Archive | January, 2012

Are Introverts Overshadowed and Undervalued?

31 Jan

What do Barbara Walters, Rosa Parks, Glenn Close, Julia Roberts, Gweneth Paltrow, and Diane Sawyer have in common? Other than being fabulous, they are all introverts. What exactly is an introvert? Is is someone with some sort of personality disorder? No, although people who are considered introverts are usually seen as nerdy, abnormal, loners, withdrawn, shy, or unfriendly. Introverts generally enjoy time alone, are good listeners, consider only those deep, personal relationships as real relationships, feel exhausted after outdoor activities (whether or not they are fun), and appear calm and self-contained most of the time. Introverts generally have an inward focus, making it hard to socialize or be the life of the party. The strong sense of self that introverts have also makes it hard for them to walk into a crowded room and feel comfortable. The best qualities of an introvert are that they work well in one-on-one relationships, are independent, flexible, maintain long-term relationships, have analytical skills and are often very smart.

Despite the fact that most career advice (even mine) centers around the need for women to speak up, take a seat at the table, and get noticed, around one-third to one-half of Americans are considered to be introverts. According to Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Won’t Stop Talking, our lives are shaped just as much by our personality as they are by our gender or race, and the most important aspect of an individual’s personality is where they fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum. Cain believes this is what determines our choice of friends, who we pick as lovers, how we converse with others, how we resolve our differences, and how we show love. Where you fall on the introvert-extrovert spectrum also affects the type of career you choose and whether or not you will succeed in that career, whether you will commit adultery, exercise, function well without sleep, take big risks, and ask “what if?”

Despite the fact that one of every three people is an extrovert, Cain argues that the world today makes less room for introverts than it does for extroverts. She calls this the Extrovert Ideal – “the omnipresent belief that the ideal self is gregarious, alpha, and comfortable in the spotlight.” Unlike introverts, extroverts prefer risk taking to thinking it through, action to contemplation, and certainty to doubt. Cain argues that introverts living under the Extrovert Ideal are “like women in a man’s world, discounted because of a trait that goes to the core of who they are.” Additionally, Cain argues that introverts are undervalued when she notes that the following would not be part of today’s world if it were not for an introvert: the theory of gravity, the theory of relativity, Peter Pan, The Cat in the Hat, Charlie Brown, and even Harry Potter.

Despite the importance of introverts in our society, Cain argues that “most of the important institutions of contemporary life are designed for those who enjoy group projects.” In addition, the workplace favors extroverts. Teamwork is highly valued, and because of this, children are often taught in groups and news ideas are formed through brainstorming sessions rather than independent thinking. People who speak up and talk are considered to be smarter and having social skills is highly valued. Yet, according to Cain, such praise for extroverts has actually curtailed innovation and productivity. Specifically, those charismatic leaders that make more money than the introverts don’t necessarily produce better results and the decisions made in the brainstorming sessions are not as thought out.

Cain is not arguing that introverts are better than extroverts, just that there needs to be a better balance and inclusion of different personalities in the workplace. According to Cain, extroverts actually manage introverts better and introverts manage extroverts better. If there was a better understanding that “social skills” and “group work” can have more than just one definition, then maybe extroverts and introverts could work better together. All in all, Cain says that people should appreciate the power of thinking more than they currently do.

I found Cain’s book to be fabulous! I have always found myself to be introverted and have, as Cain suggests, always felt like an outsider. I do not like speaking in public, have a hard time with small-talk with people I don’t know, hate going to group events (especially networking events), and prefer a night alone reading a book to a crowded dinner party. Like Cain suggests in her book, for years I have been convincing myself that I am weird or strange and in turn, I have been trying to be more extroverted. I have pushed myself to be things and do things that I am not, and I am happy to hear that not only am I normal, but I am appreciated!

What did you think of this post? Are you an introvert or an extrovert? Do you work closely with introverts, know introverts, or are married to an introvert? If so, what do you find to be their best/worst traits?

Should I Be Improving My Golf Swing?

30 Jan

The other day I had the opportunity to go out to lunch with a very prominent, hard-hitting attorney. While I was nervous about having to sit across from him and think of intellectual and witty things to say for an hour, I was excited about the insight he could give me into the legal profession. While we talked about a wide variety of different things, one thing really stood out to me. He was telling me about the process of closing a deal and how exhausted you and the client can be after the long hours you put in. He then told me that the best thing an attorney can do with their client after closing a deal is to take the client to the golf course for some beers. At first I thought nothing of this, but when I sat down at my desk after lunch it hit me. I don’t know how to play golf! This made me wonder if I needed to know how to play golf to succeed in my career and whether learning to play golf was in essence giving in to the so-called stereotype that we have to act like men to succeed.

When I think of golfing I think of Tiger Woods, men in Polo shirts and khaki pants, The Masters, Tiger Woods, EXTREME boredom, and oh, did I mention Tiger Woods? If that doesn’t show you how ignorant I am about golf then I don’t know what will. Basically golf has never been a part of my life and it has never been something that I thought about taking up in my spare time. Now I am second guessing my decision to stay away from the golf course. I can see how being able to take a client out to golf could better serve your relationship than simply taking the client to dinner or lunch. On the golf course there is more free-flowing conversation and there is some ease and relaxation in the environment. I can only imagine how much you can learn about your client in the four hours it takes to golf as compared to the one hour you spend at dinner. So I do see the benefits of knowing how to golf in the professional sense. I don’t, as some women do, think that learning how to play golf is the same as selling out. Sure, golf is manly and is not something that most business women usually do, but I do think that some manly, non-traditional things can be good for a business woman. Why not learn how to golf?

The question I really have is whether or not men like to golf with business women. Would my male client really enjoy spending an entire Saturday afternoon with me on the golf course, or would he prefer that he spend that time with a male? While I would like to think that a man would have just as much fun golfing with a woman, I tend to think that they wouldn’t. I cannot imagine my husband golfing with a female all Saturday afternoon. I know that would not be something he would look forward to, and it is understandable. Would I have more fun shopping with a male or female? Easy – a female (as long as she likes to shop). So if the men don’t like spending time with women on the golf course, is it even worth learning?

It seems to me that learning to golf could never hurt. I do know a few women that golf in their spare time and actually enjoy it. Do you know how to golf and have you found that knowing how to golf helps you in your career? Do you think a woman who learns how to golf is selling out?

Great Resume Advice From Lindsey Pollak

27 Jan

I am a huge fan of Lindsey Pollak. For those of you who don’t know her, she is a career expert, the global spokesperson for LinkedIn, and author of Getting From College To Career:  90 Things To Do Before You Join The Real World. Pollak’s book has some great advice for those of you looking for a job, but today I want to talk about her resume tips that she recently posted on her blog.

We all know that having the perfect resume is part of landing your dream job. I have read a lot of material on what exactly needs to be in your resume, what you cannot have in your resume, and how to make your resume sound better, but I tend to really like Pollak’s tips. Here are some of my favorites.

Keep it Traditional.

Pollak says that you cannot reinvent the wheel. I wholeheartedly agree, unless of course you are going into a marketing or social media type of career where the infogramic resume is appropriate. (What is an infogramic resume? See my blog post about it). When you are first starting out in your career, Pollak says that it is best to keep your resume traditional. Her first book (second edition is coming soon) has a lot of great resume examples for entry-level positions.

Use The Right Buzzwords.

When creating a resume, make sure to use the right buzzwords that will draw an employer’s attention. Pollak suggests that the best way to find the types of words you should be using is to look at online job postings of the type of job you want and look at LinkedIn profiles of people who have the job you want. Take from those listings and profiles the most prominent words and phrases. Pollak says that it is better to be more detailed than vague, and I agree. For example, Pollak suggests to say, ” Experience with Photoshop, Illustrator and InDesign through the production of 12 issues of on-campus magazine” rather than simply saying that you have “Design Experience.”

Tailor Your Resume.

Yes, I know how annoying it can be to create a new resume for each individual opportunity, but if you really want the job that is what you need to do. From what I read online and in career advice books, employers know when you are sending them a generic resume that is also being sent to tons of other employers. Pollak says that it is fine to have one generic resume, but you need to add certain accomplishment and emphasize certain experience depending upon the position that you are applying for. When I was looking for a job I took the time to do this. I had a resume for government jobs, a resume for corporate jobs, and a resume for law firm jobs. When I would apply to one of those types of jobs I would take the generic resume and make it better, emphasizing certain experience or accomplishments based upon what I could tell the employer was looking for.

Prioritize Your Bullet Points.

Pollak urges job seekers to prioritize the bullet points under each previous job they have held (and yes, you should ALWAYS have bullet points). When I applied for jobs I always assumed that I needed to put the most recent task under the first bullet point, but Pollak suggests that you put the most impressive accomplishment at the top. I think this is a really good idea just in case the employer doesn’t actually take the time to read all of the bullet points.

Don’t Include Something You Hated Doing.

I LOVE this advice. When we are all first starting out we feel the need to include every single job we have ever done on our resume. Pollak, however, suggests that if you ever had a job that you hated and never want to do again, then don’t advertise it on your resume. Pollak says that you can even leave entire jobs off of your resume if they are completely irrelevant to the job you are applying for. So, if you had that job at McDonald’s last summer and you are applying for a marketing job, maybe you should leave that experience off the list.

Get Professional Help.

If you are still in college or graduate school and you have career counselor resources, use them. If you are not still in school, but can afford to have a professional take a look at your resume, then let them. It can’t possibly hurt to have someone tell you what your strengths and weaknesses are in your resume. Having two pairs of eyes is always better than one.

Check, Check, and Check Again for Typos and Inconsistencies.

I went to a career fair once while I was still in law school and handed my resume to a woman at a table. We talked for a few minutes and then I moved on. About two days after the career fair I got an email from the lady pointing out certain inconsistencies in my resume. She noted that under one job my bullet points were round and under another job my bullet points were square. She also pointed out that some job titles were italicized and some were not. While these were VERY minor inconsistencies, it obviously caught her attention and irritated her enough to email me. I have now learned that it is very important to triple check your resume to make sure that there are not any inconsistencies or typos. No one hates typos more than an employer looking at your resume.

Keep it to One Page.

While I understand that Pollak suggests that all resumes should be kept to one page, I have a two page resume. Yes, I know, I don’t have years and years of experience, but I have a lot of education, honors, and certifications that need to be listed. I would suggest to look at people’s resumes in the field you are going into and see whether they are limited to one page or not. If they are, I would try to limit it. Pollak says that a one page resume shows the employer that you can censor yourself and present yourself concisely.

What do you think of Pollak’s tips? Is there anything she is missing? Have you ever been told great resume advice by someone before?

Should It Matter That People Think “Tough” Women are Bitches?

26 Jan

The other day my husband told me about a career personality test that he did for his work. The test is designed to determine your best and worst traits so you can learn to work better with your co-workers and grow personally. While his results said the things that we expected – he is a hard worker, is a perfectionist, isn’t good at delegating, etc. – one thing jumped out at me. The test told him that at times he could come across as harsh, judgmental, and critical of those he works with when they don’t do things the way he wants them done. Basically the test told him that he had a tendency to come across as MEAN. We laughed at the results as if it were no big deal. This got me thinking, a man who tells it like it is can be seen as a hard worker or passionate about his job, but a woman who does the same  thing is seen as a bitch. Why is this? Why are women always expected to be the nice ones?

Just as these thoughts were running through my mind, I came across an article by Geri Stengel entitled Being Tough Isn’t the Same as Being a Bitch. In the article Liz Elting, co-CEO of TransPerfect says, “No one likes to be thought of as a ‘bitch,'” but if “you want everyone to like you, you will have a hard time doing what is necessary in hard times.” Gayle Brandel, CEO of Professionals for Non Profits, says that women don’t want to be seen as nasty or mean, and this in turn results in women being indirect, unclear, or indecisive. Stengel then says that it is time to redefine the way people perceive women and the terms used to describe them. Stengel says that “tough” is not a synonym for “bitchy” or “mean,” and “indirect” is not a synonym for being nice and is most certainly NOT a good management tool. AMEN!

While this article made me feel happy, it was a little disappointed that men were not in the article. I would like to know what men think about women who are “tough” at work. Do they consider the “tough” woman to be “tough” or a “bitch?” My bet is that would choose the latter, which kind of bothers me. But then I wondered if their opinion really matters at all? Should women in high power positions care if people think they are a bitch ?

According to a study at Stanford and George Mason University, the traits exhibited by successful managers were confidence, assertiveness, and dominance, but when those traits were exhibited by women they tended to be less successful. Researcher Olivia O’Neil said that women face a big challenge in the workplace because if they are seen behaving in a “stereotypical male way, they damage their chances of promotion, even though these traits are synonymous with successful managers.” It seems to me that no matter how a woman acts at work she is criticized. If a woman comes across as softer, gentler, or nicer she is often told to be more assertive and aggressive. But a woman who is assertive and aggressive is often told that she is a bitch and that she needs to tone it down. According to O’Neil, confident, assertive women are seen as more capable than the nice women, but those confident, assertive women are also often categorized as being socially inept and unliked by their peers.

SO when can a woman really win? If she is nice she is a pushover who will likely never be able to manage others and manage her own business, but if she is mean she is unliked, and therefore, loses the ability to be promoted. O’Neil suggests that women need to study those around them to determine how others are perceiving them and change the way they act depending on the situation. While I understand that there are times where an aggressive woman needs to be more ladylike (like when she is out with a client) and when a “nice” girl needs to be more assertive (like when telling her subordinates what she expects out of them), this seems like so much work that is is exhausting to think about!

I wished we lived in a time where a woman could act like herself at work and get promoted because she is a good, hard worker – not because she is “nice.” Conversely, I think that a woman should be able to make a tough decision and not be considered a “bitch.” But we don’t live in that time, so women either have to stick to their guns and act how they want to act or they have to adapt to a particular situation. In my opinion I would rather be seen as a being a “bitch” than being seen as too nice. At least the bitchy women can run a business and make tough decisions. Sure, some people might talk behind their back, but that happens regardless of whether she is considered a bitch or not. If women continue to be worried about what others think of them in the workplace they will never get ahead and will never be the CEO of a company.

Do you think you are perceived as being a “nice” girl or a “tough” girl? What are some of the challenges you have faced with this stereotype?

Job Hunting? Why You Need Help From Your Social Media

26 Jan

This morning I was talking to a friend about the best ways to look for jobs. My friend told me that her sister, who is having a hard time finding a job, has a list of websites that she goes to every day – Careerbuilder, Monster, and some specialized websites. When I heard this I nearly choked on my coffee. Last I checked getting a job from Monster or Careerbuilder was nearly impossible. Can you imagine just how many people apply to those jobs? I assume that TONS of people apply to every job post, making it highly unlikely for any application to get noticed among the stack of emailed resumes. While I am no job applying expert, I do think that simply emailing your resume or applying for a job online almost ensures that you will not get that job. Unless, of course, you are something extraordinary (like practically out of this world) and your resume states it. But, even if that were the case, someone would need to actually take the time to click open your resume and read it, which I bet doesn’t happen often.

Whether you have been laid off, fired, or are simply looking for a change, social media is that way to get yourself a new job, not emailing resumes. For anyone who is looking, social media can be the key stumbling block that will help you land your next job. Here are some tips you should follow:

Get LinkedIn

LinkedIn has become THE tool for job seekers. Not only is LinkedIn a place where companies go to look for potential prospects, but LinkedIn allows you to build up your network, thereby making it easier to connect with people and get a job. I do admit that I am not as active on LinkedIn as I should be, but I am not looking for a job. If you are looking for a job and don’t have LinkedIn, you are really missing out! On LinkedIn you can create a profile and connect with people, and you can request recommendations from past employers, colleagues and clients. LinkedIn also has a list of companies that are hiring and has an Apply Now button that makes it easier to apply and connect with the employer. While I did say above that applying to a job online isn’t the best thing to do, doing so through LinkedIn is different. Employers actually use this site and jobs actually do result from those applications.

Get Facebook

Yes, some people use Facebook for posting pictures and posting useless, dumb status updates, but it can also be used to Network and connect with people who you know. Plus, if you set your privacy settings all people will be able to see is your work history and hobbies. Connecting with people from high school and college can’t possibly hurt you, so forget about the bad things people tell you about Facebook and get signed up at start connecting.

Use SimplyHired

If you sign up for SimplyHired and go to the “Who Do I Know” tool, it will link up to your LinkedIn and Facebook accounts to see if any of your connections are working at a company that is hiring. How great is that? Then all you have to do is reach out to your connection and get your resume moved to the top of the stack. Remember, its not what you know, its who you know.

Get Involved in Online Job Chats

If you sign up for Twitter and participate in the job chats you will find yourself networking and receiving a wealth of information from those experts who freely agree to give their time to help people like you. There are a lot of different chats that you can be a part of.  There is #jobhuntchat (Mondays, 10:00 PM, ET): Created by Rich DeMatteo (@cornonthejob), co-founded by Jessica Miller-Merrill (@blogging4jobs) and also moderated by Kate-Madonna Hindes (@girlmeetsgeek), #HFChat (Fridays, 12:00 PM, ET): Created by Margo Rose (@HRMargo) and moderated with help from Tom Bolt (@tombolt), Cyndy Trivella (@CyndyTrivella) and Steve Levy (@levyrecruits), and #careerchat (Tuesdays, 1:00 PM, ET): Co-created and moderated by Amanda Guralski (@bizMebizgal) and Jill Perlberg (@MyPath_MP). By participating in these chats you can find information about employment trends and companies that are hiring, and you can network with recruiters.

The bottom line is that using social media is a must, especially in this down economy. Why not use it? LinkedIn, Facebook, SimplyHired and Twitter are all free. If you are afraid of getting one of those accounts because you don’t want to feel depressed about seeing those you know who are successful, or you don’t want to connect with certain people, then don’t use those sites for socializing. Use them to network and get your name out there.

Have you been successful in using social media in your job hunt?

How to Appear Older Than You Are

25 Jan

Hearing that you look young would be flattering if you were fifty-years-old. It is not so flattering when you are a twenty-something trying to make a name for yourself in your career. When I hear the word “young” associated with anything work related I automatically assume that the person making the statement thinks that I am incapable. Let’s face it, looking too young at work can result in withheld job offers, lost promotions, or even rivalries with your older colleagues. 

 I am one of those people who has always looked really young. I am not short or rail thin, I just have a baby face. When I was in high school I looked like a junior high student, when I was in college I got carded for Rated R movies, and just the other day I had a client whom I had been meeting with ask me, “So, are you thinking of getting into the legal profession?” No matter what I do (change my hair style, color my hair, wear more makeup, or dress differently), I look young. I used to get really offended when people would suggest that I looked too young to be working, but I have learned to deal with it. I mean, what can I really do? One can only change themselves so much to try to appear older.

I have learned, as the lady’s comment suggests, that simply wearing a nice, tailored suit and a cute pair of professional heels does not automatically give others the impression that you are a old enough to be trusted. However, it does help. Imagine if I had walked into that meeting with a pair of jeans and a sweater on? What would that woman’s comment have been then? While the way you dress is important, I think it is more important to learn how to carry yourself in a way that earns other people’s respect. In essence, you want to appear mature enough to make people think that you have experience. This means that you can’t use slang words, incomplete sentences, or say “cool” after someone says something to you (I have caught myself doing that before). Having the actual experience is not really the issue, it is appearing to have the experience that matters. A woman could have all the experience in the world but behavior like a teenager, and as a result, be perceived as someone with less experience.  

So how does someone appear more mature? Outside of speaking like an adult, try to really pay attention to the way you walk, talk, and associate with others in your office. I was once told by an old boss that my confidence and my ability to speak clearly to others made me appear older than I was. Now I know that confidence and the ability to speak in front of others is not easily taught, but one can try. Have you ever noticed that the older, more seasoned professionals always seem confident in everything that they do and say (at least the successful ones)?  Do you know someone in your life who is just bursting at the seams with confidence? I do, and I usually find myself being drawn to them. Confident people have such an excitement and enthusiasm that make others feel confident, and who doesn’t like to feel confident? Exuding confidence in whatever you do will make those around you remember you for being confident, not too young. If you are having a hard time feeling confident, I have learned to fake it. Our mind is a magical tool, and if you tell it something long enough it will believe it. Try saying “I am smart,” “I can do this,” or “You got this [Insert Name Here]” every morning and see if it makes you feel better about yourself. I bet it will.

Another sure-fire way to silence those who think you are incapable is to perform, and perform well. This requires you to work hard and know your stuff. Some of the best advice I ever received was to tell someone that I would think about their question and get back to them if I didn’t know the answer. A lot of us younger folks feel pressured to always provide an answer on the spot, but your boss doesn’t want you to have word-vomit and say everything that is on your mind. Your boss wants a well thought out answer that will point him/her in the right direction. So, know your stuff, and if you don’t know it don’t fake it.

Lastly, remember that age will only cause problems in your career if you let it. Be positive and try to embrace your youngness, one day your looks will catch up with your age!

Beating the Monday Blues

23 Jan

Are you one of those people who wakes up on Sunday already dreading having to go to work the following morning? Do you wake up on Monday morning wishing that it was Sunday all over again? Oftentimes it seems that many people live for the weekends. I am certainly one of those people. I look forward to where we will go out to eat, what we will do with our friends, and being able to read in peace and quiet. While being able to enjoy our weekends is key, sometimes this living-for-the-weekend mentality can drain us because we pack too many things into our weekends. When Sunday evening rolls around I often find myself sitting around thinking about the things that I didn’t accomplish that weekend, which then adds more things to the list of things I have to do the following weekend.

For many people, even if you do have an amazing weekend, you dread going back into the office on Monday morning. So, how can you beat those Monday blues?

Try To Break Away From the Living-For-The-Weekend Mindset.

We all have a loaded schedule during the week, making it hard to find time for ourselves. We get up, eat breakfast, leave for work, sit in traffic, get to work and stay until 6 (or later), sit in traffic on the way home, get home and workout, eat dinner, unwind for thirty minutes, and go to bed. That is what my Monday through Friday schedule looks like. If you noticed, there is barely any time for me. This in turn creates the live-for-the-weekend mentality that a lot of us have. But, as I mentioned, if we have this mentality we oftentimes overload our weekends and find ourselves feeling more burnt out on Monday than we did on Friday. To beat this cycle it is important to take time during the week to do some of the things you love to do. If you make more “me” time during the week you will be less likely to have the living-for-the-weekend mentality that drains us.

Find Time to Take a Break at Work.

Having a change of scenery can really make a difference. I often find that I just eat lunch behind my desk, the same desk that I work at all day. If you are just like me, find time to take a walk at lunch or go somewhere other than your desk. You may be telling yourself that you don’t have time to take breaks at work, but the truth is that everyone has time for a short ten minute break. Ten minutes will not make or break your day, so if you need one, take one.

Do Something Fun Midweek.

I have learned that if you plan something fun or relaxing midweek you will be less likely to overcrowd your weekends. You will also find that this fun or relaxation can give you that extra push you need to make it to Friday. My husband and I are often part of a sports league (bowling, softball, etc.), which gives us something fun to do during the week that is outside of our normal routine. Although I may be a little tired the following day or while we are at the event, I do find that having that socialization time helps to break up the monotony and busyness of the week. If you find yourself getting burnt out by work, find something that you like to do and make time to do it. It is important to make sure that you are not always thinking of work.

Make Sure You Relax On the Weekend

Oftentimes I find that my husband and I pack our weekends to the very last second. This often leads us feeling exhausted on Sunday evening, which translates over to Monday morning. If you are looking to break the Monday blues, make sure that you have allowed for enough relaxation over the weekend. While we are always tempted to stay up late because we can sleep in the following day, this can disrupt your sleep schedule and make it harder to get back on track for the following week. While you may have a LOT of things to do over the weekend, make sure that you take the time to relax a little.

Make Sure You Actually Like Your Job

If you have tried all of the above and you still constantly have the Monday blues, consider whether maybe it is your job that you don’t like. If you are working in a job that you hate this can put added stress on you and can make you dread having to go into the office. While we all need an incoming paycheck, happiness in your life and your career is also important. So take a step back and ask yourself, “Do I really like my job?” If the answer is “no,” then maybe you need to think about making a career change.

As we all know, we spend more time at work and with our co-workers than we do at home and with our significant other. Making sure that you take breaks, get enough rest, and do something for yourself each week will make the time you spend at work more enjoyable.

What have you done to try to beat the Monday blues?