Career resolutions, good and bad

At the start of each year, New Year's resolutions are made. Some are kept, while many more are forgotten. Yet making resolutions can be beneficial if they are realistic, they allow for some flexibility and a plan is put in place to achieve them.

The same thinking applies to making career resolutions. While it's good to set goals, not all career resolutions are created equal. Some will help you get what you want, while others will leave you frustrated, complacent or not where you thought you'd be in your career.

"My personal view is that any resolutions, particularly those dealing with your career, must have a good balance between flexibility and specificity," says Lauren Still, founder of strategic career-management company Careerevolution Group. "A good resolution will allow someone to measure whether they're making progress on it ... A bad resolution is entirely dependent on actions of others, is too broad to be actionable or is unclear as to whether the individual achieved it."

Here are some good career resolutions to make this year, and some bad ones to avoid:

Good: Get feedback on an ongoing basis
Patrick Sweeney, president of human capital management firm Caliper, says that a smart career resolution is to continuously work with your manager on development goals. He suggests doing periodic check-ins throughout the year to get constructive feedback and ensure that you're on the same page with how you're performing. "By taking the reins and showing this initiative with your manager, it shows that you care about your position, your company and helping your manager achieve her goals too," Sweeney says. "Companies look for and want to keep people who are committed to long-term growth, and this helps to cement your place."

Bad: Get feedback during performance reviews
Most people don't enjoy getting feedback on their weaknesses, even if it's constructive. So you may tell yourself it's better to wait to get feedback from your manager until performance-review time. That way, you can hear it all at once, and you don't have to worry about it any other time of the year. But doing so may set you back in your career. Without knowing what's working and what's not on an ongoing basis, you'll essentially be running in place. Also, if you're not asking for feedback regularly, your manager might believe you're not that invested in advancing your career.

Good: Maintain a better work/life balance
Did 2012 leave you feeling burned out and stressed? Try doing some things to better your personal life, and a better work life will follow. If your long hours at work have made going to the gym tough, try waking up an hour early to go to a fitness class or taking a power walk during your lunch break. While you don't need to push yourself to set specific fitness goals, just getting your heart rate up or some fresh air will help clear your head and make you feel better all around. Haven't seen your friends in a while because you've been chained to your desk? While it may take a lot of energy to meet up with friends after a long day, it's a good way to get your mind off of work, and it can help put things into perspective.

Bad: Get more recognition, no matter what it takes
You may vow in the new year to show your boss that you're committed and that you have what it takes to get to the next level. While that's a positive goal, be careful about how you achieve it. If you work late nights and weekends without having a real reason to do so, or you take on more work than you can manage and don't ask for help, you may set yourself back instead of moving forward. There's a difference between working hard and overworking -- the work you're doing should be meaningful if you really want to impress your boss.

Good: Repair damaged relationships
"If you left a job on bad terms or you have been out of touch with key people from your old company, you need to catch up with them," says Roy Cohen, career coach and author of "The Wall Street Professional's Survival Guide." "At the very least, you want to determine what they will say if called for a reference. That should never be a surprise or a last-minute activity. Time is a great neutralizer of frayed edges and unresolved issues ... they may also have interesting ideas regarding opportunities and volunteer to serve as references."

Bad: Be ruthless
No one is denying that it's a competitive world out there, but working your way up the ladder by pushing others down isn't the way to win. Taking credit for others' ideas, ratting out a co-worker without talking to him first, holding important client meetings without inviting others who may benefit -- you may think these actions will lead to success. But chances are you'll get caught, or you'll lose credibility in the eyes of your boss. Honesty, integrity and teamwork are what will make you stand out for the right reasons.

Good: Take on more responsibility
Cheryl Palmer, owner of career-coaching firm Call to Career, says that if you want to position yourself for a promotion, you should resolve to take on more responsibility. "You might ask your boss to be cross-trained so that you are more valuable to the organization, or you might state your availability to act in your boss' stead when the boss is absent," Palmer says. By challenging yourself, and handling tasks above and beyond your duties, you're showing your boss that you're ready for the next step.

Bad: Get a promotion
While striving to get promoted is a positive thing, making it your career resolution won't necessarily get you anywhere. And if you don't get one, you might deem yourself a failure. Try instead to set attainable goals that will help you advance your career, such as take on more responsibility, attend industry conferences or obtain a new certification. By building up your arsenal of skills and experience, you'll be a ready for that promotion -- whenever it happens.

Source: careerbuilder

Quiz: What kind of animal are you at work?

Be careful when you discuss animals around a pet owner. You might accidentally start a never-ending conversation about the personalities, personal preferences or humanlike characteristics that animals possess. However, even people who don't own pets can see the similarities between animals and humans. But can you learn anything from animals when it comes to your day-to-day work life? Take this quiz to determine which animal you share work habits with and whether you need to tame your instincts.

1. There's a co-worker's birthday party in the office break room. Where are you?
A. Next to the celebrated co-worker, cutting the cake or passing out plates.
B. Near the back of the break room or inching back to my desk.
C. Retelling a funny joke I heard earlier that day to the person next to me.
D. It doesn't matter; no matter where I go, people will annoy me.

2. Your boss has asked for your input on a project. What kind of feedback do you give?
A. Supportive information that will give my boss the best tools to lead this project.
B. A short answer that shows just how uninterested I am in the conversation.
C. What my boss wants to hear; why else would I be asked for my opinion?
D. Exactly what I think about the project, including the list of possible negative outcomes.

3. You have to work with a group of co-workers on a project. How does it go?
A. Wonderfully! I helped guide the project and worked really well with others.
B. It just reinforced that I work better alone.
C. I agreed with most of what was being said and followed what direction the group took.
D. It's frustrating to work with others, and by the end of the meeting I had yelled at two co-workers.

4. You're asked to present your area of expertise to a group of colleagues. How does it go?
A. I interacted well with others, but it was a little uncomfortable to be in charge.
B. It felt good to get recognized for my talents and to be the only one speaking.
C. It was all right. I don't mind public speaking but preferred quoting others in my presentation.
D. It went fine until I noticed somebody texting on his phone. I stopped the presentation until he started paying attention.

5. Your boss asks everybody to stay late to help wrap up a project. What do you do?
A. Clear my schedule and make sure I'm the last person to leave each night.
B. Stay an extra hour or two one night and decide that's enough.
C. Agree and nod my head. Whatever the boss says, I do.
D. Storm into the boss's office and ask why I have to stay late, even though I always get my work done on time.

Mostly A's: Dog
Your work habits are similar to those of man's best friend, the trusty and loyal canine. You work well with others and enjoy being around your co-workers. But it's OK to disagree with your co-workers or the boss from time to time. Don't be afraid to be more than your boss's sidekick, and start focusing on your career without depending on your boss for instructions.
Mostly B's: Cat
It's no surprise that both you and your feline counterpart prefer to spend most of your time alone. You're confident in your abilities and know you do a good job, but you're not exactly easy to work with. Create a balance of working independently and collaborating with others. Your knowledge and dedication can make you a great leader if you learn how to work well with others and communicate your ideas instead of staying silent.
Mostly C's: Parrot
It may be time to ask yourself if this is really the job for you, as it seems you're more comfortable parroting back to others what you hear instead of forming your own opinions. Rather than stealing the ideas of others or just saying what you think people want to hear, start offering your own thoughts to the conversation or start looking for a job in which you'll have your own voice.
Mostly D's: Skunk
Have you noticed that your co-workers walk on eggshells around you? Your unpredictable temper causes you to lose your cool, and it's hurting your career. Stop lashing out at co-workers and taking your emotions out on your boss. Find ways to even out your emotions and channel your energy into your work, such as breathing exercises or an anger management class. Passion can be a great asset in a career if used productively.

Source: careerbuilder

Quiz: Are you too much of a team player -- or too little

When browsing descriptions for job openings, it's common to see the phrase "team player." Most jobs benefit from an employee who can easily work with others and is willing to take on any project or challenge. But sometimes, workers can take the team-player idea too far. Saying yes to everything without clarifying uncertainties or pushing back when overloaded with other work can end up costing you and your team. Conversely, if you're too quick to complain about helping another co-worker or staying late to finish a project, you might alienate yourself from others, which could make it harder to succeed.

Take this quiz to determine on which end of the team-player spectrum you fall:

1. You have a new addition to your team. Your boss asks for a volunteer to help him learn the ropes. You:
A. Have already started helping him, before the boss even asked. Your work can wait.
B. Are happy to volunteer, so long as you can get a few projects off your plate before helping.
C. Ignore your boss's email. You have too much to do to worry about anyone else.

2. Your boss schedules a meeting for 5 p.m., but you were planning to leave by then to make a doctor's appointment. What do you do?
A. You cancel the appointment, even though you had to wait five months to get it. You don't want to anger your boss.
B. You are honest with your boss about your conflict, but offer to cancel the appointment if no other time to meet is available.
C. You decline the meeting request and leave without telling your boss why. You shouldn't have to explain yourself.  

3. You're working on a team project, and one of your co-workers isn't doing her fair share of the work. How do you handle the situation?
A. You don't say anything to your co-worker or your boss and just take on the extra work. You're frustrated, but you don't want to risk looking like a tattletale.
B. You ask to chat for a few minutes alone. During the conversation, you ask her if she wouldn't mind helping out a little bit more so the work is evenly distributed.
C. You march straight into your boss's office without talking to your co-worker first. She deserves to get in trouble for not pulling her weight.

4. Your team has been staying late the past few days to finish a project. You can tell you're all in 
for another late night. You:
A. Feel bad for the rest of your team, so you tell them to go home. You'll handle the rest of the work.
B. You stay, because you know that your job sometimes requires putting in extra hours. When you're not as busy, you won't feel guilty about leaving work on time.
C. You delegate the work to your assistant and get out of there. Why should you have to stay late when someone else could do the work for you?

5. You're facilitating a brainstorm for a new advertising campaign, and one of the attendees suggests an unrealistic idea that would never fly with the client. How do you respond?
A. You tell him it's a great idea and spend the rest of the brainstorm exploring it. After all, you don't want to stifle his creativity, even if it's at the cost of everyone's time.
B. You applaud him for sharing the idea but encourage him to think about ways to tweak the concept so it's more aligned with the client's point of view.
C. You shoot down the idea and tell him there's no way the client would ever consider such a crazy strategy. He should know better.
Mostly A's: Is "yes" your most commonly used word? You tend to say it for almost everything, whether it's taking on more work than others or agreeing with the team on something in which you don't believe. It's great to be a team player, but you don't want your boss or co-workers to walk all over you. It's OK to disagree or push back once in awhile, so long as you have a reasonable explanation or an alternative solution. Your team will respect you for standing up for yourself, and ultimately, you'll work better together for having done so.  
Mostly B's: You are the best example of what it means to be a team player. You have a healthy awareness of when you should "take one for the team" and when it's appropriate to push back. You're happy to help others or stay late as needed, just as long as you're able to keep a manageable workload and people aren't taking advantage of you. If you have any concerns, you raise them, but you do so in a way that's respectful and constructive. You encourage great ideas, but you also challenge others when you know they can do better or think smarter. Keep up the good (team) work.
Mostly C's: Sometimes it's good to put your own interests first, but you tend to do it all the time. Most work situations require employees to work with others to some degree, so you need to be more willing to compromise for the greater good of the team. Doing so doesn't mean you have to give up your beliefs or chain yourself to your desk. It just means that in order to excel at your job, you need to rely on others and let them rely on you, too. If you don't, you may find yourself without anyone willing to advocate for you or your work when you most need it.

How to break the cycle with negative co-workers

It only takes one person to derail a good day at work. But it also only takes one person to put that day back on track. While you can't control how others act, you can choose how you react to negativity and whether you bring a positive attitude to your workplace.

Dealing with negativity
Working with a negative person can drain you of your energy and enjoyment. How can you change the relationship? Darcy Eikenberg, leadership and workplace coach, founder of Red Cape Revolution and author of "Bring Your Superpowers to Work: Your Guide to More Clarity, Confidence and Control," shares some tips for changing the relationship:
  • First, get clear. "'Is it this person, or is it me?' Often the things we dislike most in others are the things we dislike most about ourselves. For example, one of my coaching clients hated how focused her [vice president] was on revenue, ignoring other achievements. In working through actions to change her experiences at work, she realized she measured her own success by her income -- just like that VP. Discovering this, her anger toward the VP's negativity fled when she started focusing on things that she wanted to value more, like family, personal growth or happiness."
  • Say what you need to say. "The mistake we make in dealing with negative people and situations is that we don't confront [them] early and then let all our banked frustration come out at once. As a co-worker, you have every right to point out negative behavior as it happens and make alternative suggestions. But it doesn't have to be a judgmental 'you're wrong and I'm right' statement. You can ask a question to find out more about their perspective, such as, 'I noticed that no matter what our results, you always seem to find something wrong. What are you seeing that I'm not?' Many times negative people just need a mirror to show them how negative they've become."
  • Make a plan. "If it's really toxic, make a plan. Most people just sit there and accept their circumstances. Those are the people who are exhausted and complaining all the time. Don't be one of those people."
A negative relationship with a co-worker or boss doesn't have to be permanent. Honestly evaluate your expectations and perceptions of your fellow employees. If they're truly negative, it's time to speak up tactfully and change the dynamic. If you need guidance or support, reach out to your human-resources department.
Focusing on the positive
Having a positive attitude is just as important as confronting negativity in the workplace. "Staying positive is fundamental to being engaged at work," says Mary Hladio, president of Ember Carriers, an organization that focuses on helping leaders and teams become more effective by improving their people skills.
Hladio shares tips on how to stay positive in uncomfortable workplace situations:
  • Check your attitude. This is yours to control. Being optimistic keeps you happy; being happy provides the energy to overcome challenges and is attractive to others. You choose how you react to situations, so choose to be positive.
  • Take a break. Unplugging from the daily grind will make you more productive and positive once you return to work.
  • Stay healthy. Feel good from the inside out. Don't skip lunch or pig out on junk food. Eating at the right time and eating foods that are good for you can help you stay positive at work -- an empty stomach may unleash your grumpiness.
  • Draw energy from others. Every office is going to have at least one negative person. Do what you can to surround yourself with positive people who can be a boost when you can't do it by yourself.
  • Spread kindness. We all feel positive when we do something nice for others. It contributes to a sense of wellbeing and satisfaction. Plus, it's contagious.
  • Use your strengths. According to Martin Seligman, a well-known psychologist and authority on the power of positive psychology, if you know your strengths and are using them for the greater good, you are much more likely to have a happy, meaningful life.
  • Keep a gratitude journal. When we're dancing at our own pity party, we forget about everything we have to be grateful for. Start small and work your way up to bigger things. If you're facing a challenge, be grateful for the opportunity to learn from it.

Source: careerbuilder

Stop making bad PowerPoint presentations

In the modern business world, presentations are important. Workers need to present their ideas clearly and concisely so that upper management, clients and other employees can understand. Why, then, are so many presentations bad? They use special effects to transition slides, sound effects when words appear on the screen and text that clashes with the background. These presentations can make the audience tune out, and that is not what anyone wants. Darlene Price, author of "Well Said!" has listened to hundreds of presentations, both with and without the use of PowerPoint, and offers these tips to ensure your presentation is a success.
The power of your presentation skills
A common misconception about presentations is that you must use PowerPoint slides. The most effective presentation tool is and always will be the presenter. Winston Churchill's Iron Curtain speech is still revered today, because it was well-written and well-delivered. Also, modern technology never fails to break as soon as it's needed. The PowerPoint file may be corrupted or the computer might crash, but if you know your material you can still give a great presentation. The conversation you have with the audience is more important than the content displayed on a computer screen.
If you're lucky enough to avoid any computer mishaps, you should still keep the focus on you and what you're saying. Slides are not to be used as a crutch but as a visual aid to express abstract concepts or drive home the main points. They should be used only when appropriate. If you can say it without using a slide, don't use one.
Design tips
If you choose to use slides, there are some simple rules that you should follow. Be sure that your audience can read your slides easily by using a large standard font on a contrasting background. Full sentences are not needed. Instead, use phrases to save space and make your point concisely.
Each slide should present one point, rather than multiple ones. If your slide includes a list, use the PowerPoint effects to show one list item at a time so your audience doesn't read ahead. List items and bullet points should start with the same kind of word for consistency. Numbering your slides is helpful, so you can refer to certain slides when questions are asked.
Begin the presentation with a title slide and an agenda slide, so the audience knows what you're presenting and why. Also include a summary slide, so your audience remembers salient points and can ask follow-up questions effectively.
Also, avoid using the same presentation multiple times; instead, customize it for your group. Presenting a new work initiative to upper management should be more formal than presenting to your team.
Finally, follow the 10-20-30 rule:
  • Use no more than 10 slides.
  • Speak for no longer than 20 minutes.
  • Use a 30-point font for your slides.
Rehearse, rehearse, rehearse
Many presentations have the problem of time -- you never have enough of it. That is why it's important to practice the presentation before giving it. Time yourself to see if you speak too quickly or slowly for the time allotted. Create a list for yourself of those things that you must say, need to say and want to say. Organize them in a pyramid starting from the top, so the key points of your presentation are not buried under the details that are interesting but not necessary. If possible, practice with the equipment you will be using so you can avoid technology issues.
Occasionally, you'll inherit a presentation from your boss or co-worker. Be sure to make it your own. Look through the slides and notes beforehand so you not only understand what you are presenting but you can do so in a compelling manner. The slides and notes are not as important as the main message and how you present it to your audience. If you're not intrigued by it, your audience won't be either.
Time to present
When presenting, always face the audience. While the slides may be on a screen behind you, you -- not the computer -- are giving the presentation. If you have a laptop that is showing the slides, look at that rather than the screen. Turning away from your audience is never a good idea. Remain standing, as that will help the audience to remain focused on you. If you can, stand to the left of the screen since people read from left to right. The audience can begin the presentation looking at you, read your slide and then drift back to focusing on you. Toggle your presentation slides to black periodically so the audience can see you more easily and focus on what you are doing. This also allows you to move around without blocking or stepping into the projector's light.
When speaking to senior leadership, front-load your presentation with the top 10 slides in case questions arise during the conversation. You can keep explanation slides closer to the end of the presentation and use them if time allows.
Once the presentation is complete and you are basking in applause, distribute handouts of your presentation. If you share them beforehand, your audience is more likely to tune you out by reading ahead to your main points. It's also a good idea to have two versions of your presentation -- the "show" version and the "handout" version, with the latter including more details than what you presented.

Source: careerbuilder

HR professionals: Tips for communicating with the C-suite

For many human-resources professionals, getting buy-in from the often time- and attention-challenged top-level executives -- also known as the C-suite -- isn't always a trip to Disneyland. It doesn't help that there seems to be a fundamental difference between the way HR and the C-suite each communicate. Flaxington, a certified professional behavioral analyst, shares her tried-and-true tips for human-resources professionals to effectively communicate with executives and gain leverage to achieve their goals.
Do this: Be direct
Not that: Don't give too much information
Sending an email to a C-level executive? The shorter and more direct it is, the better. Use the email as a means to open up the conversation, not as the medium for the conversation itself. "No senior executive is going to take the time to read one lengthy email," Flaxington says. Try this formula: Use the subject line of the email to state your issue; in the body, briefly explain what that issue is, what you need from them and when you need it (using bullets to outline the high-level issues you want to address). End with a question such as, "When would we be able to discuss?" which opens up the door to a follow-up conversation.
Do this: Show the business impact
Not that: Assume they already know
Even if it's clear to you that taking care of your employees is good for business, the C-suite doesn't always make that immediate connection. When addressing an issue, frame it in a way that speaks to its impact on the business, whether negative -- a potential liability or risk to the company's reputation -- or positive -- opportunities to increase profitability, revenue or efficiency. These are the matters to which C-level executives take notice and respond, Flaxington says. Another way to get their attention? Talk about what the competition is doing.
Do this: Be a confidante
Not that: Forget that C-levels are employees, too
Keep in mind that C-level executives are employees of the company, too. "They're dealing with interpersonal issues; they may also have questions," Flaxington says. "By extending the olive branch and showing the C-suite 'We're here for you,' you can secure inclusion in higher-level meetings, because you're seen as a confidante."
Do this: Leverage your insider information
Not that: Keep your opinions to yourself
Flaxington says that gaining leverage with the C-suite isn't always about being part of the fundamental decision-making team; you have just as much influence by positioning yourself as a facilitator or an objective third party. After all, HR workers have access to information to which the C-suite isn't always privy and can provide valuable insight on various organizational issues. "By volunteering to be the objective outsider, you get the opportunity to get your ideas heard, hear the decisions going on, and get access to information you wouldn't have had access to before," Flaxington says.
Do this: Cater your approach
Not that: Go in blind
"You need to be somewhat of a detective," Flaxington says about trying to decipher your leader's communication style. Look at how your leader communicates: Does she talk at length? Or is she short and to the point? Does she use a lot of data? These nonverbal cues will inform the tactics you should employ to influence them. Asking those who interact with your leader is another effective way to decipher how you should cater your approach. Determine if this person prefers email to talking on the phone or vice versa, and whether she takes time to think about things or simply makes decisions on the spot. "Think of it as data gathering," Flaxington says.
Do this: Focus on need-to-knows
Not that: Focus on want-to-knows
Again, keep in mind that the C-level person's time and attention are short. Therefore, it's important to "think in terms of what they need to know versus what you want them to know, because those are two different things," Flaxington says. Their needs are different than yours, so "frame your comments and ideas in a way that shows you're thinking about it from the C-suite seat ... Be able to say, 'This is the most critical aspect of our organization. This is time, this is money and this is effectiveness.'"
Do this: Stay objective
Not that: Take things personally
Dealing with C-level executives can be intimidating, Flaxington says, because they have a tendency to come across as dominating. However, their behavior doesn't necessarily mean they do not respect you or your role. They just have a different way of communicating and might not be aware of how they're coming across. Stay objective and avoid taking things personally when you don't get the response or reaction for which you hoped. Remind yourself that it's your job to address the issues you're bringing up, and remind your leader, too. "You need to be able to explain why this particular subject is valuable to them, and why it's important that you work together on this," Flaxington says.

Source: careerbuilder

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