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.

Is the résumé summary statement on its way out?

I’ve read many résumés that contain summary statements (or Personal/Professional Profile) which, in effect, say nothing at all. I’ve spoken to recruiters and hiring managers who told me they don’t even read the summary statement.

Is the summary statement on its way out or even dead? Is it wasted real estate? Have we become a society so hurried that we don’t have time to read a section of the résumé that tells our story, expresses our value, leads to the meat of  our experience, encourages reviewers to continue reading?

I fear we are reaching the point where the summary statement is gradually losing the foothold it once held. And as a result, I fear what used to be a poetically written four or five lines of prose is becoming obsolete and will soon be excluded from the résumé, simply because people who read résumé don’t have the time. I hope I’m wrong.

We can agree that summary statements should:

  • Brand us
  • Contain no fluff or clichés
  • Include keywords for a particular job or industry
  • Make assertions that are proven in the employment section
  • Grab employers’ attention with implied or actual accomplishments (WOW statements)

Now it seems to appear that none of that matters. Or if it does, a candidate’s value must be stated in a one-line concise, yet comprehensive manner. It’s like skipping the salad and jumping to the entree. Consider this summary statement and its revised version:

Information systems department manager specializing in project planning programming, techniques, and achieving business objectives. Successfully budget hundreds of thousands of dollars in software. PMP with experience in, requirements definition, prioritization, and resource allocation. Lead efforts that generate sales exceeding $3M in competitive pharmaceutical  markets.

Information Systems Manager–project planning, achieving business objectives

PMP–requirements definition, prioritiziement, resource allocation

Budget approximately $200K plus in software

Generate Sales in Millions

Does this revision say enough? It resembles a branding headline on a résumé or LinkedIn profile, no? When I asked professional résumé writers and recruiters, “Is the résumé summary dead?” here’s what a few of them  wrote:

“…the summary statement is dead (or not) depending on how it’s written and the audience. It’s dead if it’s irrelevant on a particular candidate’s résumé because the recruiters / HR professionals don’t want to see it; it’s alive and well if the reader–ATS or human–is searching for a quick synopsis of the candidates qualifications.” Marti Benjamin, Business and Career Coach.

 “I have my candidate compose what I like to call a Career Highlights section. Just a bullet pointed section of some actual career accomplishments. It catches the potential employer’s attention immediately. I feel objectives/summaries are just antiquated in a job market that is currently flooded with candidates.” Adrienne Roberts, Robert Half International.

“Are they on their way out? No….they have already left. Most hiring professionals will tell you that the summary, at least in the US, is an ignored piece of fluff, better left off to leave room for the information they need/want to know.” Sarah Douglas, G.C.D.F

“I feel that summary statements are still an essential component of a résumé, however I am looking for qualifications and hard data, not fluff about perceived skills. If you can quickly read the relevant experience, results achieved, number of direct reports and so on, then the soft skills can be explored further in the interview.” Judy Hojel, Leadership and Development Specialist.

“No, a well written Summary Statement is a must on any  résumé. It brings together the many detail lines of achievements and education to focus the employer on exactly how your candidacy fits the job position. It gives one a big picture view, with the detail to follow on the multiple pages.” Jay Barrett, Human Resources Executive.

As you can see, opinions vary on whether the summary statement is on its way out. I, for one, hope it remains as part of the résumé in a shorter version than the ones I’m seeing on jobseekers’ résumés. Similar to the revised one of the Information Systems Manager? No, but something concise, yet attention grabbing.

How to make your mark on LinkedIn by providing great content

shareSo you’re looking for great content to share with your LinkedIn connections and Twitter followers because sharing content is what good networkers do, right? Sharing content that is pertinent to your community educates them, inspires them, makes them think. True. However, some people misunderstand the purpose of sharing articles on LinkedIn or other platforms. They think the more they share, regardless of content, the better. Not true.

A Forbes article, Become A Leader On LinkedIn: 4 Steps To A More Active Profile, shared by one of my LinkedIn connections inspired me to write this post. Hank Boyer is one of those people who shares information worth reading. The Forbes article is one of the many articles he’s distributed to his LinkedIn connections and the groups he’s in.

The article advises first to publish your own content on LinkedIn. Which seems like a no-brainer if you want to be known as the authority in your industry, a leader on LinkedIn. But let’s face it; not everyone has the time, writes well enough, nor has the inclination to write on a regular basis. Some people, one of my customers attests, simply like to read what others write. My feelings on this are explained in this post.

If you’re not a writer, share the writing of others.

Share an updateIf you’re going to share the content of others, you must be an active reader. Read and understand what the author is saying, then share it on LinkedIn and Twitter–if you’re on Twitter–and write a word or two about said article in the “Share an Update” box. I feel comfortable sharing a post only if I’ve read it and have an intelligent comment to add.

In my LinkedIn workshop when I’m teaching the participants how to post an update, I show them how to share an article with their connections. I make it clear that they must write at least a brief comment, but to do this they have to read the entire article. In order to demonstrate this I have read the article prior to the workshop begins so I can write something intelligent about it during my demonstration.

The Forbes article also suggest becoming a groupie. Find someone who shares content you find extremely valuable and then follow that person. There are a number of my connections who share valuable content of interest to me and my connections. Some share content of other writers in the groups we’re in, while others share content to the public on LinkedIn.

These are my connections who I trust enough that whatever they post on LinkedIn, I’ll open an article and read it in its entirety. That’s how much I trust these folks. I’ve already pointed out Hank Boyer, but others who come to mind are Sabrina Woods, Hanna Morgan, Rich Grant, Greg Johnson, Pat Weber. The list goes on. These people are prolific readers and they also write great stuff.

Make sure what you share will add value. I say this with seriousness. Nothing can hurt your leadership status than posting articles that are poorly written, off target, in some why insulting to your readers, or are used as a platform for venting. Some LinkedIn members read the titles of articles and simply hit “Share.” I understand people want to appear as leaders, but this is irresponsible. They can’t possibly know if the article is valuable if they haven’t read it.

Reciprocate. I’ll add this advice, as it’s important to develop relationships with fellow writers. Reciprocate by sharing articles of writers who have shared your articles, but only if they’re worthy of reciprocation. When you share an article that is poorly written just for the sake of reciprocity, you are soiling your reputation as a leader on LinkedIn.

When my workshop attendees ask me what they update status they can share, my first response is sharing an article. I’m sure to tell them that whatever they share will be a reflection on them as a professional. This is an important message for them, as well as all professionals on LinkedIn.

 

Don’t be stumped at the interview; ask questions about 3 major areas

 

stumpedHow often have you come to the end of an interview and drawn a blank when it was your time to ask the questions? The interview has proceeded like a pleasant conversation in which you’ve asked questions throughout, but now you’re stumped.

You’ve asked all the questions you can think of.

Hopefully this hasn’t happened too often or not at all. But even the most qualified candidates have a moment of letdown and lose the interview because they were unprepared.

It’s extremely important that you have insightful questions to ask at the end of an interview. It shows your interest in the job and the company, and it shows that you’re prepared, all of which the employer likes to know.

Arrive prepared for the interview. Before the interview write 10-15 questions on a sheet of paper or note cards. If you think you can remember them, simply tuck them in your leather binder for safekeeping. However, you may need assistance when your nerves are rattled and you’ve reached the point of exhaustion, in which case you can ask if you can refer to your written questions. Interviewers will generally allow you to read your answers off your sheet or note cards.

So what types of questions do you want to ask? What is the employer hoping to hear? Not “How much time do I get for lunch?” nor “What are the work hours?” nor “What’s the salary for this position?” In other words, no stupid question that will reflect poorly on you.

I tell my customers to focus on three general areas: the position, the company, and the competition.

1. The position. Don’t ask questions you could find by reading the job description; rather ask questions that demonstrate your advanced knowledge. For example, the ad says you’ll be required to manage a supervisor and 10 employees. You realize that a start-up company might not have the resources to train its supervisors in Lean Six Sigma, and you want to highlight your certificate as a Black Belt.

“I’d be curious to know if the current supervisor is certified in Lean Six Sigma, and if not would your company consider having me give him a basic course in LSS?” The answer is yes to your question, so you follow with another question that could lead to further conversation. “Would you like to talk further about how I can save your company money by training your supervisor?”

This question shows a legitimate concern for quality performance but also demonstrates your willingness to improve the supervisor’s knowledge, your ability to solve problems, and your desire to save the company money. Always ask questions that indicate you’re concerned most with what the company needs, not what you need.

2. The company. Like the questions you’ll ask about the position, research is essential for this area of questioning. Your research should entail more than visiting the company’s website and reading its marketing material—everything written will extol its superior products or services. In addition, talk to people in the company who can give you the good, bad, and ugly of the company.

“I’ve read on your website and spoken with some of the people here who verify that your customer satisfaction rate is very high. Could you tell me if there are issues your customers have that need to be addressed immediately?”

The interviewers are happy to hear that you’re thinking about satisfying customers and indicate there have been some complaints about late shipments.

“In that case, I can assure you that late shipments will dramatically decrease. We may have failed to talk about the role I had at my previous company which had me oversee shiping and create a system that decreased late shipments by 35%, thereby saving the company thousands of dollars in returns. Would you like to talk about how I can help your company improve shipping processes?”

3. The competition. The company has one company that is giving it headaches. It’s a sore topic, but you want to make the interviewers aware that you are coming in with your eyes wide open. Your research has told you that the other company is competing for some market share in the widget product.

“I’m aware of company XYZ’s movement in its widget. What are your concerns, if any, Company XYZ poses in this market? I have ideas of how to market your similar product to your customers. Would you like to hear them?”

After a great conversation, where you’ve answered the interviewers’ questions and asked some of your own,  it’s your turn to ask more questions. Don’t go to the interview unprepared to ask the interviewers illuminating questions of your own. Failing to ask quality questions can mean he difference between getting or not getting the job.

A night of solitude; bliss for an introvert

solitudeOne of my valued connections, Pat Weber, wrote a great article on how to be your true introverted self. It got me thinking about how I was true to myself last week. Friends were throwing a get together and when my wife said she told them we’d be there, I told her, “not me.”

The news of the get together came after a long week of work and a day of soccer and yard work. My wife and I argued a bit about how lame it would appear if only she and the kids went, but in the end she threw up her hands in frustration. It’s not that I dislike our friends; quite the opposite, I enjoy their company…in appropriate doses.

This is what Pat means in her article: introverts are in their stride when they don’t force themselves (or others) to be more extraverted. When they do what comes natural. She gives spending time with her pets, reading, and spending time with a few friends as activities more to introverts’ liking.

I decided that night that what I wanted to do was stay home to be alone. If one of the kids wanted to stay home that would be fine. But if my wife and they wanted to go to the get together, that was fine as well. None of them wanted to stay home with me, so I was on my own…and in total bliss.

You may wonder what I did that night. First I ordered a pizza, which I ate in our living room, without guilt. Then I searched On Demand for a movie I wanted to watch. The one I chose was about a man in search of his sister who was seriously injured in Brazil. He was a Kung Fu super hero who killed many people without being scratched. The movie sucked, but I watched the entire flick.

After the movie I ate my favorite evening snack, cereal. Then I did what makes being alone so enjoyable for me; I read one of my Joe Nesbo novels. A times I wondered what my family and friends were doing, but I was grateful for the solitude.

I imagined what I would be thinking at the get together when 10:00 p.m. rolled around. Probably I would want to leave after having a great time catching up, while my wife would want to stay until 12:00 or longer. I also imagined the resentment I would feel and wishing that we had taken different cars. Further I thought how ridiculous it would look if I left the gathering alone.

There he goes, they would think. What’s wrong? Does he dislike us? Maybe one or more of our introverted friends would think how nice it would be if he could also leave, their time being extraverted expended like mine.

Sophia Dembling, author of The Introvert’s Way: Living a Quiet Life in a Noisy World, writes about how she’s not a huge fan of parties because her energy wanes, just like mine. I enjoyed reading this part of her book, related to it completely.

This is the lot us introverts are dealt when our energy level wanes and it’s time to bolt the scene. We’re perceived as aloof, when in fact we enjoy being with people as much as anyone. Just not for an extended amount of time. Unlike extraverts, who feed on being with people, introverts enjoy the occasional bouts of solitude that allows us to recharge our battery.

When my wife woke up in the morning, I sheepishly asked her what explanation she gave our friends for my absence. She said with a smirk, “I told them you’re an adult.” This gave me a great sense of pleasure, and I vowed I’d make the next get together. I’m already bracing myself for that night.

Newsflash: LinkedIn isn’t right for everyone

anxiousFor a long time I’ve considered it my mission to recruit people to join LinkedIn, like a college recruiter goes after blue chip basketball players. But after having a discussion a few nights ago with someone in my workshop, it finally dawned on me that my persuasive style of exciting people to join LinkedIn might be too strong for some people.

After the workshop, where I spoke about LinkedIn like it’s the solution to finding a job or building business, a very nice woman approached me and said she just wasn’t ready. She cited many reasons for this, including not understanding a word I said (not my fault, she said), not sure if she can master the mechanics of LinkedIn, being more of an oral communicator, etc.

As she spoke nearly in tears, I remembered some of the statements I made, “To build your business or increase your chances of getting a job, you must be on LinkedIn. If you are the one responsible for establishing and nurturing the company’s LinkedIn account, you must recruit others in your company and encourage them to have the best profiles possible.”

Oh my gosh, I thought, as this woman was pouring out her soul to me, I created despair in this poor woman. It occurred to me that a few people like her are not ready to be on LinkedIn, never will be. Because I am active–to a fault–on LinkedIn, doesn’t mean everyone must be active or even a member.

I thought further, if someone told me I had to join Facebook, I’d tell them to take a hike. No time, no interest. So, what makes it right for me to tell people they must be on LinkedIn? What makes it right to cause anxiety in this poor woman and perhaps others who are merely trying to make their way in business or a very competitive labor market?

It would never be right. I can’t tell people they must be on LinkedIn. In fact, in a moment of honesty, I have told my customers in other workshops that, “LinkedIn isn’t for everyone. If you’re not ready for LinkedIn, you will only be frustrated.” Perhaps I need to be more consistent in repeating this to every group I lead.

For those of you reading this post, keep in mind that nothing holds truer than having a poor profile and scant presence on LinkedIn will hurt you in business and the job search. With this in mind, I felt justified in telling this woman that she should join LinkedIn when she’s ready. That she’ll be fine if she continues to network face-to-face. She thanked me profusely, as if I released her from prison, and went on her way.

For those of you who are thinking, Bob, how can you betray us LinkedIn die-hards? I say, “Easy, LinkedIn isn’t right for everyone.”

One example of how a photo effectively brands a person

AntonOne of my LinkedIn connections, Anton Brookes, sports a photo on his profile that prompts me to say to my LinkedIn workshop attendees, “Now this is a kick ass photo.” They give pause and nod in approval. Previously I told my folks that there are acceptable photos for a LinkedIn profile and there are others that are not.

Acceptable photos, I’d tell them, are ones that are highly professional or business casual; after all, LinkedIn is “the world’s largest professional network.” Unacceptable photos are everything else.

Anton’s photo is neither highly professional or business casual, but it proves as an excellent example of how the photo can catapult your personal branding.

I’m not the photo Czar–never claimed to be–but I feel strongly about how one should display his/her image on their LinkedIn profile. And I certainly believe that a profile without a photo is like a car without wheels.

Your photo serves to make you memorable and can reveal a lot about your personality. Further, it has been quoted that people trust photos and are seven times more likely to open a profile that has a photo. I agree with this statement, as I rarely open profiles that lack a photo.

The photo in question says a lot about this photographer whose branding headline reads: Owner | Fashion/Lifestyle and Street Photographer at Mock Turtle Moon. It describes what he does, while his photo supports more of the street photographer side of his business.

Homless woman

Anton’s photo speaks volumes about his expertise as a street photographer. It tells us that he’s for real and living his job, comfortable in his setting. It’s gritty and by no means pretty. It transports us to the streets of New York City. But most important, we get the sense that this photographer is knowledgeable of his trade.

A suit and tie or a button-down shirt wouldn’t have the same effect; it wouldn’t brand him nearly as well as the one he sports on his profile. Not by a mile.

I’ve told Anton that his photo helps me point out to my LinkedIn workshop attendees the importance of having a photo that brands a person, and for selfish reasons I hope he doesn’t change it. But if he decides he needs to portray himself as some one else, I’m sure he’d know how to do that.


If you’d like to see a short documentary on Anton Brookes filmed by Aljazeera America, click this link.

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