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Which Matters More: Your Aptitude or Your Attitude?

This is a guest post by Jonathan Rick.

You can tell a lot about a person from the way he emails.

Who would you want to have a beer with?

That question kept racing through my mind as I read the replies to a solicitation I recently sent out. The emails, which within an hour numbered more than a dozen, ranged from the pedestrian to the eloquent.

I’m publishing a representative handful to correct a widespread misperception among consultants in every industry: from publicists to painters to pet-sitters, what ultimately separates the winning vendor from the runners up isn’t the quality of your work. It’s whether people want to work with you. In other words, your likability.

Indeed, according to outplacement experts, in evaluating potential employees, employers value personality, passion, and proficiency in that order. The classic example is Charles Schwab, who in 1901 became the first recipient of a million-dollar salary. He earned this distinction not because of his expertise in steel, but “largely because,” Schwab recalled, of his “ability to deal with people.”

Keep this maxim in mind as you eyeball the below emails. After all the interviews and case studies and estimates and reference checks, most decisions in life come down to a single sensor: one’s gut. So before firing off your next pitch, think like the client and ask yourself that quintessentially American question: who would I want to have a beer with?

The Cut to the Chaser

1. “Do you have budget?”

It’s a legitimate question, but as the leadoff one, it’s a turnoff. Just as you wouldn’t ask a woman about her bank account on your first date, so your icebreaker to a prospective client shouldn’t be about money. No one wants to work with someone whose immediate—and seemingly only—concern is what you can do for him.

2. “My firm probably could do this. If you’d like to chat I’m at [redacted]. Website is [redacted].”

Love the confidence: we “probably could do this.” Equally inspiring: the description of your firm and a reason for its relevance to this project. No, wait…

3. “[Redacted] based out of Austin, TX is a great choice! Fast, quality work. Not sure of their schedule, but it can’t hurt to check.”

While the tip is intriguing, it’s incomplete. Care to make an introduction? How about identifying your contact here? At the least, give me an email address.

(If you’d prefer not to introduce me in your initial email, maybe offer to do so once I reply affirmatively? See reply #8.)

The Lou Avery

4. “[Redacted] emailed me that you may need a short video project. I am [redacted] from [redacted]. Let me know if we can help. Our demo reel is at [redacted].”

These straightforward sentences call to mind Lou Avery, Don Draper’s replacement in Mad Men. The new creative director is immortalized with this faint praise: “Lou is adequate.” So is this pitch, which is perfectly fine if you’re comfortable with average work.

5. “[Redacted] forwarded this to me. [Links to his videos.] What’s the project? Short turnarounds are rarely a problem (although I do have a current video for another client and a shoot with [redacted] to work on this weekend). Would love to know more, though.”

I appreciate your honesty. It’s admirable. At the same time, letting me know I won’t be your top priority isn’t the best way to commence a relationship. Reserve any potential problems until you’re asked or have established a rapport.

The Storyteller

6. “You might try [redacted]. He was at [redacted] and has his own business now. I know [redacted] has also used him. Everyone that I know who he’s worked with has been super pleased with the results. His email is [redacted].”

Solid. A strong recommendation coupled with a couple of name drops. And an email address is provided, so I can simply forward the message.

7. “Hey [redacted], Wanted to introduce you to Jonathan Rick. He is currently looking for a production team to help him with a video that needs to wrapped in the next two weeks. The budget is also fixed at $12K. Mentioned some of the details to [redacted], but Jonathan can fill you in on the rest. Know the budget is tight but hopefully you and Jonathan can figure something out.”

Excellent. Introductions like this reduce my workload—a surefire way to win my wallet. As a result, the burden now falls on the other party to follow-up.

One suggestion: tell me something about the other party.

8. “I can suggest an utterly brilliant award-winning filmmaker and producer, with a very quick turnaround and ridiculously affordable rates, who has won numerous awards for his professional filmmaking prior to his turning his attention to work for the [redacted] movement. Problem is, he’s in Australia. If it’s something that can be arranged off location though, let me know, and I’ll put you in touch…”

“Utterly brilliant”? “Ridiculously affordable”? Sold! Even though the location is a deal-breaker, I still want to meet this superstar. You never know when another opportunity will arise.

Six Principles

Fielding the above “cover letters” made me feel like a recruiter receiving rounds of resumes. Amid this deluge, six principles of salesmanship quickly took hold:

1. The early bird gets the worm. With a tight turnaround, the first few replies will attract maximum interest. With each subsequent email, my attention wanes.

Similarly, the further away you get from the initial request, the less the client remains in buying mode. If you can’t reply within 48 hours, what does this say about your responsiveness?

2. Follow instructions. The quickest way to eliminate yourself is by ignoring instructions. If a Word doc is requested, don’t send a PDF. If I ask for a one-paragraph description of your firm, don’t refer me to your personal LinkedIn profile.

My friend, recruiter Claire Kittle Dixon, shares this story: “If you think I’m a stickler, you should talk to my clients. The most common reaction I get from clients is, ‘If the candidate can’t follow simple application instructions, how will he perform on the job?’ They also say, ‘If the candidate doesn’t care enough to read the instructions, he must not be very interested in the job.’ It’s hard to argue with either point.”

3. Tell me about yourself. I don’t need your bio, just your elevator pitch or a memorable detail. Do you specialize in a certain facet of the field? Did you recently win any awards, get some nice press, or finish a particularly exciting project? Do we have any mutual friends or interests? (I may not recall your name, but I’ll remember that we both worked in the Bush White House.)

4. Offer advice. One reply I didn’t reprint contained this pearl: “I especially like the fact that [the video] is scripted and not documentary-style, and that they want to turn it around quickly. There are too many projects that drag on forever.” When every pitch is basically the same, demonstrating your expertise (showing rather than telling) goes a long way. Also, flattery never hurts.

(What happened to this pro? He failed principle #2—instructions.)

5. Make it easy for me. This is my biggest pet peeve. If you’re recommending someone, it’s best to gauge that person’s interest and availability beforehand. Once you’ve prequalified him, then introduce us via email. (See reply #7.) This saves me the trouble of repeating the project parameters.

6. Get excited. There’s no better way to stand out than with enthusiasm. If you’re confident you could knock this assignment out of the park, find an appropriate way to say so. Just as we remember a receptionist who greets us with a smile, so we remember the emailer who expresses eagerness and exudes enthusiasm.

A Master of All Trades

Some will accuse me of being persnickety, of foregoing a talented producer because of a lackluster initial email. If the guy can deliver a killer video, does he also need to be Shakespeare?

To this charge, I plead guilty. I want to work with people who are not only great at their job—be it videos or vehicles—but who can also communicate their thinking in a clear and logical way. I want to work with people who not only think creatively, but can also elucidate the principles behind that creativity to a nonexpert. I want to work with people who make me smarter.

Perhaps no one grasped this philosophy better than Steve Jobs. Whether the thing before him was a glass of juice or a potential employee, he refused to degrade his standards. As he told a pair of interviewers in 1997,

“The dynamic range between what an average person could accomplish and what the best person could accomplish was 50 or 100 to 1. Given that, you’re well advised to go after the cream of the cream … A small team of A+ players can run circles around a giant team of B and C players.”

Years later, regarding his cofounder at Apple, Jobs added: “What I saw with Woz was somebody who was 50 times better than the average engineer. He could have meetings in his head.”

Is this a lot to ask for in a mere introductory paragraph? Sure is. But when the competition is stiff and the pay is good, don’t give anyone an excuse to pass you over. Give them a reason to look you over.

Jonathan Rick is a digital communications consultant in Washington, DC. The above lessons result from seven years of running the Jonathan Rick Group,, where he’s written and responded to more RFPs than he cares to remember. Tweet him your pet peeves of pitching a prospect at @jrick.

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Why Women Need to Toot Their Own Horns at Work

There are many statistics out there proving that, despite the fact that we live in “modern times,” women still earn less than men in comparable positions. While it’s easy to put the blame on men, women must take some of the responsibility.

Part of the reason we’re earning less is because we’re often reluctant to talk about our accomplishments to our bosses. In a recent conversation on the LinkedIn group, Connect: Professional Women’s Network, Powered by Citi, women discussed the topic.

Why We Don’t Talk About Ourselves

While it’s difficult to lump all women into one stereotype, many women do feel like they’re perceived differently than men when they talk about their accomplishments.

Tameeka Robinson, Store Manager at CB2, said: “ If we go overboard with ‘tooting our own horn’ we can be viewed as cocky, not a team player, self absorbed, etc.”

Men, on the other hand, are quick to take credit for what they’ve done. Whether women don’t feel entitled to the pat on the back or simply lack the confidence to bring it up, it’s affecting not only our morale but also our bank accounts.

How to Put Yourself in the Limelight

While it may not be comfortable to do so, tooting your horn is a necessity if you want to get ahead in the workforce.

Leticia Guzzetta, Technical Publications Manager at Imagination Technologies, said on the LinkedIn conversation: “It is appropriate to speak honestly and openly about your accomplishments because no one is going to do it for you.”

1. Look at Your Accomplishments from the Outside. While you may not think it’s that big a deal that you generated half a million in sales for the company, others do. Consider what others will be impressed with. Ammie Neal, a Consultant in Sales Operations suggests keeping a summary of what you’ve done:

“Time flies and by end of year it is easy forget your earlier accomplishments. So, be sure to print a copy of the summary and put it in your mid-year/yearly appraisal file.”

2. Don’t Brag, but Be Honest. There’s no reason to constantly tell your office mates about your achievements. Save them for your performance review, when they’ll have the best impact on your boss.

3. Be Visible. It’s not always about pointing out what you’ve done. Sometimes it’s as important to simply be noticed. Speak up in meetings. Voice your opinion. Share your ideas.

4. Believe in Yourself. If you don’t show confidence, how can you expect anyone else to have the confidence enough to promote you or give you a raise? If it’s hard to come by, try faking it until you make it.

5. Ask for that Raise. Don’t wait until your boss decides you deserve a raise, or you’ll never get it. Come armed with that list of your accomplishments and convince your boss that you’re worth it.

6. Don’t Let Someone Else Take Your Credit.

Diana Wittenbrock works as Senior Sales Manager for Hilton San Francisco Union Square. She was so humble in her first job out of college that she didn’t put her name on many of her projects. She quickly learned her lesson:

“Little did I know a male supervisor I trusted was actually writing his name on them – until the day he got an award for all the wonderful work he had been doing. 100% all mine.”

Don’t be shy about taking ownership of your work. If you don’t, someone else might.

It’s time we change the fact that there only 40% of executives are women. Stand up for yourself, accept credit where it’s due, and don’t be afraid to polish that horn when necessary.

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How is your ‘coffice’ etiquette?

This is a post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

I think it’s safe to say that everyone will at some time experience working from a coffee shop. Even if you’re not a regular telecommuter, you’ll spend some time trying to get a few to-do’s done when you’re on the road, or you’ll escape to a local shop on a work-from-home day.

What’s the attraction? 

Well, duh, there’s coffee. And usually some good-looking other stuff to eat.

But there’s also a good business reason to do it. In one of its most-read leadership articles of 2013, Fast Company outlined the reasons everyone should work in a coffee shop, even when you have an office.

Seriously, researchers at The Journal of Consumer Research found that moderate ambient background noise enhances performance on creative tasks and increases the buying likelihood of innovative products. If that’s not enough incentive, Starbucks ups the ante by offering access to free news, video and “premium content” from a variety of partners to anyone who logs onto its store Wi-Fi with its Starbucks Digital Network.

Once you’re there, it’s important to observe ‘coffice’ etiquette.  The most important, and obvious, bits of etiquette advice are:

  • Buy something
  • Be nice to the staff
  • Power up before hand & don’t hog power outlets
  • Work securely – working in a public setting has implications for your data security, as well as for the physical security of your gear.
  • Know when it’s time to go – don’t stay and hog a table if there are long lines of paying customers
  • Take your phone calls somewhere else

 Some you may not have thought of are:

  • Advertise on the back (case) of your laptop
  • Don’t download huge files, or stream movies hogging the Wi-Fi bandwidth for others
  • Clean up after yourself – yes, you’re at a restaurant, but you also might want to ingratiate yourself to the staff

And, in the third category of ‘who WOULDN’T think of this’ here are a few last tips:

  • Take advantage of mobile technology. I know, right? But check out these Improv Everywhere pranksters who brought complete desktop computing workstations to the coffee shop.
  • Don’t bring in outside food. Just because there isn’t a sign saying not to do it, that doesn’t make it right.

Want to try working from a ‘coffice’ but can’t break free of your cubicle? Try Coffitivity, a free web site that simulates the sounds of a coffee shop on your desktop.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.comLearn more about Alison Kenney.


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10 Holiday No-Nos for the Office

The holiday season — while filled with joy and good cheer — can be a landmine in the office if you’re not careful. Here are 10 potential pitfalls you should watch out for this season.

1. Don’t Overdo it at the Office Holiday Party

While you certainly should relax at the company holiday party, do so within reason. Use it as an opportunity to talk to people other than the usual suspects. For some reason, whenever co-workers start drinking together, embarrassing things tend to happen. Pay attention to your alcohol consumption, and avoid the temptation to put that lampshade on your head.

2. Don’t Give an Inappropriate Gift to Your Boss

It’s perfectly acceptable to give the people you work with small tokens of appreciation for Christmas, but don’t give anything — especially to your boss — whose intent could be misunderstood to mean you have romantic interest in him or her, or simply want to get ahead in your career.

3. Don’t Take Vacation at Crunch Time

If you work in an industry that’s bombarded with work this time of year, try to avoid asking for vacation time unless absolutely necessary. You’ll come off more of a team player if you wait to unwind on the beach after the stressful period of work is over.

4. Don’t Flood the Break Room with Fattening Treats

Sure, most people love munching on your gingerbread cookies,  but when everyone is worried about packing on the pounds around the holiday season, healthy alternatives are appreciated.

5. Don’t Angle for a Promotion at the Company Party

If you’ve been vying for a promotion or raise, bringing it up to your boss at the party is definitely a no-no. He’s there to relax too, and will be put off if you’re spouting off all your accomplishments as he’s trying to do the Electric Slide.

6. Don’t Hook Up with a Co-Worker

We keep coming back to that office party, don’t we? Inter-office romance is a tricky thing, and one-time hookups at the holiday party definitely make for an awkward and strained work environment. Instead, bring a date (even if it’s just a friend) to the party to avoid being tempted by the new hot intern.

7. Don’t Be Exclusive with the Gift Giving

Okay, you don’t have to get everyone in your office a gift, but unless you can subtly hand off a giant wrapped box to your favorite co-worker, try to get something for everyone, even if it’s just a card. This can help dial down the jealousy and keep cohesion in the office.

8. Don’t Grouse About Your Nonexistent Bonus

Times are hard. If you don’t get a bonus from your boss, don’t complain about it. It’s not personal. Your boss will appreciate it if you take it in stride.

9. Don’t Assume Everyone Celebrates Christmas

When giving cards, stick to “happy holidays” messages to avoid offending anyone. And if you know a co-worker practices another religion, find out if she is comfortable accepting gifts before you give one.

10. Don’t be a Scrooge

If you’re not into the festive vibe, don’t ruin it for everyone else. This is one time of year that people don’t work as hard if they don’t have to, and enjoy general camaraderie with others in the office.

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10 Things You Do or Say That Undermine You at Work

You’re trying to do whatever it takes to be promoted or get a raise. But have you taken a look at your speech and communication style? They very well may be keeping you from excelling at work. If any of these describe you, it’s time to nip the behavior in the bud.

1. Uptalking. When you make a statement? If it sounds like a sentence? People don’t take you seriously. Whatever comes out of your mouth should sound confident and leave no question that you know what you’re talking about.

2. Speaking Arrogantly. There’s a fine line between being confident and being arrogant. If your comments come off as arrogant, they’ll drive people away. If you sound confident, people will respect you. Pay attention to people’s behavior and decide which vibes you’re giving off.

3. Apologizing. If you’re constantly saying “sorry” when you walk in someone’s office or interject in a conversation, you belittle yourself. It seems like you think you don’t have the right to be there or to share your opinion. That’s no way to show off your stuff!

4. Putting Yourself Down. If you’re in the habit of saying things like “You’re so much smarter than me,” or “Duh! That was stupid of me,” co-workers — and your boss — will believe you don’t think much of yourself. And if you don’t believe in yourself, how can you expect others to?

5. Talking Too Fast. Sometimes this stems out of nervousness, but if you talktoofastforanyonetounderstand, people will stop listening. If you want your ideas to be taken seriously, take a deep breath and go slowly.

6. Gossiping. Talking behind your co-worker’s back is no way to win over friends in the workplace. Find other ways to get people to like you, like complimenting them.

7. Interrupting. No one likes being cut off mid-sentence. Even if you’re eager to share your thoughts on the topic at hand, hold back. Otherwise, you seem impatient, and as if you don’t value the thoughts of those you’re conversing with.

8. Dominating Every Conversation. If you’re like Hermione from Harry Potter and are the first person to speak in a meeting, watch yourself. It’s one thing to be eager to participate in the conversation; it’s another to want to have the spotlight all on you. Remember you’re part of a team, so try to bring in your co-workers to the conversation.

9. Not Listening. If you’re not really paying attention to what your co-workers have to say, they’ll feel it. Be fully in the moment whenever anyone is speaking to you. Pause, then respond when appropriate. Try repeating in your own words what you just heard to reassure the listener you actually understood what she said.

10. Not Acting like Yourself. Men and women communicate differently and just because you work in a mainly male or mainly female environment doesn’t mean you should change your communication style. Acting like someone you’re not is obvious and comes off badly. You’ll get a lot more respect from your colleagues by being aware of the communication styles and sticking with your own.

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6 Lessons to Learn from a Bad Boss

We’ve all had them or heard of them: The boss who only cares about himself, the boss who is never pleased, the boss who yells constantly, the boss who takes credit for everyone else’s work, the boss who just stresses his whole team out.

You could, of course, quit your job, but there’s no guarantee that your next boss won’t be just as “difficult”. Better to try to benefit from these lessons a bad boss can teach you.

1. There are All Kinds of Bosses

While certainly, you’d prefer to have the kind of boss you want to drink margaritas with after work, this isn’t always going to be your reality. Having a bad boss can teach you that there are many types of managers — and people, for that matter. Knowing how to please, say, a chronically grumpy boss, can help you any time you encounter a person (at work or otherwise) who is hard to please.

2. Smart People Don’t Always Make Good Managers

Just because someone has spent decades in a field doesn’t make that person necessarily adept at managing other people and leading by example. In other words, for some people, experience doesn’t always translate into good management skills.

3. You Could Do His Job

Whether your boss is a rock star or a troll, you can learn a lot by observing. You can see what skills being a manager at your company requires (even if your boss is sorely lacking them), and you can chart your own plan to climb the ladder and become a manager yourself one day.

4. Bad Bosses are People Too

While you’d love to throw darts at a photo of your boss, you have to admit: he’s human. He also has many other pressures on the job that you don’t need to deal with daily. Sometimes it’s good to recognize that and give him a break.

5. You Know What Not to Do

If you’re taking notes about how to be a good manager, your boss is providing an entire list of what not to do. Ask yourself how you would handle a given situation better, and store that information away for future use.

6. You Don’t Have to Take a Bad Boss Home

While nearly all of us are guilty of taking home our work day with us and complaining to friends or family, you don’t have to. You only have to deal with your bad boss for 8 or so hours a day. Don’t let him consume additional space in your brain.

You can’t always get out of a job with a sub-par manager, but if you turn the experience around into a life lesson, you’ll take away nuggets that will make you a better employee.

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When Did Desk Jobs Become So Dangerous?

This is a guest post by PR columnist, Alison Kenney.

It used to be the biggest workplace health risk us office workers faced was ergonomic injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. HR sent experts to talk to us about the correct chair height and the right hand position for typing, and we tried out special chairs, including the kneeling chair, or sat on inflated balls.

But like everything in life, workplace danger has amped up and PR pros who work at a computer (which would seem to be all of us; heck, 70 percent of us regularly eat lunch at our desk) are now prime candidates for “Sitting Disease.”

It’s very serious. According to a study by the American Cancer Society, men who sit for six hours or more daily have an overall death rate 20 percent higher than men who sit for three hours or less per day, i.e. they are 20 percent more likely to die of any cause than more active men.

In her U.S. News & World Report article, Lindsay Olson describes the effects of sitting disease.

…“Prolonged sitting increases the risk of cancer, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and even death. Here are other shocking statistics:

  • People who sit for more than 11 hours a day have a 40 percent increased risk of death in the next three years, compared with people who sit for four hours or less.
  • Workers who have held sedentary roles for more than 10 years have twice the risk of colon cancer.
  • The longer people sit, the shorter their lifespan, even if they exercise regularly.
  • Sitting for long periods may also affect the development of musculoskeletal disorders.”

Olson recommends that PR pros become more active. Although she says there’s a caveat: “even if you consider yourself active now (meaning you spend 30 minutes or more a day engaging in physical exercise), you’re still considered high risk if you spend eight to 10 hours a day sitting.”

Her advice:

“If possible, aim for more exercise, especially on the days you’re sitting for work. Walking, hiking, biking and swimming are all excellent forms of exercise that counter the effects of sitting.

Also, look into standing and walking more at work and at home. Rather than call or IM a co-worker, walk over to her office. Park farther away in the parking lot so that you have another opportunity to walk. Invest in a FitBit or other pedometer device and aim for 10,000 steps a day. Stand up while watching TV, or at least during commercial breaks. Build activity into your day, even if it’s in five-minute bursts.”

Other options include getting a treadmill desk. Susan Orlean wrote this piece for the New Yorker about her experience with a treadmill desk and the compulsive step count-checking she does with her Fitbit (may need to subscribe to read the entire article).

Of course, there are times when all you’ve got is a chair. If you want to make the best of your situation and ensure you’re practicing the proper posture, perhaps you’re a candidate for the LUMOback, a belt-like device that vibrates if your posture slumps.

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.comLearn more about Alison Kenney.

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What Makes a Great Flexible Worker?

Wondering if you’re a good fit for a flexible work situation? It’s not for everyone. Being able to work from home requires independence and focus. If those dirty dishes easily lure you away from a morning of slogging away on your laptop, you might not make the best flexible worker, at least in your boss’ eyes.

According to business and workplace expert Alexandra Levit, who has partnered with Flexjobs to talk about flexible work, there are several traits that make for a more successful flexible employee:

  1. Self discipline: Going back to that dirty dishes example; it’s imperative that you be able to ignore all distractions while working from home. And without a micromanaging boss peering over your shoulder, you’ll have to motivate yourself to get the job done.

  2. Confidence: You can’t get the buy-in of your supervisor for every decision you make if you’re working out of your home. You’ll need to be confident in your decisions and not second guess each one.

  3. Resourcefulness: There’s a reason why recent grads don’t often find flexible work situations: it takes experience to be able to run with a task after receiving only minimal direction on it. The longer you’ve been in the workforce, the more able you will be to act resourcefully and find answers yourself.

  4. Comfortable with Self-Imposed Deadlines: If you thrive under the pressure of your boss cracking the whip over your head just before a deadline, you might not succeed if you’re working alone at home. You’ll be responsible for meeting deadlines, and there won’t be anyone yelling in your ear to get it done.

  5. Extroversion: Just because you’re out of sight in the office shouldn’t mean you become out of mind. It’s even more important, says Levit, to stay visible when you’re not in the office every day. This means you’ll have to spend time developing professional relationships and staying in contact with your team, even if it’s just for a little office news.

Can These Skills Be Learned?

If you didn’t identify with any of the traits listed above, don’t despair. You may be able to learn to create laser focus on your work, and to flourish without the watchful eye of your manager. Above all, you can develop solid communication skills that will help you succeed as a flexible worker.

“I think that the most critical trait to be a great flexible worker is to be a proactive communicator,” Sara Sutton Fell, CEO of Flexjobs, surmises, “Although I probably think it’s the most critical trait in almost any job, it’s even more so with telecommuting, freelance, or flexible schedule arrangements, because you can’t fall back on some of the traditional ways to check in with your colleagues.”

Strong communication will also be what sells your boss on the idea of you working remotely. If you want to pitch yourself as a good candidate for telecommuting, start by showing him what a fantastic communicator you can be. Every goal, process, and project you work on should be a part of a conversation. Once you show that you’re on top of it (and he can spend more time worrying about other employees), he may loosen up and let you test out a flexible work situation.

What if It’s Not Right for You?

You may prefer the structure and connection that come with working in an office, and that’s okay. Be honest about your ideal work environment, and if it doesn’t consist of working from your home or elsewhere, hang on to your cubicle!

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Are You a Good Fit for Your Job?

What is Good.Co? from Good Co on Vimeo.

Workplace culture is an important factor when considering a job change. Recruiters hear it constantly when sending in a candidate who looks great on paper and the interview feedback is simply “great experience, but gut instinct says he’s not the one”. That’s the classic case of the poor culture fit feedback. Studies have shown that bad culture fit is one of the main reasons new hires fail within the first 18 months on the job, it will cost a company an average of $50k each. Moreover, two out of three Americans are disengaged at work, costing billions in lost productivity.

Now, thanks to a new social network and self-discovery platform, Good.co, you can find out in just 15 questions your professional and personal personality traits and see if they match up with a potential employer’s profile.

Not Another Boring Personality Test!

The questions aren’t your run of the mill boring aptitude questions. You’ll be asked if you’re more like Justin Timberlake or Eminem or if you would rather be a character on Friends or Survivor.

Not what you expected, right? And yet these 15 little questions help the intelligent software determine your traits in your professional life, which can provide you with valuable insight into how you work with others.

And speaking of the software, it’s pretty sophisticated. The website says it uses 20 years of psychometrics research, as well as “high-velocity statistical models and the ultimate crowd-sourced culture graph.”

Once you get your Archetype (and you may be a combination of more than one), you can connect to your LinkedIn profile to see how good a fit you are for your current (or past) position.

How to Use Good.co

Good.co has about 400 company profiles and growing. You can use it to see how compatible you are with certain companies. It’s also very interesting to check how compatible you are with your colleagues. Looking through my personality assessment, I found myself nodding in agreement with most of what it said. My results revealed I am ⅓ straight shooter,  ⅓ mastermind, and ⅓ strategist. Then I compared myself to my business partner, which interestingly showed we pretty much get along, but have some areas of conflict. And we do… as I’m sure she would agree. Knowing how compatible/incompatible we are can help of smooth out those rough patches and be more understanding of each other.

Good.co is currently in Beta. If you are interested in signing up and taking a look at your profile, you can use this code: goodcolindsay

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Should You Keep a Work Journal?

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This is a guest post by PR Columnist, Alison Kenney.

You’d think that in our over-sharing world with accommodation for more than 31 million bloggers (Source: Blogging.org, 2012) and hundreds of millions of social media status updates (my own estimate), keeping journals would be the norm. But I’m not sure it is yet. (Given the private nature, it’s hard to tell.)

In addition to being an outlet for your observations and frustrations, journals can be very useful tools for professional development, which is why media from Harvard Business Review to Inc. to Forbes have covered work journals recently.

In the HBR blog, author Teresa Amabile asked her graduate course students to keep a journal and one student continued the practice during throughout her career:

Teresa’s former student, Sarah Kauss, recently wrote that the journal she was required to keep in the MBA course Managing for Creativity led to a daily practice that she has found invaluable as she traveled a career path from consultant to entrepreneur. (Sarah’s company, S’well, makes and sells unique insulated drinking bottles.) At first, Sarah rebelled at the idea of keeping a journal:

At the time, as a busy MBA student, this seemed uncomfortable and time-consuming. I needed to be working and networking, not taking time to write about perceptions and feelings. Or so I thought. Professor Amabile’s assignment introduced me to an entirely new type of journaling that has helped me in both my personal and professional life.

Sarah highlights the first three benefits:

Journaling about work has given me the focus to identify my strengths and the activities that bring me the greatest joy. Surprisingly, the least glamorous tasks of my professional career to date have been some of my career highlights. I have gleaned many lessons about where I can be most engaged and therefore most successful in the workplace. Journaling has also given me patience and sharpened my ability to plan. Although it can seem that I’m making only baby steps of progress — and, yes, sometimes going sideways or even backwards before moving forward — my journal is an independent arbiter (and a silent cheerleader). There will always be more progress to make, but for me it is important to know that I am moving closer to my goals. I am always encouraged to look back and know how far I have come in a year’s time, and how major obstacles seem to become minor speed bumps in hindsight. This record gives me great patience and perspective when new challenges come my way. Even now as a very busy entrepreneur, I can’t imagine not taking a few moments at the end of each day to record in my journal the progress made and my hopes and plans for the next phases of success.

If that isn’t enough of an endorsement for starting a work journal, consider some other benefits. For instance, keeping a work journal can help you:

Develop new perspective – writing about an experience at work “keeps you honest” and taking the time to describe an event in writing often allows you to uncover other perspectives.

Identify problems – a work journal can serve as a log to help you spot issues that you may be too busy to notice otherwise.

Track progress toward goals – by referring back to written goals and comparing daily progress a journal will help you track your progress

Notice patterns – are your work disappointments the same each day? Do you rejoice in the same successes? These patterns may serve to point out strengths or weaknesses you weren’t aware of.

Jot down inspiration/ good ideas – journals are good repositories for ideas – be they notes, photos, quotes, or whatever jogs your mojo.

In addition, Forbes cites these six reasons for keeping a journal: log good ideas, learn lessons, list good advice from mentors, vent (in a safe space), collect compliments and envision the future.

In the PR world, work journals could serve as note keepers on work-related activities from managing a client’s expectations to jump-starting a new campaign.

In this Business Insider article, Madeline Stilley writes about the questions she asks herself at the end of each work day:

  • What events stand out in my mind from the work day and how did it affect my inner work life?
  • What progress did I make today and how did it affect my inner work life?
  • What nourishes and catalysts supported me and my work today? How can I sustain them tomorrow?
  • What one thing can I do to make progress on my important work tomorrow?
  • What setbacks did I have today, and how did they affect my inner work life? What can I learn from them?
  • What toxins and inhibitors impacted me and my work today? How can I weaken or avoid them tomorrow?
  • Did I affect my colleagues’ inner work lives positively today? How might I do so tomorrow?

She also recommends asking yourself “what’s going well?”

In a presentation at the Solo PR Summit, Mary Ellen Miller and Amanda Littlejohn recommended a work diary as a way to keep track of peak events. They referenced the book, “Do more great work” by Michael Bungay Stanier and suggested that a work journal serve as a place to work out the exercises in Stanier’s book to help guide you through the process via brainstorming, reflection analysis of actual observations.

It might be obvious, but logging journal entries seems like a great activity when you’re looking for work. This Jobacle.com post shares some ways that journal entries go beyond spreadsheets for tracking contacts and statuses to help provide insight during a job search.

What do you think? Should you keep a work journal?

Alison Kenney an independent PR practitioner with more than 15 years of PR consulting experience. She is based on Boston’s North Shore and has worked with organizations in the technology, professional services and consumer industries. She writes a bi-monthly PR column on LindsayOlson.com. You can find her at www.kprcommunications.com. Learn more about Alison Kenney.

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