“You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure.”
~ Zig Ziglar ~
Client Bart Asks: I have a couple of job interviews coming up next week. A friend told me I ought to invest in a whole new wardrobe, including an expensive looking watch. I’m a pretty casual, laid-back guy. I’d feel almost like a phony in a three-piece suit and a Rolex watch. What should I do? Can the wrong clothes truly hurt my chances of getting hired?
Coach Joel Answers: It’s an old cliché, but it’s true—you never get a second chance to make a first impression. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean a three piece suit and a Rolex. Let’s talk about how you want to be perceived by your interviewers.
Before a job interview, I advise my clients to write down three adjectives to describe how they want to be perceived. For example, one client listed “professional,” “experienced” and “energetic.”
Everything you say or do during the interview should reinforce the adjectives you choose, including every aspect of your appearance. This includes your shoes, your belt, your haircut. And, yes, even your watch.
When the employer meets you, they are judging the first thing they see and that’s your personal appearance. It’s extremely important that you don’t do anything that would undermine how you are perceived. So before you start planning your wardrobe, you need to consider the company and its culture. For example, many high-tech and entertainment companies pride themselves on a dress code that’s casual and laid back. They have an “almost anything goes” rule. That being said, you should still choose something just a cut above what’s customary for that company. If jeans are the order of the day, choose casual slacks and an open collar shirt. A three piece suit and tie would be overkill and would let the interviewer know you hadn’t done your homework.
On the other hand, if you’re interviewing with a bank or a stock brokerage, wear a suit even if you know your job is going to be in a back room somewhere. It’s always easy to scale down after you have the job, but scaling up after that first impression could be difficult.
As you role play the interview in your mind, here are some tips on how to dress for success during your job interview:
- Start with a smile and a firm handshake. Practice with a friend if you need to.
- Avoid wearing anything that attracts too much attention. No jangling bracelets or day-glo t-shirts.
- Men should consider having a clean shaven face.
- Minimize the amount of skin you’re showing. No tank tops or mini-skirts.
- Eliminate unusual hairstyles. Avoid pink or green hair dyes.
- Cover or remove tattoos and extensive body piercings.
- Leave off cologne or perfume. Many people have allergies to these products and some companies have a policy that prohibits them.
- Make sure your teeth are brushed and your mouth is fresh, but don’t chew gum or candy during an interview.
Remember, when you go for an interview, you’re marketing a product—that’s you. You are expressing your personal brand, telling your prospective employer who you are and what you’ll bring to the company. You may only be there for a few minutes—make them count.
If you’re in the job market you need an interviewing game plan. Before your next interview, put together a couple of outfits that are both low-key and impressive. Borrow accessories from a friend, if you need to. Dress for success!
Talkback: Have you ever been in an interview situation where you felt you could have been better dressed? Do you think it kept you from being hired? What would you do differently next time? Share your story here.
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“Do not wait until the conditions are perfect to begin. Beginning makes the conditions perfect.”
~ Alan Cohen ~
Client Craig Asks: Joel, after weeks of job searching, I just got hired by a fantastic company. I’m committed to a future with this company and I want to do everything right from Day One. What are your recommendations?
Coach Joel Answers: A new job is a wonderful opportunity. The temptation, however, after you’ve spent weeks or months on a job search, is to relax and enjoy feeling secure for a while. Not a good idea! Instead, start really working on Day One. What you need is a written action plan. Here’s what I would suggest.
- Write down high-level guidelines to be implemented during the first week or two regarding the communications you want to have with your boss, company stakeholders, business partners, and your peers in the company
- Study industry trends and compare them with what’s happening in your company.
- Spend time talking to peers and subordinates and obtain as much business knowledge as you can from their perspective. Learn from them about the company culture too, so you can quickly become an accepted member of the team.
- Once you have all this information, develop your detailed action plan. Document your goals, objectives, expectations, and timeline, and begin to obtain agreement from your bosses and start talking about commitment for the required resources.
- Promote open communication with your new boss through regularly scheduled meetings to define his goals, and to review and/or revise your priorities based on input from him as well as business partners and stakeholders.
- Tell your boss that early on you would like frequent and regularly scheduled contact with him to ensure that both near and long-term objectives are clearly communicated between you.
- Began holding one-on-ones with stakeholders and start developing strong relationships with these business partners. Include C-level managers within the company as well as clients, customers, and investors. Determine what you need to do in the near and long term to help them accomplish their goals.
- Create an agreement with your boss that the two of you will hold a resourcing conversation after a month to six weeks to define exactly what you need and where you can get it in order to succeed in your role within the company.
- Reevaluate every month and track your progress against the goals you set in Step 4.
- Manage your reputation from the beginning. Once you feel firmly established, look for advocates, both inside and outside the company, who will speak on your behalf and support you in maintaining positive visibility within the company.
Are you in the start-up phase of a new job? Write down five things you will do within the next week to make your mark and raise your visibility within the company.
Talkback: What strategies have you used to be successful in the first weeks or months of a new job? What have you tried that didn’t work? Share your experience here.
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“Nothing splendid has ever been achieved except by those who dared believe that something inside them was superior to circumstance.”
~ Bruce Barton ~
Client Amanda Asks: I know the face of HR is changing. It’s really important for me to be on top of the game. What competencies will insure my success as an HR executive?
Coach Joel Answers: You are right on target, Amanda. There is ongoing evaluation of what an HR executive should do or be.
Perhaps one of the most innovative is the change from task orientation to influencer. Executives no longer just apply the decisions of company management, they help create change. They strategize, and help shape the company culture.
Here are seven traits that will keep you in the forefront of all human resources executives.
1. Business knowledge. The bottom line fundamentals of business are essential for every executive, regardless of area of expertise. HR leaders are no exception. You need to understand the value of your business. You must be able to explain the value and business model to others.
And, of course, you need skills to keep you current with business technology. Know the latest in software and hardware to be efficient and innovative.
2. Company culture. In the past, you lived with the company culture. Now, you will get ahead if you help to shape that culture. You know the values that keep talent and those that push them away.
Help form a company culture that will attract and keep the finest employees. Help your people understand the culture. Assist them to apply it to advance their success as well.
3. People Management. Of course this is the traditional strength of HR. You must implement workplace policies. Know best practices for hiring, payroll, employee assessments and so on.
Understand the administrative side and oversee the day-to-day work of the people in the company.
4. Strategy expert. This is a new area of competency for HR executives. You will join with management in executing strategy. You’ll assist other managers and leaders to help them make the right changes happen. They may look to you for guidance in moving from vision to reality as it applies to your human resources.
5. Be credible. Ethics matter. HR executives may be the standard bearer for integrity. When people know they can trust you, you gain respect. Then you will be listened to.
You’ll have a chance to offer points of view. This is part of the new competencies. You may take a position and actually challenge assumptions. You are in a place to influence people and policy, but it takes credibility and integrity to make it work for you
Gain that credibility as you deliver results, share information, and build relationships of trust. Then use that credibility to influence others.
6. Organizational designer. In HR, a successful executive knows organizational theory. They do the research to tailor it to their company. They don’t just do things because they’ve always been done that way. They plan the best organization and then work to implement it.
It may be a matter of designing a motivating rewards system. You may implement successful feedback and reviews. Or design a mentoring program or cross pollination to increase your talent pool.
7. Talent management. Traditionally and always, a core competency of every successful HR executive centers around succession planning. You need to ensure both today’s quality workers and tomorrow’s talent. You’ll create systems for recognizing and developing talent. You’ll reward that talent.
Amanda, if you master these seven competencies you will be a powerful HR executive. Success will come your way. You’ll have the admiration of others and be a strong influence in your company.
Want to strengthen one or more of your competencies in human resources leadership? Contact Joel for individual help.
Talkback: What competencies have you found to be essential for your HR executives?
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“From the backstabbing co-worker to the meddling sister-in-law, you are in charge of how you react to the people and events in your life. . . Take control and choose to focus on what is important.”
~ Anais Nin ~
Mary Ann is caught in a downward spiral. She manages a department for a mid-sized manufacturing company and the atmosphere at work has gotten so negative lately that she hates going to work—at a job she used to love. She knows it’s time to confront the office politics. However, as an introvert she would rather avoid any conflict or confrontation necessary to resolve these issues.
Office politics leads to negative behavior. Left unchecked, this can have dangerous consequences. According to Gordon Davidson, writing in the Kamloops Daily News, “Workplace politics is a broad term for many events at work such as passive-aggressive sabotage, gossip, turf wars, scapegoating, power struggles, sibling rivalries, office romances, favoritism, dysfunctional decision making: all kinds of things that cause stress, burnout and eventually depression,” says Davidson. “It’s one of the leading causes for disability claims, absenteeism and family distress.”
Exactly what Mary Ann has been experiencing. She could just shrug it off or blame it on a bad economy or bad weather. Instead she decides it’s up to her to turn things around. She embarks on a mission to figure out what’s happening and why. This is a difficult step for her and most introverts handling office politics. If you’re experiencing a similar syndrome, you may want to follow these three simple steps:
• Isolate trouble spots
• Take it public
• Accentuate the positive
1. Isolate trouble spots. Mary Ann began to observe her environment more closely so she could see where the negative sentiments were coming from. If you’re in a similar situation, ask yourself: Is top management modeling this negative vibe? Are people only focusing on what hasn’t been done, instead of appreciating what has? Is the negative sentiment coming from a single source or multiple sources? Mary Ann determined that hers was a departmental issue, based on demands of a fast-growing business, plus the volume and pace of work.
2. Take it public. Mary Ann’s next move was to bring the problem out in the open. She first discussed what she was experiencing with her boss. If trouble is brewing, management needs to be aware and know that you’re working on the problem. Next, call an all-hands meeting. Share your observations and ask people to express their feelings. Whatever is bringing people down, whether it’s a disagreement between two team members or a mini-rebellion against work overload, a frank discussion of the situation is the first step toward resolving it.
3. Accentuate the positive. To quote Mahatma Ghandi, “Be the change you want to see in the world.” Your team may not experience an overnight attitude adjustment, but you can. Every person you meet with, from one-on-ones to team meetings, find out what’s going well. Focus on that. Every time you share about the company or your situation with others, focus on the positive first. Notice what the team and individuals are doing well and talk it up. Most importantly, take five minutes a day and write down all the things that you personally are doing well, all the areas that feel positive to you. When you begin to feel positive, you’ll act positive and the feeling will spread.
Mary Ann’s department didn’t change overnight and yours won’t either. The negative attitudes brought on by office politics can spread faster than the common cold. The sooner you start treatment, the sooner you, and everyone else, will begin to feel better.
If office politics is creating a bad environment in your workplace, Joel has some suggestions for you. Contact him and start solving your problem today.
Talkback: What’s your office politics story? Share your problems and solutions here. If your an introvert how have you dealt with difficult office politics at work?
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“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You must do the thing you think you cannot do.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~
While it’s hard to walk into a new job, sometimes the most difficult jobs to take are in-company promotions. You have the advantage, of course, of being familiar with the company and its policies. You know the work and the people. But… you need to transition from peer to boss.
In a job in a new company, you can more easily step into that leadership role, but you must get to know the people, the policies, the company and the workload. How can you step into this new management job and be successful regardless of the new circumstances?
Here are seven steps to help—whether it’s a new job or an in-house promotion.
1. Talk to your boss. You want to clearly understand your role. What does he or she expect of you in this new position? What are your added responsibilities? You might ask the boss how he has dealt with a similar transition. How did he relate to his former peers? Don’t just talk at the start of the new job. Keep in frequent contact with your boss asking for feedback on your performance on a regular basis. That way, you can make sure you don’t stray far from his or her goals without correction.
2. Remember why you were promoted. Sometimes, when we’ve been working with talented successful professionals, we wonder why we were chosen over them. There’s always a reason. Make a list of your skills and talents. Look at the projects you’ve accomplished and the value you’ve brought to the company. You are ready and capable of taking this step. Own it.
3. Read up. Your new management job may call for new skills. Certainly you will need to step up your leadership qualities. Read books on management and leadership. Schedule your time to include learning leadership skills for your new role.
4. Consider coaching or finding a mentor. When you are in a new job, you’re uncomfortable. There’s so much to learn. At times like this, an experienced voice can be invaluable. If there is someone you admire within the company, take him or her to lunch and ask for advice. Most people are generous when they know you’re interested in learning. If there are no mentors at hand, you may want to hire an experienced coach to streamline your progress.
5. Choose leadership. When you are interacting with former peers, it’s easy to slip back into old ways. Even in new situations there are times where you can to choose to be a leader or choose to minimize yourself. Be aware of those times. Be conscious of them. Then make the decision to lead.
6. Give yourself time. When you’re new to your job, you can’t expect to be perfect right away. Not any more than a young basketball player can have the same skill sets as a Michael Jordan. You can, however, practice like he practices and value what he values. As a new manager deliberately make choices to lead.
7. Adapt management attributes. Make a list of all the qualities a great manager has. Perhaps you’ll list organization, follow through, listening, authority, decisiveness, or integrity. Each day write one of these qualities in a place you’ll see it throughout the day. Make each action, decision, email or interaction deliberately considering this quality. Own the quality for the day. As you do this each day, these attributes will become yours.
Whether you are promoted from within or hired from outside, these seven steps can assure you fill that new management job successfully… and set yourself up so you can advance again.
If you have questions about your new job, contact Joel.
Talkback: What have been some of the difficulties you’ve faced in a new management job? What tips can you give others to successfully overcome new leadership challenges?
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