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.

To share is golden: 8 reasons to share others’ posts

Share buttonRaise your hand if you share your blog posts and other bloggers’ post on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook, and other platforms.

Now raise you hand if you only share your posts.

Those of you who share others’ post understand the value of sharing.

  1. It creates reciprocity. I, for one, am more likely to share what others write if they share my posts. It’s just plain right. Blogging pundits say that your posts will be shared more often if you reciprocate.
  2. It demonstrates great personality skills. Sharing posts of other bloggers shows you as someone who thinks of others, not only of yourself, thus portraying you as a team player. You read others’ articles, see value in them, and share them with your audience; demonstrating your awareness and desire to educate your audience (your team).
  3. You are secure in your established expertise. I understand the desire to establish oneself as a thought leader in the industry. But this can also be accomplished by sharing posts of others. Some of my valued connections, who are experts in their field, aren’t afraid that sharing the writing of others will affect their reputation.
  4. You know sharing won’t hurt your brand. “If I promote others’ material, readers will get confused by my message,” you think. Hog wash. If you are so insecure that you feel your message isn’t strong, your voice isn’t poignant, your style isn’t unique; maybe you shouldn’t be sharing your posts on LinkedIn and other platforms.
  5. You don’t come across as narcissistic. Ouch. I know this one hurts. At times I believe I’m guilty of this, so I try to be the best curator of information as possible. But if you only share your posts, you come across as “all that.” The true blogger will acknowledge the efforts of others, not act as though he’s standing in front of the mirror primping himself.
  6. You become known as a curator of great information. LinkedIn is known as the most professional networking platform online. One reasons why LinkedIn has this reputation is because its members provide information capital. I know, for example, that I can find a plethora of articles on the job search, LinkedIn, and introversion—my preferred topics—on LinkedIn.
  7. Sharing is a great way to educate yourself. The posts you share are the ones that teach you something. So impressed with them that you want to comment on the lessons you learned. I learn more about the job search or LinkedIn when I read others’ posts; and, as such, I want to educate my connections.
  8. You add value to LinkedIn. Related to number 6, LinkedIn offers its members more value when they can read a well-written, thoughtful post and learn somethings from them. It makes visiting LinkedIn worthwhile. Conversely, if one were to only post his/her articles, the content would be limited and LinkedIn wouldn’t be the valuable platform it is.

Conclusion: I could be better about sharing; I know this. I search for job posts that are relevant to my connections, posts they will appreciate. I fear that my posts outnumber the ones I share from others, but I’m trying to be better. For those of you who don’t share other bloggers post, perhaps you haven’t learned the lessons of sharing.

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

 

Keep it shortThis is a topic worth repeating. I’ve added two more reasons why brevity is important.

I 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 why brevity is important in 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.

4. Don’t you hate long e-mail messages? If you’re nodding in total agreement, you and I are on board with this one. The general rule is that if your e-mail to a supervisor or colleague exceeds two paragraphs, get your butt of your chair and go to his/her cubicle or office. A good rule of thumb is to write your brief message in the Subject Header, e.g., Meet for a marketing meeting at 2pm in the White room on Tuesday, 11/18. The body of the e-mail can contain the topics to be discussed.

Brevity in your verbal communications

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. In your daily life consider how much you’re talking to friends, even strangers. If you see their eyes gloss over, you’re probably talking too much. Past posts of mine will confirm that I’m not a fan of talkative people; that is unless I enjoy their company and the topic of discussion. Read this post from a friend of mine who describes ultimate hell for an introvert.


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 received. 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 216 words.

 

Small talk and 5 other traits introverts must improve upon

breakroomWhen my colleagues are chatting away during lunch, I like to join their conversation which is usually about current affairs, television shows, or other topics extraverts seem to enjoy and master with ease.

I do my best to break into their banter, picking the right opportunity to voice my views. But at times choosing my words seems like work. I’m not unusual in this way–finding making small talk difficult–other introverts have expressed the same frustration.

Being comfortable making small talk is one trait I admire in extraverts. Other extravert traits I admire are:

Ability to promote themselves. Extraverts have the gift of gab, and we all know that verbal communications is more direct and timely than written communications. While I feel comfortable sending an e-mail to my manager about my accomplishments, extraverts would go directly to her office and talk about their accomplishments. This confidence they display I erroneously misconstrue for conceit.

Solution. Before approaching the manager to speak of their accomplishments, introverts should formulate what they’re going to say. It may be helpful to write down some talking points on their accomplishments before approaching the manager. They should also remember to smile.

Ease of networking. Most extraverts will tell you they have no problem entering a room full of people and striking up a conversation. Most introverts will tell you this takes effort and is often uncomfortable, and some introverts will tell you they fear networking, both for professional and job-search purposes. Therefore they don’t network and miss out on valuable opportunities.

Solution. Introverts should not network like extraverts. I tell my jobseekers that introverts can network; they just do it differently. Instead of working the room, they feel more comfortable in smaller groups and engaging in deeper conversation.

Boundless energy. Presenting in front of a group doesn’t scare me. By most accounts I’m quite good at it. However, after conducting three workshops a day, my brain feels like mash potatoes. Extraverts, on the other hand, can talk till the sun goes down. Where extraverts may run into problems is not taking time to ask questions and listen to their attendees. Introverts are said to be better listeners. Still, it’s nice to have the endurance to talk with people for eternity.

Solution. Introverts should take advantage of downtime to recharge their battery. I retreat to my cubicle where I can rest my mind and reflect on the next workshop to come. When colleagues approach me during my down time, I tell them I’m busy with important work…even if I’m not. Introverts must take any opportunity they have to re-charge their batteries so they can be ready to jump back into action.

Conflict management. Well-known psychologist and author, Marti Olsen LaneyPsy.D, The Introvert Advantage: How to Thrive in an Extrovert World, asserts that introverts are not as strong at conflict resolution as extraverts are. She writes that introverts avoid conflict as much as possible, and I see her point.

Solution. In order to be good at conflict management, introverts must choose their battles and formulate their thoughts before jumping into the foray. When an answer to an accusation is called for, introverts should ask for time to think about their response. I feel this way when I’m asked to defend my actions.

Participating at meetings. I tell my MBTI workshop attendees that introverts have wonderful ideas but often let those ideas go unheard because they fail to speak up at meetings. The extraverts dominate the discussion because they feel uncomfortable when there is silence. Silence is not a problem for introverts.

Solutions. Arrive with talking points or write them as you’re listening to the other members of the group. When your ideas warrant being introduced, don’t wait passively for your turn; speak out regardless of etiquette. I feel strongly about being forceful, as evident by the time I jumped in front of one of my extraverted colleagues in order to express my thoughts. He took offense, but he’d already had his 500-word limit.

My admiration for extraverts makes me think about how I can improve on the aforementioned strengths they possess. I’ve witnessed them in my extraverted colleagues and friends; as I’ve also witnessed introverts weaknesses. With some practice, introverts can improve upon their weaknesses, and extraverts can tone it down.

6 reasons why it’s important to keep learning at work; avoid stagnation

It’s important to stay current in your career to prevent stagnation. Stagnation has killed many a promising career. We are naturally inquisitive beings who require mental stimulation.

People who allow stagnation to set in end up hating their job and perhaps making those around them miserable as well. We must avoid stagnation at all costs. here are six reasons why:

  1. The landscape of the labor market is changing rapidly. Employers are paring back on apathetic employees and sticking with those who demonstrate an ability to grow with the company. In other words, they’re cutting out the dead wood. They want hungry, lean, ambitious workers. This is simply the trend of the present and future, and it makes complete sense.
  2. You owe it to yourself to be the best you can be. Forget for a moment that you don’t make as much as you’d like, or that you find it a bit odd to read work-related literature before bedtime. (Guilty as charged.) Keep in mind that when you stop bettering yourself, you essentially stop reaching the goals you strive to obtain.
  3. You’re a role model for your colleagues. The more effectively you work, the more effective your colleagues become; the better the company or organization for which you work becomes. You are concerned with the success of your company. You want your colleagues to feel the same. Success for your colleagues and ultimately the company won’t come unless you are proactive in your quest to become better.
  4. You are judged by your expertise and performance. If not by your boss, you’re judged by the customers who depend on your service or products. When you can’t keep up with the demands of your customers, you have become stagnant. You shrink into the shell of self-defeat. Don’t give up on your goal to be the best in your area.
  5. When people ask you what you do, you’ll want to tell them with enthusiasm; have a glint in your eye and excitement in your voice, when explaining the job that offers you stimulation and challenge. Some interviewers ask the question, “What did you like most about your last job?” When you can’t answer that question, you come across as someone who wasn’t challenged and motivated to perform. And that’s your fault.
  6. The final, and one of the most important,  reasons to avoid stagnation is preparing yourself for future employment. One thing employers are looking for is increased responsibility at your former job. Have you stayed idle, or have you shown the willingness to do more? Think about your future in this precarious economy.

Staying current in your job may not be a priority of your employer. It may require that you read literature on your own, or take a college class on your dime, or reach out to other experts in your field. It may seem implausible at the moment, but if you think about how damaging stagnation can be to your career, you’ll either make the effort…or find a new job.

6 reasons why you still need to network after finding a job by using LinkedIn

linkedinCongratulations, you landed a job. You used LinkedIn to get introduced to the hiring manager at one of your target companies. Although no job had been advertised, she called you in for a preliminary discussion.  This was after perusing your LinkedIn profile.

At the meeting she indicated that they needed to fill a marketing position that would require your level 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 though you landed, you still need to network on LinkedIn.

9 traits that great colleagues display

Jeff Hayden wrote a sincere and insightful article on 9 Traits that Make Great Employees Outstanding for BNet.com. In his article he praises employees who are: a little bit “off, “eager to prove others wrong, ask questions for others; among other outstanding traits. I agree with a lot of what Jeff says about great employees.

In response to Jeff’s article, I thought of what I consider nine traits that make colleagues outstanding. What follows is a bit of tongue-in-cheek thoughts on the idea great colleagues.

  1. Understand the value of time. They don’t bug me too often. Come on, if someone’s trying to get some work done, take a hint. I enjoy a good conversation as much as the next guy, but when my eyes keep drifting to the computer screen, it’s time to leave.
  2. Are direct, to the point. They answers close-ended question like, “Do you have a stapler I can borrow?” with a yes or no response. That’s all I ask for. On the other hand, if I ask them how their weekend was, I don’t expect a dissertation on a visit to the Boston Aquarium and the mating habits of penguins.
  3. Don’t watch the clock. They don’t ask me why I’m staying late if I’ve only been at my desk five minutes after quitting time. I don’t work 14 hours days, but I don’t watch the clock either. So if I’m doing a little extra work, I don’t want to hear it from people who are rushing out the door.
  4. Have fun. They know how to play a practical prank better than Hawkeye Pierce from M*A*S*H or Jim Halpert from The Office. One of the best tricks played on me was when a fellow teacher put a paper clip through the prongs of the plug of my radio, so when I plugged it into an outlet, sparks flew and scared the hell out of me. Priceless.
  5. Are generous. They give me a slice of their pizza without having to be asked. Some people just don’t get it when I tell them I’m hungry. A great colleague can see the hunger on my face and slide a slice across the Formica-top table.
  6. Contribute to a safe work environment. They don’t hit me with the company Nerf football as I’m walking down the hallway. When I was in marketing, Sales thought they were all Joe Montana and I was Jerry Rice. No, I was a MarCom writer and didn’t appreciate getting a football in my ear.
  7. Are reliable. They don’t show up at noon for the first day of a trade show when it begins at 9:00 a.m. I understand they like to hit every bar in Manhattan, but there are consequences for every action, even if their heads hit the pillow at 6:00 a.m.
  8. Are considerate. They don’t hold a Biggest Loser contest when everyone, except me, has 5% body fat. “Come on, Bob, you can lose 40 pounds,” they say. Yeah, all I’d have to do is eat celery every day for 10 years.
  9. Pay attention. They hear me the first 15 times when I tell them how to double-side one-sided documents. I’m generally patient, but when someone asks me to explain a procedure but expects me to actually do it, that ticks me off.

Do you feel the same way about great employees as I do? Do you look for a little fun in the workplace, coupled with productive co-workers who realize when you have an important project due and require concentration? At the end of Jeff’s article, he asks for other traits of outstanding workers. These are some of mine.