6 Secrets to Success Only Early Birds Know

early bird

 

It’s been proven time and time again that the most successful people tend to be early risers. The person you spy out your window going for an early morning jog while you’re still in your pajamas probably knows some secrets to success.

Is there a correlation between early birds and future success? If so, what secrets are morning people discovering before you’ve had your first cup of coffee? Before we dive into early bird behavior, let’s first look at some of the reasons why some people just naturally find it easier to get out of bed with the first morning light:

Why are some people early risers?

Why exactly do some people dread the rising sun, while others welcome it? First of all, our sleep cycles are regulated by circadian clocks, which is an internal mechanism letting you know when to wake and when to tuck in for the night. Modern technology and artificial lighting has played a bit of havoc with the circadian rhythms, which is just one of the reasons you’re often advised to avoid the bright lights of your computer screen directly before bedtime.

If you just can’t seem to drag yourself out of bed in the morning, don’t feel too bad. It’s possible you’re just a natural night owl. Research has discovered about 10 percent of people are early birds, while about 20 percent are night owls. Called a chronotype, it turns out there might be a reason you keep hitting the snooze button every morning.

What’s the link between early mornings and success?

While studies show evening people can often be more creative — and sometimes even smarter — than morning people, there’s one major reason the early bird gets the worm. Why? It might just come down to our modern society. Our working lives just naturally cater to early risers, who are beginning to groove into their day before a night owl’s first cup of coffee has fully kicked in.

The Success Secrets Early Risers Already Know

While about 50 percent of your chronotype is due to genetics, it’s not impossible to change your attitude towards the sunrise. Here are a few reasons to do so:

1. There are less distractions in the morning.

A typical day can get crazy, fast. You have family obligations, friends, your career, your expanding inbox, and a to-do list a mile long. It’s easy for the personal items to fall off your list, like that book you’ve been dying to read, the meditation you want to do, or even the jog you’ve been meaning to take.

These personal items, however, can help you de-stress and carve out some time for yourself. For most people, it’s easier to carve out this personal time in the morning then it is after work. When the rest of the world is quiet it’s easier to find the time and space for some much needed “me” time.

2. Exercise gets your blood pumping.

Exercise has so many health and emotional benefits, yet it can sometimes seem impossible to squeeze into your day. If you start the morning out with some yoga, a run, or even a brisk walk, you’ll be diving into the day refreshed and ready to take on the world. Finding time for exercise in your day can also make you more productive, which means a morning jog might help you get in shape to climb your career ladder.

3. Successful people are already doing it.

Early birds know greeting the day early is the key to success, which is why morning people tend to be so successful. Apple CEO Tim Cook is known for sending emails at 4:30 a.m., while both Richard Branson and Vogue Editor Anna Wintour get up around 5:45 a.m., which is when Wintour plays a round of tennis. Successful people have limited time in their day to accomplish tasks and take personal time, which is why they get an early start.

4. You’ll be more productive.

In 2008, Harvard biologist Christoph Randler discovered morning people were also more proactive. They were more likely than their night owl counterparts to agree with statements like, “I spend time identifying long-range goals for myself.”

Early risers know to keep an eye on the future, and to never stop looking for ways to better themselves and keep their abilities sharpened. A proactive attitude leads to more productivity, since you’re never waiting in the wings for someone to tell you how to tackle a new challenge.

5. You will have time for breakfast.

Everyone says breakfast is the most important meal of the day, but how often do you really have time for a good breakfast? Or any breakfast at all? Early risers have more time in their mornings, which means fewer excuses not to eat a healthy breakfast. A survey from the Harvard School of Public Health recently found skipping out on breakfast may increase coronary heart disease risk, so having the time to schedule in a good breakfast is more important than you might think.

6. You’ll be happier.

Not to knock night owls, but research has actually shown morning people tend to be both happier and healthier. The health component makes a certain amount of sense; as we’ve seen, morning people tend to make time for breakfast, themselves, and exercise.

According to a University of Toronto study, however, morning people also self-report higher levels of happiness. Considering the well-researched link between happiness and work performance, it’s not hard to see why happier early birds often find themselves flying higher than their late-rising counterparts.

Early risers have discovered a few secrets to unlocking success while the rest of us are in bed snoozing. It might be time to change your sleep patterns, stop hitting snooze, and see what greeting the day earlier can do for your career.

-Ilya Pozin

10 Killer Questions To Make The Most Of Your Mentor Meeting

mentors

So you finally mustered the nerve to ask a mentor for a cup of coffee. You’re sweating. You can feel pressure mounting. She strolls through the Starbucks door holding an Americano with two pumps of hazelnut in one hand and years of experience in the other.

Here are 10 questions you can ask her to take the pressure off you and make the most of your meeting:

  1. How do you spend most of your time? Ask this question for one reason only — digging. Does your mentor have children, a favorite charity she supports, or an addiction to a particular Mediterranean cuisine? Most people who ask for advice never take the time to build an authentic connection. Gathering these answers will allow you to follow up with relevant articles, magazine clippings for passion projects, or recipes for your mentor, who will appreciate hearing from you. Givers gain.
  2. What would you do if you were me? Don’t waste your time looking to impress your mentor with how smart you are. Tell them about your specific challenges, and ask for their recommendations.
  3. How can I help you? This is a killer question that catches most mentors off guard. Most mentees are only concerned about what they can take from a mentor. When you communicate that you are genuinely willing to give, you will set yourself miles apart from everyone else. Who doesn’t like a win/win relationship?
  4. Is this where you thought you would end up? This question usually draws out a hearty laugh, as few people shoot from point A to point B. Most experienced professionals take the scenic route in their career. How they got there is usually an interesting tale with mistakes and revelations. Learn from them.
  5. What used to be your biggest weaknesses? This whopper of a question will tell you right away if someone will make a good mentor. A good answer reveals the number one trait of a great mentor — self-awareness. If you feel this question is too intense, try softening it by asking, “What did you learn about yourself in the last six months?”
  6. Who else would you recommend I connect with? This question might be better served for later meetings when there is more trust. It can exponentially expand your network. Sometimes the best source for other mentors is your existing one.
  7. What are you most proud of? Give your mentor a chance to shine. He/she will love you for it.
  8. What professional organizations are you associated with and in what ways? No one becomes a rising star in any industry without going to the right conferences and trade associations. A good mentor can help you filter out the best ones, and if you’re lucky, get you access to coveted “invite only” insider groups.
  9. Anything FORM. Form is an acronym for family, occupation, recreation, and motivation, and it represents four universal rapport-builders. For example, you might find out that you have a location-based connection with your mentor after asking about his family or birthplace. Connection made!
  10. If a specific question comes up, can I follow up with you? This is your Holy Grail question. Have you ever met someone who has mastered the dating scene? You’ll notice they never leave the first date without the promise of a second one — ever. Never leave a mentor meeting without the promise of a future encounter. You are also communicating that you will only reach out with a relevant and specific question. Most people will agree to that. When the time does come up, simply refer back to the email chain. –By Bert Gervais, founder, Success Mentor Education.  

The 6 Secrets of Self-Control

self control

 

What is it about self-control that makes it so difficult to rely on? Self-control is a skill we all possess (honest); yet we tend to give ourselves little credit for it. Self-control is so fleeting for most that when Martin Seligman and his colleagues at the University of Pennsylvania surveyed two million people and asked them to rank order their strengths in 24 different skills, self-control ended up in the very bottom slot.

When it comes to self-control, it is so easy to focus on our failures that our successes tend to pale in comparison. And why shouldn’t they? Self-control is an effort that’s intended to help achieve a goal. Failing to control yourself is just that—a failure. If you’re trying to avoid digging into that bag of chips after dinner because you want to lose a few pounds and you succeed Monday and Tuesday nights only to succumb to temptation on Wednesday by eating four servings’ worth of the empty calories, your failure outweighs your success. You’ve taken two steps forward and four steps back.

With this success/failure dichotomy in mind, I give you six strategies for self-control that come straight from new research conducted at Florida State University. Some are obvious, others counter-intuitive, but all will help you eliminate those pesky failures and ensure your efforts to boost your willpower are successful enough to keep you headed in the right direction for achieving your goals.

Self-Control Secret #1 – Meditate

Meditation actually trains your brain to become a self-control machine. Even simple techniques like mindfulness, which involves taking as little as five minutes a day to focus on nothing more than your breathing and your senses, improves your self-awareness and your brain’s ability to resist destructive impulses. Buddhist monks appear calm and in control for a reason.

Self-Control Secret #2 – Eat

File this one in the counter-intuitive category, especially if you’re having trouble controlling your eating. Your brain burns heavily into your stores of glucose when attempting to exert self-control. If your blood sugar is low, you are far more likely to succumb to destructive impulses. Sugary foods spike your sugar levels quickly and leave you drained and vulnerable shortly thereafter. Eating something that provides a slow burn for your body, such as whole grain rice or meat, will give you a longer window of self-control. So, if you’re having trouble keeping yourself out of the company candy bin when you’re hungry, make sure you eat something else if you want to have a fighting chance.

Self-Control Secret #3 – Exercise

Getting your body moving for as little as 10 minutes releases GABA, a neurotransmitter that makes your brain feel soothed and keeps you in control of your impulses. If you’re having trouble resisting the impulse to walk over to the office next door to let somebody have it, just keep on walking. You should have the impulse under control by the time you get back.

Self-Control Secret #4 – Sleep

When you are tired, your brain cells’ ability to absorb glucose is highly diminished. As I explained in Secret #2, your brain’s ability to control impulses is nil without glucose. What’s worse, without enough sleep you are more likely to crave sugary snacks to compensate for low glucose levels. So, if you’re trying to exert self-control over your eating, getting a good night’s sleep—every night—is one of the best moves you can make.

Self-Control Secret #5 – Ride the Wave

Desire has a strong tendency to ebb and flow like the tide. When the impulse you need to control is strong, waiting out this wave of desire is usually enough to keep yourself in control. The rule of thumb here is to wait at least 10 minutes before succumbing to temptation. You’ll often find that the great wave of desire is now little more than a ripple that you have the power to step right over.

Self-Control Secret #6 – Forgive Yourself

A vicious cycle of failing to control oneself followed by feeling intense self-hatred and disgust is common in attempts at self-control. These emotions typically lead to over-indulging in the offending behavior. When you slip up, it is critical that you forgive yourself and move on. Don’t ignore how the mistake makes you feel; just don’t wallow in it. Instead, shift your attention to what you’re going to do to improve yourself in the future.

Putting These Strategies to Work

The important thing to remember is you have to give these strategies the opportunity to work. This means recognizing the moments where you are struggling with self-control and, rather than giving in to impulse, taking a look at the Six Secrets and giving them a go before you give in. –Travis Bradberry, Ph.D.

One Interview Question That Reveals a Superstar Job Candidate

Granted, it’s not exactly a question…but it definitely elicits an important response.

chairs

We all have our favorite interview questions. (And every interviewee has questions, like the five great questions job candidates ask.)

Yet we all wish we had better questions to ask, especially when hiring the perfect person is so critical. But is there one perfect question that can identify a true superstar for your business?

Turns out there is.

Tejune Kang, founder of Six Dimensions (No. 651 on the Inc. 5000 in 2013), an IT service firm that provides expert consultants and on-demand implementation and management services, has one he swears by.

“The world is full of mediocrity,” Tejune says. “I don’t just want to compete. I want to hire superstars, because I want to win the Super Bowl.”

So Tejune starts every interview with a few basics. Assessing the candidate’s hunger and drive is important, so he asks how candidates determine their goals as well as what motivated them then and what motivates them now.

He also looks for competitive people, so he asks about the last time they competed, what they like about winning, what they don’t like about losing, how they feel when they lose–and what they do next.

Then he takes a step back:

“It sounds like you have the right degree, the right background, and the right skills, but in our company every employee has those qualities. That’s a given.

“The problem is, I just don’t see that extra something in you that all of our people have.”

And then he throws down the gauntlet:

“I’m sorry, but I just don’t think this is the right fit for you.”

Then he sits back and waits.

What happens? Nine out of 10 people immediately fold. They say, “Well, I appreciate your time.” They say, “I’m sorry you feel that way, but thanks for the interview.”

But the true gems don’t fold. They instead immediately rise to the challenge. After all, theywant the job and know his company is the right fit for them. So they work hard to overcome his resistance.

They say, “I think you’re wrong. I’m here for a reason. Here’s what you’re not seeing.”

In short, superstars don’t give up–which is exactly what you want every employee to do.

“It’s one thing to have a pleasant conversation during interviews,” Tejune says. “And I definitely do that. But at some point, you also need to turn up the heat and see how people respond. Anyone can do well when things go perfectly. Superstars rise to the challenge when things don’t go their way.”

The Gotcha Game?

I know what you’re thinking. Tejune’s approach sounds like a test.

But aren’t all interviews, at least in part, some form of test? You ask questions. You dig. You probe. You assess. No matter how hard you try to make an interview a conversation, there’s still an element of “testing” involved.

Besides, some companies literally test prospective employees (here’s looking at you, Google). Others spring surprises like group interviews or role-playing sessions. Because there is no way to truly know what’s inside a candidate–and how that candidate will perform once on the job–every interview involves some form of test the candidate passes or fails, even if that test boils down to, “Do I like this person?”

Plus, Tejune’s approach focuses on an important quality that is often hard to identify in an interview. Say you’re hiring a salesperson. Salespeople hear “no” dozens of times a day. Sales superstars rise to and defeat the challenge of “no” much more often than mediocre salespeople; that’s one of the qualities that make them super.

Or take it a step further. Don’t you want your employees to be able to push back and say you’re wrong–and then explain why you’re wrong and what is the better option?

Of course you do.

Superstars aren’t just good at what they do. Superstars push past barriers, push past rejection and roadblocks, and rise to the occasion when times truly get tough–which, in any business, they inevitably do.

Qualified candidates can do the job when life is good. Superstar candidates can do the job when everything collapses around them because they have the hunger and the drive and the competitive spirit to not just compete…but to win your version of the Super Bowl.

The next time you interview a job candidate who doesn’t appear to have what it takes, be honest. Say, “I’m just not seeing it.” (You may not feel comfortable when you do, but because you’ll eventually tell the candidate he or she didn’t get the job…why not do it now?)

Then sit back and see how the candidate responds.

Most will thank you for your time. And that’s fine.

But once in a while, a candidate will rise to the occasion and the challenge, and surprise you…and you will have found a superstar you otherwise would have missed.

It’s worth a shot, because no company ever has enough superstars.

Including yours. – Jeff Haden

How to Get the Job When You Don’t Have the Experience

Careers, Job Hunting

 

“The Permission Paradox” – You can’t get the job without the experience but you can’t get the experience without the job – is one of the great career Catch-22s. This challenge will confront you over the lifetime of your career, whether you’re trying to break into the work force or you’re to become a CEO for the first time. While the phenomenon can be frustrating no matter what your level, the Permission Paradox is especially challenging for today’s aspiring young professional and recent graduates.

Overcoming this conundrum is fundamental both to launching your career successfully and thriving over the long term. You are confident in your abilities if only you’re given the chance. The hard part is getting the shot to show what you can do.

The Permission Paradox can be a paralyzing obstacle and can often be a self-fulfilling prophecy. A distinguishing characteristic of the most successful professionals – at every stage – is that they find ways to gain access to attractive opportunities. And when they do, they deliver and make good on that leap of faith that someone took on them. One of the keys to overcoming the Permission Paradox is recognizing that when you apply for any job you will be evaluated along two different dimensions: your potential to add value in the future and yourtrack record in the area most central to the job. Depending on the seniority of the position, these two sources of value – your potential and your experience – will be weighted in different proportions, like the scales of justice. As a general rule, the earlier you are in your career, the greater the importance of your potential value.

Your potential value is best demonstrated by your attitude, enthusiasm, work ethic, communications skills, curiosity/quality of your questions, willingness to learn, and your knowledge of the company and role. Beyond showing your potential, however, here are five specific strategies you can deploy to overcome the Permission Paradox in the early days of your career.

Five Permission Strategies

  1. Get Credentials. One of the most logical ways to gain permission is to obtain relevant credentials. This can be in the form of a specialized degree or targeted training. One of the hottest areas in the economy right now, no surprise, is computer programming. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects that by 2020, there will be a gigantic demand-supply gap, with one million computer programming jobs going unfilled. Traditional computer science programs will not be able to meet this need. It turns out that many companies seeking programmers actually don’t require degrees in computer science to get a job. At Google, for example, according to The Wall Street Journal, nearly 15 percent of the team members who work in programming don’t have a college degree. With training at places such as Codeacademy, which reportedly has had 24 million people around the world take one or more of its courses, you can develop proficiency in a period of months. With this credential, you’ll have enough experience to break in for a first job and then you’ll be in the same position as other entry-level programmers to perform and thrive. So go ahead, pick your field of interest, whether it be coding, finance, aviation, or the business of art, and find a respected credential-granting school or organization and pursue it. One effective finance program that promises to deliver “knowledge, experience, and opportunity” over the course of a summer, for example, is the Tuck Business Bridge Program at Dartmouth College. If you want to break into a career in art, check out Christie’s Education, which offers degree and non-degree programs in both the business of art and art itself. And if you dream of flying airplanes for a living, take a look at ATP Flight School’s Airline Career Pilot Program, which provides airline-oriented flight training at a fixed cost in the shortest time frame.
  2. Get Creative. Laura Chambers has run University Programs at eBay where her team of 40 was responsible for setting and hitting aggressive recruitment goals, and ensuring that the interns and new college graduates have high-quality experiences. She therefore speaks with expertise and practical experience on the topic of breaking into companies after college. Laura’s advice, especially if you don’t have a technical or specialized degree, is to get creative so that you can stand out from the crowd. “Volunteer at a start-up,” she suggests and “get your hands dirty. You will have the opportunity to do a wide variety of activities which will help you find what you love and build some skills at the same time.” This will also enable you to talk about your experience, not just your potential. She also advises to develop a customized approach for companies you target. “If you want to work at eBay, Inc., for example,” she says, “start a small business buying and selling on eBay or using PayPal, and be prepared to talk about the pros and cons of that experience.” It doesn’t cost have to cost too much, other than your time and initiative, to create a few video or blog posts about your experience. Maybe these can get picked up by media. At the very least they will give you something to show to complement your resume.
  3. Be Willing to Start at the Bottom. If you are a college graduate, you may feel (and frankly be) overqualified for many entry-level jobs. But you have to start somewhere. Or, as Lao Tzu famously said, “The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step”.* Chad Dickerson, CEO of the rapidly growing online marketplace, Etsy.com, suggests that the best positions to “get a foot in the door” are often as a member of a company’s support team. “A number of Etsy support people have learned our business really well and turned into very capable product managers,” he said. Chad also admits to having a special place in his heart for this approach because it worked for him personally. “I took the lowest-paid clerical job at a newspaper in Raleigh, North Carolina in 1993 and it happened to be the first daily newspaper on the web in the United States. I ended up learning how to build websites just by being there!” Whether it’s in the Internet industry, financial services, retail, hospitality, or any other business that touches large numbers of people, starting at the point of customer interface, whether in customer support, behind the cash register, on the sales floor, or at the concierge desk, will give you a valuable opportunity to learn what’s really going on in the market. You’ll be able to use this when you seek to work your way up the ladder internally or interview elsewhere.
  4. Barter. You may not yet have a job. But if you don’t, by definition you have something else of enormous value, which you may not be fully considering. Time. Treat your time as the precious asset it is. If you are creative and package your time with energy, enthusiasm, and initiative, you can barter your way to opportunity and break the Permission Paradox. Earlier this summer, a new college graduate networked her way into an informational interview with a real estate brokerage firm. She had a degree in history. As she was talking to the executive, who seemed overwhelmingly busy, a light bulb went off. “You seem incredibly stretched right now,” she observed and then asked the $64,000 question. “What would you do to grow your business if you had an extra day in your week?” He paused and said he’d do a market research study for the young urban rental market. She offered to do that for free and was able to communicate quickly how her analysis and writing skills developed for her thesis would give her the ability to execute the project. He took her up on her offer and paid her $10 an hour for her work. After a few weeks, she presented her findings. The real estate executive was blown away by the quality of her report, the clarity of her thinking, and the creativity with which she packaged her analysis. She was offered and has now accepted an entry-level job as a market researcher in the firm.
  5. Re-imagine Your Experience. You’ve decided the general direction you’d like to take and have built up a target list of companies to research and pursue. You’ve followed your target list rigorously by visiting the career pages for each company to see what jobs are actually available. All good. But, at this point in the process, you may find that you just don’t have the experience sought for a position you’d like to pursue. You can either exit the website then and there and move on to the next company. Or you can try to re-imagine your experience and pursue this very opening. Here’s how one aspiring young professional did just that. For an entry-level position in a food company, it listed “project management” experience as a critical requirement. Initially this put off the energetic, enthusiastic graduate who was otherwise a great fit with the company and who resonated with the mission of providing customers with only the highest-quality organic food. In discussing the dilemma, we walked through this individual’s experiences and were able to find something that fit the bill – when thought of and described in a different way. A geography major who loves travel, he told how he worked with a group of his friends to “project manage” their recent three week trip across Eastern Europe – doing research into itineraries, finding the lowest fares and cheapest hostels, executing the reservations and bookings, collecting the money from his friends, and acting as “treasurer” for the journey. In so doing, he was able to demonstrate the capabilities that the company was looking for – even though he was drawing on a completely non-professional experience. The key lesson is that you may actually have more-relevant experience than you think. -James Citrin

6 Bad Habits Holding You Back From Success

Bad Habits

 

You always imagined your career would be like a rocket ship shooting you straight to the stars, but instead you seem to be stuck in one place, already out of gas. Before you blame your company, your coworkers, or your boss, it’s time to take a good look in the mirror. Your bad habits might be the culprit holding you back from the corner office you’ve always dreamed about.

We all have bad habits, but bringing your baggage along to the office can be the difference between soaring or stalling in your career. Below are six common workplace bad habits to break if you want to continue moving up the career ladder:

Being a Lone Wolf

Collaboration is the key to workplace success, but you prefer to work solo. While being able to work independently is a valuable commodity in any workplace, working alone shouldn’t be your only speed. If you are constantly ducking out of team projects or asking to tackle a task without any help, your coworkers will take notice.

While those around you put their heads together, brainstorm great ideas, and form connections, you’re being left in the dust. You need to show you can play well with others. After all, managers and those in charge need to be able to lead a team. Getting ahead in any office is one part skills and one part connections, and your lone wolf nature means you’re contracting your professional network instead of expanding.

Break the habit: Find a project you’re interested in and ask to be part of the team. Do your best to keep everyone involved and in the loop, and stretch those collaboration muscles. It’ll show managers and coworkers you’re more than just a lone wolf.

Saying Sorry

Are you apologizing too much in the office? According to recent statistics, the word sorry is uttered approximately 368 million times per day in the UK. Women in particular seem to have a tough time ditching the word sorry, and apologize far more frequently than men. Saying sorry about every little thing implies you are constantly making mistakes, and can undercut your position in the office and with managers.

Break the habit: You need to take ownership of your mistakes. It’s time to stop over-apologizing. Reserve the word sorry for big mistakes and cut it out of your everyday vocabulary.

Taking on Every Project

Do you get excited by new projects? Do you like jumping in with both feet and finding new challenges? These are great attributes to any employee, but it’s time to learn your limits. If you say yes to every single project, you might soon find yourself unhappy, burnt out, and badly overworked.

Break the habit: The word “no” is a powerful thing. It doesn’t make you look like a slacker or weak to turn down a project you just don’t have time for. Be protective of your time and abilities, and know when one more task is just too many.

Being Negative

No one likes a Debbie Downer, and if you come into work with a rain cloud over your head each morning, it’s not surprising you haven’t moved up in your company. Enthusiasm and passion are traits managers look for in superstar employees who get promotions and excel within the company. No one wants to promote someone who looks miserable to step into the office each day.

Break the habit: Sit yourself down and ask the hard questions you’ve been avoiding. If you hate your job, it might be time to look for another opportunity. Or maybe you feel stalled and want to learn something new, in which case you can talk to your manager or boss about opportunities to shadow in different departments or take professional development courses.Ask yourself what would make you wake up excited about your workday, and chase after your dreams.

Doing Things the Way They’ve Always Been Done

Innovation is the lifeblood of any company, yet many workers just come into the office to punch their time cards and collect their paychecks. And this isn’t only on employees:according to a survey by Fierce, Inc., less than one-third of employees felt their company would change practices based on employee feedback. Lack of innovation in companies, it turns out, is a two-way street.

Break the habit: Sit down with your boss and ask for an open-door policy for employee feedback and ideas. Once a month, try to submit an idea for how your company can improve and grow. Not all of your suggestions will be implemented, but you’ll make yourself stand out as someone with big ideas who really cares about the company’s future.

Being Disorganized

Every year, Americans spend on average nine million hours looking for things they’ve misplaced. Imagine how much of your work life is being frittered away every time you misplace a report under a pile of desktop debris. People walking past your cluttered workspace are judging you for your organizational chaos.

Break the habit: The next time you have a slow day, spend it organizing your office. Set up a plan to stay more organized and stick to it. Keep in mind, the hardest part of being organized is initially cleaning up the clutter and putting things in their places. Once the hard work of cleaning up is done, it should be a breeze to keep your work space in good shape.

Your bad habits don’t have to hold you back from career success. If you tackle these habits head-on, you might just find yourself moving on up the ladder. _ Ilya Pozin

The Right and Wrong Reasons for Changing Jobs

As the job market heats up, it might be time to update your LinkedIn profile. Just updating your profile is a clue to the folks at LinkedIn that you’re thinking of switching jobs, so don’t be surprised if you see more job opportunities pushed your way as a result.

But don’t overreact. Leaving a job to minimize pain should not be the primary reason for accepting another job. This idea is captured in the Job-Seeker’s Decision Grid. The bottom half of the grid represents the reasons why people consider switching jobs. The upper half represents reasons why they accept offers. These negative and positive motivators are divided into extrinsic (short-term) motivators shown on the left, and intrinsic (long-term) motivators shown on the right.

When considering a job switch, too many candidates overemphasize what they get on the start date of their new job – a title, location, company name and compensation package. While positive, these are short-term and if the job doesn’t represent a long-term career move, job satisfaction will quickly decline and the negative motivators will quickly reappear. I refer to this as the “vicious cycle” of dissatisfaction, underperformance and turnover. The decision grid can help job-seekers make more balanced career decisions, even when the pressure to leave is overwhelming and there’s a sizzling offer in hand.

Consider changing jobs when the intrinsic negatives outweigh the positives.

Quickly review the descriptions of the four categories. There is no question that if your job is “Going Nowhere” it’s time to change jobs. If the “Daily Grind” is getting you down, you should consider some short fixes but changing jobs should be just one of your options. The big problem for most job-seekers is that when given an offer there is usually not enough information available to make a full long-term career assessment. This is largely the fault of the company, hiring manager and recruiter involved in the process. In their rush to fill jobs as rapidly as possible with the best person who applies, little thought is actually given to the actual job itself and the potential opportunity it represents.

In this case, it’s up to the discerning candidate to better understand that what on the surface might appear to be a fine career move, underneath might be next year’s excuse for why you want to change jobs again. Here are some simple things you can do to conduct your own career due diligence.

  1. Understand real job needs. Ask the recruiter and/or hiring manager to define real job needs. If you get a sense the interviewer is flaying about ask, “What’s the most important goal the person in this role needs to accomplish in order to be considered successful?” Then follow up to further clarify job expectations, finding out the scope of the job, the resources available and the importance of the job.
  2. Convert “having” into “doing”. When someone starts box-checking skills or asks a brain-teaser, ask how the skill will be used on the job. If the person stumbles on this, you have a clue that the job hasn’t been defined too well.
  3. Find out why the job is open. The point of this question is to discover if there is some inherent problem with the job or if it’s the result of a positive change.
  4. Ask what happened to the last person in the role. This is often a clue to the manager’s ability to select and develop people.
  5. Ask how performance will be measured. Be concerned if the hiring manager is vague or non-committal. Strong managers are able to tell you their expectations for the person being hired.
  6. Go through the organization chart. Find out who’s on the team and who you’ll be working with. You’ll want to meet some of these people before you accept an offer. If you’re inheriting a team, ask about the quality and your opportunity to rebuild it.
  7. Ask about the manager’s vision for the department and the open role. This will give you a good sense of the capabilities of the hiring manager, his or her aspirations and the upside potential of the open job.
  8. Understand the manager’s leadership style. There could be a problem if the manager is too controlling or too hands-off, reactive or a planner, or a coach or a super techie, etc. The point: make sure your style meshes with the person you’ll be working for or you’ll be disappointed in a few months.
  9. Find out the real culture. Ask everyone you meet how decisions are made, the company’s appetite for change, the intensity, the politics, and the sophistication of the infrastructure. Don’t buy into the platitudes and fancy vision statement.

When considering whether to accept an offer or not, don’t get seduced by your desire to leave or by the Big Brass Employer Brand and what you get on Day 1. These will all become less important 3-6 months in to the job. Instead emphasize what you’ll be doing and learning, the people you’ll be working with and how this all meets your career and personal needs. This is how to prevent the “Daily Grind” from becoming too big an issue and a “Going Nowhere” job from becoming your next excuse for leaving.- Lou Adler

5 Tips Robin Williams Taught Us About Career Transitioning

Like most of us, I was deeply shocked and saddened by the passing of Robin Williams. He was such a genius. The poignancy of the lyrics “tears of a clown… when there’s no-one around” ring very true today.

So in tribute to Robin Williams, I thought I would draw on some of his most memorable roles as tips for career transitioning:

Good Morning Vietnam

Nominated for an Academy Award for his role in this movie, Williams played the role of an unorthodox and irreverent DJ, who shakes up things when he is assigned to the US Armed Services Radio station in Vietnam.

His wake up cry “Good Morning Vietnam”, became the signature for the movie – a slogan which is still used today by thousands around the globe when having to wake our friends or family outside of our normal waking period.

Williams’ DJ role showed the importance of being sure of one’s mission and purpose even though others might not have the same thing in mind. In the movie, he severely alienated his commanders, yet made the troops laugh – despite serving in very unpopular war.

Knowing one’s mission and purpose when in career transition is critical. It’s easy to be swayed by the next opportunity or opinion from our well-intended family, friends or colleagues. As George Harrison said “If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will take you there.”

‘Knowing thyself’ and then continuing to make sure your corner of the world knows about you is your sure fired way of announcing your own “Good Morning Vietnam” and sticking to what you want to brand as your purpose.

Mrs. Doubtfire

In Mrs. Doubtfire Williams played the role of father/husband Daniel Hillard, an eccentric actor who dubs voices for cartoon characters. After his wife files for divorce, and determined to stay in contact with his kids, Daniel keeps in touch with his family with the job, disguised as Mrs. Doubtfire, a Scottish nanny.

Mrs. Doubtfire represents the persistence that one needs to continue on a path and rediscover one’s self – what is truly important.

While the role Williams played here was hilarious and touching, the message was clear. Despite all the travails that a career transition poses and a re-launch requires, it’s important to keep persisting, regardless of any set back.

Not only that, but the use of something that you might think important might end up being the main pathway to your happiness. I recently read that the activity that constantly distracts you from your main game may very likely to be your real passion. There is richness in that distraction. Find your passion and continue to bring it to life.

Work is not work, when there is passion behind it.

Dead Poets Society

Williams earned an Oscar nomination for his role of an English teacher, Keating who inspires his students through his teaching of poetry. Keating encourages his students to go against the status quo and ‘seize the day’, carpe diem.

Williams as Keating showed the importance of not just thinking about things, but acting upon them.

When it comes to career transition, there are so many lessons within the term ‘carpe diem’:

  • Reach out to connections you may not have touched in a while
  • Don’t take no for a final answer
  • Ask for an appointment from a hiring manager
  • Write that branded cover letter
  • Apply for that new role
  • Make that phone call

I could go on and on. If we all remember to ‘seize the day’, then when we do that, we not only honour Robin Williams, but we do so to our own goals and dreams.

Patch Adams

Nominated for a Golden Globe for the role ofPatch Adams, Williams played the role of an aspiring doctor who loves helping people. Unfortunately, the medical and scientific community does not appreciate his methods of healing the sick, while the actual patients, medical professors, and hospital nurses all appreciate what he does.

I know people who were inspired to move in to Sales and Medicine because of this movie.

What does Williams’ role teach us here?

In essence, Adams threatened the establishment because he dared to ‘get down onto the same level as the patients’. In other words, always empathize with your customer base; with your intended employer’s interests and needs; do not merely play a role with a title, but be more authentic and human in your interaction.

If in your own career transitioning you can do this, you will be more attractive than other candidates and be hired because your prospective employer or new client falls for the essential YOU.

Good Will Hunting

Winning an Academy Award for the role he played in this movie, Williamsplayed the role of a therapist who works with a wayward young man struggling to find his identity, living in a world where he can solve any problem, except the one brewing deep within himself, until one day he meets his soulmate who opens his mind and his heart.

Williams’ role shows the importance of dealing with one’s demons. When aided by careful help, then anyone can overcome them, despite having fears of what might lie on the other side.

Having been laid off, many people feel understandably angry, hurt, and blind-sided. Often, especially Baby Boomers may have worked in the same role for many years. It is only once career transition is foisted upon them, that they have to discover what lies on the other side.

Should this happen to you, seek a coach or a mentor in your journey as Williams’ role did with Will Hunting. -Greg Weiss

 

How to Handle Difficult People in Your Workplace

Don't care

 

 

 

 

 

It took years to develop, but I was finally able to figure out how to handle difficult situations and how to work with difficult people.

I’ve worked with:

  • The decisive, smart and friendly executive type
  • The 9-to-5 do everything I’m asked with a smile and actually enjoy my work type
  • The let me know if I can help you with anything type
  • The we all know I’m the smartest one in the room type
  • The you cross me, and I promise you it will be the worst mistake of your entire career type
  • The please give me another day to make this decision type
  • The let’s be real, I don’t really give a damn, just tell me what you need me to do and I’ll do it type
  • The please don’t ask me to do anything for you because it’s not in my job description type
  • The OMG she’s walking near my cube, I better act like I’m doing something before I get fired type
  • The you used this word incorrectly in a PowerPoint, therefore I will call an all hands meeting to get this settled type
  • The I trust you Robbie to make any decision you see fit type
  • The if I don’t get a summary email at 8 p.m. every day I’m going to assume you didn’t do anything all day type
  • The I’m going to cry instead of making an important decision so please back off type
  • The I don’t really care what you think about me or my decisions, just do what I tell you type
  • The who the hell left an unclean spoon in the sink, your mother isn’t here to look after you so I’m going to leave a passive aggressive sign above the sink and another on the refrigerator in addition to an email blast to the entire office type
  • The give me your date of birth so we can celebrate your half birthday type
  • The I’m going to pretend like I didn’t hear you the first time so I can make this conversation as awkward as possible type
  • The I’m going to agree to everything said in the meeting then complain privately once the meeting is over type
  • The I literally, figuratively and hypothetically do not care what anybody thinks about me, so just keep paying me every 2 weeks and we’ll all be happy type
  • The if I hear one single piece of constructive criticism about my work I’m never going to open up my mouth again type
  • And finally my favorite: The holy crap lady I can hear your nails click clacking on your keyboard from across the office type

For the person who creates those passive aggressive, “If you’re leaning, you’re cleaning” signs above the sink, I purposely don’t clean dirty spoons and put them in the sink so they can be even more upset. I’m evil like that.

The uncomfortable truth is that not all of these types are easy to deal with. In fact, many of these types make it much harder to get anything accomplished.

Deal with difficult people before they deal with you

Difficult people are an interesting breed. They tend to be the last person in a workflow who has the authority to approve a particular process, purchase order or contract, so they’re the final decision maker. They are nitpicky, irrational, insanely busy people who don’t understand how many hours the team has put into completing an activity.

They ask questions at the last minute about verbiage in a contract when they could have asked the question when you first started on the project. They make you start all the way from the beginning negating all that time you and your team spent on it.

And yet instead of engaging this person right away, most people wait all the way until the end to get their approval, then are in complete shock when this person demands that additional edits be made.

Why?

Easy. People hate working with difficult people unless they absolutely have to. Instead of getting answers to their questions right away, they take the easy route and make assumptions hoping the difficult person won’t ask questions once they review it. Nobody likes awkward conversations and would rather show the decision maker a “finished product” so they don’t get negative feedback on something that isn’t finished.

Then when it comes time to review the finished product, the difficult person becomes well, difficult. Of course, this story isn’t complete without the standard everyone blaming each other for a missed deadline when the executive asks why that task was delayed.

Step up and deal with the decision makers even if they make you uncomfortable. Don’t do it to impress your boss or your teammates. Do it because you want to make the final approval process easier, and do it to learn how this decision maker operates.

Do it because no one else will.

Difficult people are often misunderstood. They’re difficult because their job requires them to be detail oriented and they have stake in the outcome of certain activities or projects. They don’t care how much time you spent on an activity. They care about the outcome.

If you can figure out what makes them tick through early difficult conversations, you’ll not only have better answers early on, but also a relationship with someone who others refuse to connect with — or can’t. – Robbie Abed author of “Fire Me I Beg You”

How Does Your Boss Measure Up?

Exceptional Boss

10 Things Only Exceptional Bosses Give Employees

Good bosses have strong organizational skills. Good bosses have solid decision-making skills. Good bosses get important things done.

Exceptional bosses do all of the above — and more. (And we remember them forever.) Sure, they care about their company and customers, their vendors and suppliers. But most importantly, they care to an exceptional degree about the people who work for them.

And that’s why they’re so rare.

Extraordinary bosses give every employee:

1. Autonomy and independence.

Great organizations are built on optimizing processes and procedures. Still, every task doesn’t deserve a best practice or a micro-managed approach. (Here’s looking at you, manufacturing industry.)

Engagement and satisfaction are largely based on autonomy and independence. I care when it’s “mine.” I care when I’m in charge and feel empowered to do what’s right.

Plus, freedom breeds innovation: Even heavily process-oriented positions have room for different approaches. (Still looking at you, manufacturing.)

Whenever possible, give your employees the autonomy and independence to work the way they work best. When you do, they almost always find ways to do their jobs better than you imagined possible.

2. Clear expectations.

While every job should include some degree of independence, every job does also need basic expectations for how specific situations should be handled.

Criticize an employee for offering a discount to an irate customer today even though yesterday that was standard practice and you make that employee’s job impossible. Few things are more stressful than not knowing what is expected from one day to the next.

When an exceptional boss changes a standard or guideline, she communicates those changes first — and when that is not possible, she takes the time to explain why she made the decision she made, and what she expects in the future.

3. Meaningful objectives.

Almost everyone is competitive; often the best employees are extremely competitive–especially with themselves. Meaningful targets can create a sense of purpose and add a little meaning to even the most repetitive tasks.

Plus, goals are fun. Without a meaningful goal to shoot for, work is just work.

No one likes work.

4. A true sense of purpose.

Everyone likes to feel a part of something bigger. Everyone loves to feel that sense of teamwork and esprit de corps that turns a group of individuals into a real team.

The best missions involve making a real impact on the lives of the customers you serve. Let employees know what you want to achieve for your business, for your customers, and even your community. And if you can, let them create a few missions of their own.

Feeling a true purpose starts with knowing what to care about and, more importantly, why to care.

5. Opportunities to provide significant input.

Engaged employees have ideas; take away opportunities for them to make suggestions, or instantly disregard their ideas without consideration, and they immediately disengage.

That’s why exceptional bosses make it incredibly easy for employees to offer suggestions. They ask leading questions. They probe gently. They help employees feel comfortable proposing new ways to get things done. When an idea isn’t feasible, they always take the time to explain why.

Great bosses know that employees who make suggestions care about the company, so they ensure those employees know their input is valued — and appreciated.

6. A real sense of connection.

Every employee works for a paycheck (otherwise they would do volunteer work), but every employee wants to work for more than a paycheck: They want to work with and for people they respect and admire–and with and for people who respect and admire them.

That’s why a kind word, a quick discussion about family, an informal conversation to ask if an employee needs any help — those moments are much more important than group meetings or formal evaluations.

A true sense of connection is personal. That’s why exceptional bosses show they see and appreciate the person, not just the worker.

7. Reliable consistency.

Most people don’t mind a boss who is strict, demanding, and quick to offer (not always positive) feedback, as long as he or she treats every employee fairly.

(Great bosses treat each employee differently but they also treat every employee fairly. There’s a big difference.)

Exceptional bosses know the key to showing employees they are consistent and fair is communication: The more employees understand why a decision was made, the less likely they are to assume unfair treatment or favoritism.

8. Private criticism.

No employee is perfect. Every employee needs constructive feedback. Every employee deserves constructive feedback. Good bosses give that feedback.

Great bosses always do it in private.

9. Public praise.

Every employee — even a relatively poor performer — does something well. Every employeedeserves praise and appreciation. It’s easy to recognize some of your best employees because they’re consistently doing awesome things. (Maybe consistent recognition is a reason they’re your best employees? Something to think about.)

You might have to work hard to find reasons to recognize an employee who simply meets standards, but that’s okay: A few words of recognition–especially public recognition–may be the nudge an average performer needs to start becoming a great performer.

10. A chance for a meaningful future.

Every job should have the potential to lead to greater things. Exceptional bosses take the time to develop employees for the job they someday hope to land, even if that job is with another company.

How can you know what an employee hopes to do someday? Ask.

Employees will only care about your business after you first show you care about them. One of the best ways is to show that while you certainly have hopes for your company’s future, you also have hopes for your employees’ futures. – Jeff Haden