. Some people call self-promotion bragging because it means speaking highly of themselves, but I tell them it’s not bragging if 1) it’s true and 2) you’re asked about your accomplishments. Nonetheless, self-promotion can be uncomfortable for introverts, particularly if they have to deliver it verbally. When I want to make my manager aware of an accomplishment, I shoot her an e-mail.
  3. Writing is less exhausting. An introvert feels like he’s on stage when he has to talk at extended lengths of time. An extravert doesn’t want to leave the stage. The act of speaking is not problematic for the introvert, it’s sustaining the conversations over a long period of time that drains their batteries. Writing gives introverts a welcome break from hours of speaking.
  4. Writing gives introverts time to think. Introverts prefer to think before speaking, while extraverts sometimes speak before thinking. We don’t blame the chatty extraverts–it’s their nature. But an introvert doesn’t want to be misunderstood and writing prevents this. One strength I admire about the extravert is her propensity for small talk, because I struggle with it. But when it comes to writing, I can write my thoughts in my own sweet time.
  5. Writing is required to conduct a successful job search and succeed in business. That’s only part of it, though. Great verbal communication skills are necessary in networking, telephone communications, and of course the interview. But when it comes to writing a résumé , cover letter, LinkedIn profile, and other correspondences, an introvert is at his best. At work the introvert feels most creative when he writes. He’d rather have time to reflect; leave the brainstorming to the extravert.
  6. Writing is fun. I know I don’t speak for all introverts, but some consider writing as a release of creativity and a way to express their thoughts to a larger audience. Because you blog, write novels or poems, or simply keep a diary; does that mean you’re an introvert? Of course not. There are plenty of extraverts who love to write. I just happen to be one who enjoys writing every day. Call me nuts.

I remember a time in college when a schoolmate asked me what I thought was more important, verbal or written communications. I immediately said “written communications,” and he argued for verbal communications. His argument was sound and he spoke compassionately about being able to address audiences real-time. As I was leaving the room, he seemed to be talking unaware of my absence.

6 reasons why brevity is important in your job search and at work

brevityI began reading what started as a great blog post. The topic interested me, the writing was humorous and demonstrated expertise. I was settling in for a good read, but there was one major problem; this post was too long.*

When the scrolling bar was only a third way down the page, I was wondering when this darn thing was going to end. So I scrolled down only to find out that, yes, my suspicion was correct, I was reading a novel on the topic of the résumé. I couldn’t finish reading this promising post.

My purpose today is not to write about the length a blog post. No, I’m writing about the importance of brevity in six areas of your job search and at work.

Brevity in your written communications

1. The debate over the one- or two-page résumé has some merit. My answer to this one has always been, it depends. If you can write a one-page résumé that covers all your relevant accomplishments, do it. Otherwise your two-page résumé has to be compelling enough for the reviewer to read. Often we’re in love with our own words, but this doesn’t mean others will, especially if what you write is superfluous.

2. Jack Dorsey, the creator of Twitter, had something going when he launched a social media application that allows users to tweet only 140 characters, including spaces. At first I was frustrated with the limitation—and I still think it’s too short—but I’ve since come to see the brilliance of this model. Whether the twesume comes to fruition is another matter.

3. Thankfully LinkedIn puts limits on characters for its profile sections. For example, you’re only allowed 2,000 characters for the Summary, 1,988 for each section in Employment, 120 for your title. This has caused me to think more carefully about what I write on my profile. These limits have also kept the length of prose under control for those who, like me, tend to be verbose.

Brevity in your verbal communications

4. The interview is not a time when you want to ramble on about irrelevant details. Answer the questions as concisely as possible, while providing compelling information. If the interviewer needs to know more, he’ll ask for clarification or deliver a follow-up question. Many people have lost the job because they talked too much.

5. The same follows with your networking endeavors. People generally like to be listened to, not talked at. Allow your networking partner to explain her situation and needs, and try to come up with solutions. She’ll want to hear about you, if she’s a valued networking companion.

6. At work you must practice brevity whenever possible. It’s a known generalization that extraverts tend to talk more than introverts. Try to be an ambivert–a mixture of the two dichotomies. Keep this in mind when you’re speaking with your manager, as she is extremely busy. So state your business as clearly as possible and listen carefully to her suggestions.

I’m brought back to the blog post I couldn’t finish which I’m sure is very good, based on the number of comments. It’s a shame I’ll never find out, and I wonder if those who provided comments actually read the whole post.

*Many believe the appropriate length is 500 words maximum. I’ve failed this rule by 41 words.

 

The introvert extra and extravert ham

One thing I hate about a party is a loudmouth who demands the attention of the whole room. That’s why when my wife said we were invited to a good friend’s party last week, my jaw clenched and I told her I’m not staying past 10:00 pm, and oh yeah, we’re traveling in two cars.

I really dig our friends and the majority of cast of characters who comprise the group, but there’s one woman who exhibits one trait of an extravert–the propensity to speak. Except, in her case she dominates a group with her incessant talking.

On the flip side is a male member of the group who is as quiet as a mouse, but when the time is right, he’ll tell a story that will make you laugh until it hurts. Like the story about going camping with a bunch of his buddies. How they had one match between them to light a fire and how they relied on their  Boy Scout experience to light that fire.

Other than a story like this, he rarely says much, preferring to stand among the men in the group and stare into the glow of the fire. I attempt to prompt him with talk of sports and our children, but there’s little in return.

After my friend and the rest of the fathers have it with warming our hands by the fire that night it’s time to go inside where the wives and children are gathered around the woman who is talking about nothing in particular and, it seems to me, literally sucking the air out of the room.

A reader commented on one of my blog posts saying that an extravert who exerts herself excessively can be a ham, whereas an introvert who stays in the background too much runs the risk of being an extra. I see the woman of whom I speak the ham and the man who delivers the hilarious story, albeit infrequently, the extra. I also ponder the question of how introverts and extraverts can better communicate with each other.

  1. First, each type needs to be cognizant of the need for the other to be heard.
  2. Second, active listening must be involved, not merely the appearance of listening.
  3. Lastly, each type must be willing to contribute to the conversation. As I think about the times my male companion and I stand by the fire in silence, I wonder if both of us are doing our part in building a conversation.

My good friend and champion of introverts, Pat Weber, adds about the need for extraverts to be considerate of introverts, “Often times as introverts we aren’t going to share much personal information in a conversation. Extroverts who are aware of this will fare better by giving us some space, with silence, to let us have a moment or so to think! Silent space is one of the most appreciated gifts of better communications with us. Then we can keep our end of things up.”

Introverts have an obligation to contribute to the conversation and not be content with listening to a one-way dialog. Although it may require more energy and adaptability, the introvert doesn’t have to sustain the effort forever. A lack of effort indicates to others aloofness and disinterest–it’s insulting. When all the words are distinguished like the fire in London’s short story, it’s perfectly fine to leave the party…in the second car.

Don’t Let a Colleague Get You Down

Red Sox fans will recall a talented baseball player called Manny Ramirez who could hit the cover off the ball and win the big games. They’ll also recall how Manny pulled antics that drove us nuts and almost got him traded. The phrase “Manny being Manny” lost its allure after awhile and even his teammates grew fed up with his jogging to first base instead of running out a ground ball.

I saw Manny as a detriment to my beloved Red Sox—not worth the hits he produced and home runs that seemed to come at the right time. He was bad for the team’s morale, in my mind. How could he not be? I honestly wouldn’t want to play with him no matter how outstanding he was. Although only a few of his teammates spoke poorly about him, I’ll bet many others thought he was bad for company morale.

At a previous company I worked with someone who was bad for company morale. I’ll call him Ted (not to be confused with the great Ted Williams). When I met Ted, I tried befriending him, despite his crude behavior and total indifference for the job. I joked with him at lunch and listen to his incessant stories about things unrelated to work. “No wait, Bob, there’s a point to my story,” he would say as I was backpedaling.

At first he seemed like a pleasant man, despite his overtly loquaciousness, but I soon came to see him for who he really was, a saboteur. (In all fairness, I don’t know if he realized what he was doing to me and others.)

At times I would come to him during lunch to discuss an issue of a customer he and I shared in common. In response he would tell me that he never talked business at lunch. I’d have to wait before we could talk about our customer. “No seriously, Ted,” I told him. “I want to run something by you.”

“No seriously, Bob,” he would say, concentrating on his sandwich, “I’m eating. I don’t talk business during lunch.” At first I thought he was joking; I only needed a few seconds of his precious time.

Ted was also a clock watcher; he was someone who came in a minute before work started and left a minute before work ended. None of this went unnoticed by the entire staff; they would merely shake their heads in resignation. But he didn’t care. It was as if he were mocking those of us who were trying to work hard. He more than once asked me why I was still at work half an hour after the “official” quitting time, and acted as if I were breaking a rule.

One time I saw one of Ted’s customers sitting in his office alone, hands between his knees and looking around anxiously waiting. I asked the customer where Ted was. He said Ted was smoking a cigarette and had told him to wait five minutes. The customer shook his head, as if he knew Ted had given up on the job. This customer was perceptive.

Ted’s attendance at company meetings epitomized the total disregard he had for work. He would come in late, often moaning and rolling his eyes, and frequently leave to visit the restroom. I considered that he was ill because he looked and sounded like a 100-year-old man; but it so happened that meetings were the only time he arrived late and left often. He just didn’t like meetings, I guess.

The advice we always give people when they’re in the presence of someone like Ted is to disengage and avoid contact. Rather, surround yourself with positive colleagues who inspire you and want to work in a cooperative environment.

This is precisely what I did after months of trying to be a supportive colleague to Ted. I felt more alive and less stressed when I avoided this guy. When I saw him in the hallways, I would duck into another room, or I would simply ignore him. Or if I needed information, I would try to seek it from someone other than him.

As Ted would count down the days till retirement, I would secretly count them as well. When 65 days were left, they couldn’t come too soon. “How many days left, Ted?” I asked in an expectant tone.

“Sixty,” he said. “I can’t wait.”

I couldn’t wait either. I was five days off and floating on air.

The sad thing about finally seeing Ted go was that he was a humorous man. He often provided me with wisdom and worldly advice. He loved to talk about fishing while floating on a lake in his canoe. One of his missions in life was to study all religions and become an expert on them. I don’t doubt he can do it. Ted coached youth lacrosse and talked about his laidback coaching style, smiling as he spoke of his players. There were many endearing qualities to Ted. But they were overshadowed by his total distain for work.

Something had gone wrong, something in his past life he was reluctant to discuss with me. I think we have an easier time accepting poor behavior when we know the reasons for it. So maybe I would have had an easier time accepting Ted for who he was if I knew what was wrong. Others accepted him, but they also kept their distance. They, like me, knew what kind of bad affect he had on those around him. No one hears from Ted because he wants it that way.

I’m not sad that Ted is gone, even as I remember the things I liked about him. I just hope he finds peace where he goes. I also hope that people who inexplicably hate work know when it’s time to jump ship and seek a more amiable work environment.

4 reasons to say no to a job offer

no thanksOriginally posted on Tim’s Strategy.

I don’t recommend that my customers say no to a job offer unless there’s a good reason. That’s why when one of my most promising customers told me she was reluctant to accept a job offer at a leading hotel corporation, I advised her to consider the circumstances.

First of all, she would be assuming a great deal of responsibilities. And second she’d be making 70% of what she previously made. Both of these factoids seemed the equivalent of doing hard labor in a rock quarry and being paid minimum wage.

I only needed to point out the disparity of salaries for her to decline the offer, even though she had negotiated a $4,000 increase. (Actually she’s smart enough to realize this.)

There are times when you should decline an offer. My customer’s story is just one of them. A ridiculous salary offer isn’t the only reason for declining an offer. There are three others.

Motivation. When pundits say you’re not the only person interviewing you, they’re correct. The responsibilities of said position have to motivate you to be your best. Motivation is a key factor in being a high achiever, and you don’t want to settle for less than being your best.

One of my best connections and an expert on motivation-based interviewing, Carol Quinn, states that motivation-based interviews is one of the best ways for interviewers to determine the potential of a candidate. So it figures that not only should the employer be concerned about your motivation; you would want to be motivated as well. Will the position challenge you to do your best and offer variety, or will it be a dead-end street?

Bad work environment. Another reason for not accepting an offer is sensing a volatile work environment. A former colleague of mine would often confide in me that where she was working was a toxic work environment. Management was distrustful of its employees and would often be abusive.

During an interview you should ask questions that would uncover the company’s environment. A simple one is, “Why did the former marketing specialist leave?” Or, “What makes your employees happy working here?” What about, “How do you reward your employees for creativity and innovation?”

Sincere answers to these questions will assure you that you are entering an environment with your eyes wide open, good or bad. Vague responses should raise a red flag. The best way to determine what kind of environment you may inherit is to network with people who work at a potential organization.

Security. A third reason for not accepting an offer is the financial status of the company. If you discover through discussions that the company is at risk of closing its doors soon, it’s not wise to accept the offer, even if you “just want a job.” This also goes for grant-funded positions. A position that will end in less than a year should make you consider if you want to join the organization only to be let go before you even get your feet wet.

Lack of goals. Some of my customers have told me that they’ve been taking temp-to-perm positions that have spanned over many years; and that they’re tired of the short-term stints. Additionally, their résumé resembles one that shouts, “Job hopper.”  Your current unemployment can be a time to strategize about where you want your career to go, a time to experience clarity, not throwing darts at a wall of short-term jobs.

While I wanted my customer to land a job in a short period of job seeking, I would have kicked myself for telling her that a bird in hand is better than nothing. I have tremendous faith in her abilities and tenacity. She will be land soon. That I’m sure of.

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