Category Archives: Career Management

3 areas of your career when effective communications is essential

communicationOne story I tell in my workshops is about how a former customer of mine improved communications between two warring departments. He told me that these groups were literally at war with each other and just couldn’t play well together.

He further explained that he would call members of the groups together and make them “talk” to each other. “I also made note of their body language and facial expressions. If I noticed hostility, I’d mention it and tell them I could see their hostility. Did I make them kiss and make up? No. But it almost got to that point.

If you haven’t given thought to your communications, you should. You should think about how it affects the aspects of your education, job search, and job. You should also think about the ways you communicate.

In College

Networking2College is the beginning of the rest of your life, as the cliché goes. Therefore, it’s important that you strengthen your verbal and written communication skills. And you don’t have to major in Communications in order to strengthen your communications skills.

Your verbal communications. Take advantage of any opportunities you have to present in front of a group. As scary as it may seem, you will be better prepared for the workforce. Try to ignore your fear and think that this is part of your education.

You’re not only communicating with your mouth; you’re also communicating with your body language, facial expressions, and voice intonation. The more animated you are (within reason) the better your message will come across. Some believe that effective verbal communications is 80% presentation.

Your written communications. When you write expository papers for your classes, put your best effort forth. Be concise, yet informative. The working world prefers ideas presented in writing that are as short as possible.

This includes emails, proposals, marketing literature, whitepapers, etc. I remember a marketing manager saying to me, “Brevity is the key to success.” She was right.

You’ll learn that when you leave college and enter your job search that your success will depend on your marketing campaign. This will include your written and verbal communications. Don’t focus on only one form of communications, though.

In your job search

Commission having a Job interview.Networking will be a valuable activity in your job search and require excellent communication skills. It’s by networking that you will penetrate the Hidden Job Market, which is a topic in itself. Your goal is to be known by people who matter.

Important forms of communications include your ability to articulate your talents and goals. It’s also important to listen to the people with whom you’re networking. Listening is a key component of communications. I’ve been to networking events where I felt like a sounding board. Don’t do that to others.

Once your networking has led you to the decision makers of organizations, it’s time to put your written communication skills to use. Write resumes (plural) that speak to the needs of employers. Create a strong online presence with your LinkedIn profile.

The interview will arrive after you’ve put your efforts into networking and writing strong marketing documents. It’s at the interview that you’ll have to shine with answers to the tough questions. Where you’ll have to come across as confident and affable. Where ultimately you’ll have to demonstrate your communication skills.

At work

BrainstormingFortuneLiveMediaCongratulations, you landed a job. Now is the time when your communication skills will help you in performing well and progress among the ranks. Your colleagues and supervisors will expect you to be articulate and clear when presenting ideas.

Company meetings are a great example of how important it is to present clear ideas. Let’s say you have to report on the social marketing campaign you’re working on. The group of twenty people, including the director of the organization, want to know the specifics of the project.

To your credit you’ve come prepared. You walk to the center of the room (don’t sit) to deliver your PowerPoint presentation. You flick through each slide, talking about how you’ll employ Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to promote the organization.

Your body language demonstrates confidence, the tone of your voice is upbeat, you smile and communicate effectively with your hands. You notice that the director is smiling and nodding while you’re talking.

Bringing it together

Communications constantly ranks high on employers’ lists of essential skills. There’s no secret why. How you’re graded in school relies on how well you present your projects, how well you write your papers.

How you’re perceived during your job search has a great deal to do with your ability to express your value. And don’t forget the importance of listening. You must employ written communication skills to land the interview. And finally, it will be your ability to verbalize your value to employers that will land the job.

But it doesn’t end at the interview. You will demonstrate your communication skills at work in a variety of ways. Throughout your professional life communication skills will play a role in your success.

7 reasons to say no to a job offer

NOI 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.) You must be practical when considering the salary for the position. Can you pay essential bills with the salary? Will you have to cut back too much on “wants?”

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 six others.

You’re not excited. When pundits say you’re not the only person being interviewed, they’re correct. The responsibilities of said position have to motivate you to be your best. They have to excite you.

So it figures that not only should the employer be concerned about your motivation; you should 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.

It goes against your morals and values. Salary.com gives this reason. “The nature of your temporary work shouldn’t make you feel like you’re compromising who you are or your beliefs. Obviously you should avoid anything illegal, but beyond that black and white is a lot of grey.”

Some of my customers have learned this lesson too late. They took a job they were not sure of and had to resign because of lack of integrity. “I should have known the company was wrong when they put off my questions about integrity,” one of them said to me.

Security. A fifth 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.

You lack 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. Or if you’re unemployed, take time to think about what you really want in your next career. The offer you’ve just received should match your goals and career direction.

It’s not a cliche when I tell my customers that things happen for a reason. After I was laid off from marketing, I had a chance to reflect on what I really wanted to do. I had clear goals. So here I am.

Because you can. I say this knocking on wood. The labor market hasn’t been this healthy in years. With the “official” unemployment rate hovering around 5.0%, this is a great sign.

This also means your chances of getting a job are very good, so you can be selective…to a point. I’m not encouraging you to wait until your 25th week of UI to pull the trigger. You don’t want to cause undue stress by waiting too long to begin an earnest job search.

This may be a great time for you to get trained in skills you lack. In the state of Massachusetts, you can train (often free of charge) 20 hours a week, while still receiving your UI benefits. Are you a project manager but don’t have a Project Management Professional (PMP) cerfification? Now would be a good time to pass up a job you’re not so sure about.


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 and don’t want her to take a job that won’t make her happy. She will be land soon. That I’m sure of.

Photo: Flickr, Nathan Gibbs

The Perceiver’s ability to handle problems with ease and other facts about Perceivers

Cat eating food

And a story about my daughter and cat food.

When my oldest daughter was a toddler she had a tendency to stick dried cat food up her nose. The first time she did it it was no big deal. I simply fished it out with tweezers and then asked my frantic wife what we were having for dinner.

The second time, however, my wife insisted we bring her to the emergency room, where we waited a solid hour until we were seen by a doctor. (By then, the cat food had puréed and was running out of her nose.)

The doctor was nonchalant about this “emergency.” He took one look at the situation and excused himself  (I suppose to laugh at the young couple who brought their child to a emergency room to have cat food extracted from their daughter’s nose).

He returned approximately 20 seconds later with a paperclip, which he unfolded while humming all the while. Gently he stuck the U-shaped part of the paperclip up our daughter’s nose and pulled the gooey mess out.

I don’t know who was more embarrassed;  my wife for insisting that we bring our daughter to the emergency room, or me for giving in to her demand. “I didn’t want you to stick the tweezers into her brain,” my wife said as she held our daughter in her arms on the way to the car.

What does this story have to do with the Perceiver on one of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator’s spectrum, which contains those who prefer the dichotomies Judging or Perceiving? The doctor demonstrated the calm nature of the Perceiver.

Often times we focus mainly on introversion and introversion the first two dichotomies and not enough on the last two, Judging and Perceiving. This fourth preference pair describes how you like to live your outer life.

On the Judger/Perceiver spectrum,  my wife is a J. This is a good thing because she organizes the family affairs. I, on the other hand, am an off the chart P, which means I’m more likely to handle problems with more ease than the Js.

I once shared an office with a J who was the epitome of organization. She would remind me of workshops I had to do everyday, and I would say, “I remember, Ellen.” Ps aren’t that disorganized.

To add to my role in our working relationship, I would calmly handle any issues she had with, say her computer, or I would calmly tell her not to worry about the size of her workshops—for me the larger number the better. We Ps handle problems in stride.

She was an interesting J, extremely organized. I would walk in the morning of my workshop without having set up the night before, whereas she would have everything prepared; all the paperwork to hand out; the name tags set up (I don’t use name tags); her station organized to include exactly four Starburst candy, a warm mug of water, not cold, and four paper napkins.

How do my workshops go, you may wonder. If the majority of my marks are “Excellent,” I guess that’s a good indication of how well I do. Ps want to succeed as much as Js; we just do it differently. Another great trait of the Ps is spontaneity. This is why none of my workshops are exactly the same, another reason why my marks are very high. “Bob makes things interesting,” is a common comment on my evals.

One thing we are known to do is procrastinate. (Read my post on the curse of Perceivers.) We’re not proud of this. Many years ago I had to install a screen door on our house. After a week of patiently waiting, my wife put her foot down and told me to “get it done.”

A Judger probably would have had that screen door attached the day after the screen was ripped by our upstairs tenants. He would have written it on his calendar and made a list before going to Home Depot. The screen door eventually was attached to our house, which was a proud moment for me, but an irritant for my wife.

I’m glad the doctor extracted the cat food from my daughter’s nose with such precision and that I didn’t pierce her brain with tweezers (my wife and I still argue about the likelihood of that happening). Was the doctor a Perceiver? Who knows. All I know is that his calmness reminded me of my preference for perceiving and how proud I am to be a P.

Photo: Flickr, Trond Hagheim Kristensen

Shut up; you’re talking too much

If 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.

Shhh

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 talks only 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 take 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.

Photo: Judi May, Flickr

5 reasons to let your boss know about your accomplishments

Sell YourselfA 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 have people see her great work—she does great work—than 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.

5. You will feel good. Especially if you receive positive feedback from your superior. I know this because when I promote myself, via email mostly, I receive an email from her congratulating me for my success. I could care less if she is annoyed by my self-promotion.

If my boss tells me to stop, I’ll cease my self-promotion. But I’ve never been told to stop sending her emails or telling her about my success, nor do I expect her to cease my self-promotion. If or when I do, I’ll simply tell her, “I’m practicing what I preach.

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.

Flickr: Phoenix Tso

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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8 awesome traits of the introvert

I wrote this post more than a year ago but have since added another strong trait 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?

Many people don’t see the eight awesome traits introverts demonstrate. Here they are:

1. The ability to speak in public is the first of eight awesome traits the introverts demonstrate. Those of my attendees who guess wrong about my preference believe that to be an effective speaker, one must be an extravert.

They see my outward personality as an extraverted trait. I don’t blame them for guessing wrong, because society has been under the impression that showmanship belongs exclusively to the extraverts.

2. You want a sincere conversation? You’ll get it with introverts. Our thing is not more is better, as in the number of people with whom we speak. No, we prefer talking with fewer people and engaging in deeper conversation. You’ll know we’ll give you our undivided attention. It’s helpful if we’re interested in the topic.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.