Tag Archives: Career Advice

Never Apologize At Work

15 Oct

If you are a working woman and reading this then you have probably at some point in your career apologized to someone for something. You are sorry the copy machine stopped working or the network went down or  the coffee pot is leaking or  your boss can’t open an attachment you sent him. Am I right? I know that I have apologized for things. And while there are times and places to be sorry (like when you majorly screw something up) you should never be apologizing for the small things that you have no control over.

For example, the other day I was working out with my husband. We work out at Crossfit. That day was a partner WOD (where you have a partner and the two of you complete a long, hard workout together), and I was partners with a young girl who was stronger and faster than me. We did the workout at pretty much the same pace, but I kind of felt the whole time as if I were holding her back. I think it was just my insecurity in thinking that she was better than me, and I let that get to me. At the end of the workout we said good job to each other and then I blurted out an apology. I said, “Sorry if I was a little slow.” When she said no problem and walked away my husband scolded me. He said that I should never, ever apologize to anyone for working hard and doing the best I can. The moment he said this I knew he was right, and then I instantly felt stupid for second-guessing myself and automatically thinking she was better than me.

This experience can easily translate to the work environment. Let’s say you are working on something with a co-worker who is at your level, and maybe it takes you a little longer or maybe you have a harder time understanding the objective or the results. Either way you in some way feel as if you are making a mistake or not doing things good enough, when in reality you are working your hardest and doing the best you can do. In such an instance you should NEVER apologize for being you. Think about it – the only thing apologizing does it make the other person, your co-worker, the one who is supposed to have confidence in you, think you are insecure and incapable of handling the job.

How many times have you ever heard a male at work say they were sorry? Even when men make mistake, big mistakes, they never really apologize. Instead they will say, you were right – not I’m sorry for being wrong. I do think apologizing is somewhat of a woman characteristic. We always feel the need to please and help others, so when we feel as if we aren’t living up to our own expectations we should apologize. While I, as a woman, understand the need to apologize and make things right, doing this at work does nothing but hurt your career and progression.

Have you ever apologized at work and then regretted doing so? Have you ever apologized for someone else’s mistakes? I tend to think that women do this a lot, and if I could give you one piece of advice it would be never to apologize for being you and doing the best you can.

Promoting Yourself At Your New Job

16 Aug

A lot of my readers seem to come to this site via Google searches relating to new jobs, so I figured, in honor of my readers and to help those of you out that seem to be starting new jobs (which seems to be a lot of you), I thought I would discuss how to promote yourself at your new job. By promote yourself I mean get noticed and be seen by those around you.

So here is the scene. You landed a new, exciting job, and you just started or are getting ready to start.

First things first, remember that this transition into your new position is a chance to make changes and to prove yourself to your new co-workers. The spotlight will be on you for the first few weeks, or even months, with everyone always wondering what you are working on and how you are doing. Are you making a lot of mistakes? Are you catching on quickly to the new systems and protocols? Are you making connections with your co-workers and helping them get to know you?

Second thing to remember: the first day, week, or even month may not be that exciting. While I am sure you are ready to jump in and start working on everything, know that training and moving work to you takes time. So be patient. If you are slow, wait it out. I’m sure it will get better.

Ok, now that we have all of that out of the way I can get down to the meat and potatoes of the new job business.

Most of you know, I hope, that what you do in the first few months at your new job will either make or break you. It is in these first few months that you need to show your boss and your co-workers why you are such an asset to the company and that they should continue to invest time and money in you.

Here are some tips for promoting yourself around the office and making everyone know your worth:

HIT THE GROUND RUNNING

I know, I know, you might not be busy, and that’s ok. What I mean by “hit the ground running” is that you need to be ready and willing to get your feet wet and venture into various different tasks that you have never done before. If you find that you aren’t busy at first, go around the office and ask people for work or if they need help with ANYTHING. If you are busy, embrace it and do everything you can to keep up the pace. Your company is going to want to see that you can be productive and that you are benefitting them.

PROMOTE YOUR SKILLS

You can do this through the various assignments you have, at meetings, or in discussions with your co-workers or your boss. It is my advice to try to promote your skills – the skills that set you apart – at every chance you get. If you are a nurse and you are great with patients, make sure others notice this. If you are an attorney and are a great brief writer, volunteer to take a stab at writing a brief. If you are in sales and you are good at cold calls, make sure your boss recognizes this. While I don’t want you to go and tell someone every time you do something great – don’t be afraid to brag a little bit. For example, if you land a big client your first month on the job don’t be afraid to admit this in meeting when discussing the new account. If you don’t mention it, no one will.

GET INVOLVED

If your co-workers invite you to lunch, happy hours, conferences, etc., make sure that you go. They are inviting you because they want to get to know you and they want you to get involved. I know that going to social events with people you don’t know can be strange and awkward, but it is a part of establishing a career and expanding your network. Getting involved can even be as simple as joining the company softball team. The point is that you want to start building a connection to your co-workers right away.

UNDERSTAND THE COMPANY CULTURE

Every company has a very different culture. By culture I  mean anything from actual culture (my last company was primarily Indian dominated and so they celebrated many Indian holidays), office hours, where people eat lunch, how long they eat lunch, how people dress, whether people schmooze in the hallways, whether they go out for a drink after work, etc. Understanding all of the nuances of your new company will allow you to ensure that you are doing things in accordance with what everyone else has become accustomed to. You don’t want to be the Chatty Cathy if talking in the hallways is unacceptable.

If you are finding it hard to figure some of this stuff out, ask someone you feel comfortable talking with.

NEVER SAY NO

Even if you are slammed and have been asked if you can help out, DON’T SAY NO. Even if you have plans after work and have been asked to attend a speaking event or a happy hour or some other business-related event, DON’T SAY NO. While you don’t have to say Yes to everything the entire time you work at this new company, you need to say Yes the first few months you work there. Not only will saying yes show your dedication to the company, but it will probably give you a chance to build some relationships with your co-workers.

Hold On: One Day You Will Be Doing What You Love

9 Aug

How many of you know someone who is unhappy with their job? I know a lot of people who feel this way, and because of the economy I am sure you do too. When you ask these people why they don’t like their jobs, what do they tell you? If you are asking someone from Gen Y they are probably going to tell you that they don’t like their job because they aren’t doing something they LOVE. Am I right?

Well, for those of you out there who feel that you are stuck at a boring job doing something you hate and fear that this will be your life, I am here to tell you that if you hold on, get the experience you need, and move up the career ladder you will be closer to the job of your dreams than you think.

Here is one of my favorite stories about how the job you hate doesn’t have to be your last job.

Take Emily Giffin, my favorite author (yes, I LOVE chick-lit books). Emily went to law school because she felt like she needed to get a “real” job before taking a stab at becoming a fiction writer. Does she regret going to law school? No. But she didn’t like the practice of law one bit. In fact, here is what Emily has to say: “I loathed the actual practice of law—at least the big firm culture. And I discovered that misery can be quite motivating. So very early on, I devised a plan to pay off my law school loans and then write full-time. Meanwhile, I began writing a young adult novel in my free time (and sometimes while at work!). Four years later, my loans were paid off and my book was completed. I was able to land an agent, but over the next several months, I received a dozen rejection letters from publishers. I seriously contemplated giving up and keeping my nose to the legal grindstone, but instead, I quit my job, moved to London and decided to try again. It was then and there that I began writing Something Borrowed.” Now, years later, Emily has 6 New York Times Bestselling novels, many loyal Facebook followers, and never has to step foot in a courtroom.

So, if you are stuck working at a job that you loathe, what can you do to make your time there worth while and make sure you don’t drive yourself crazy?

BUILD PERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS

If you build relationships with the people in your office you won’t feel so alone. Now, I would be very careful discussing your feelings about your job with these people, because you would never want these feelings to get back to your boss. But there is no harm in being friends with your co-workers and going to lunch with them. Heck, these relationships could eventually lead to a job that you will LOVE. As my mom always told me – its not what you know, its who you know.

GET INVOLVED

Remember, if you are one of those people trying to move up and on to something better, getting involved in tasks beyond your skill level will help you build your resume and enhance your skills. This could be something that you work on with someone else, or it could purely be a project to help the company as a whole run more smoothly, operate more efficiently, or strive to solve some of the problems that co-workers have been complaining about. The more you get involved in than just those tasks that make up your job description the more you will grow professionally – and that never hurts.

MAKE SURE THAT THE JOB YOU WANT IS REALLY WHAT YOU THINK IT IS

It is one thing to think that being something sounds cool, but it is another thing to actually experience it. Take Emily for example. She went to law school, loved it, and then ended up hating the practice of law. She never would have known that had she not ventured into legal practice out of law school. So, for those of you who think that you want to venture into a certain type of job, make sure that the job really is what you think it is. How do you do this? Get a mentor that works in the field and ask them if you can follow them for a day, two days, or a week. Being able to see what they do on a daily basis will give you some insight into whether or not you will really enjoy that job.

HOLD ON – THE END IS NEAR

In the end, we all can’t be doing what we love right away. Getting to the top and getting where we want takes time and patience. So, while you are building relationships, building your skills, and making sure that your dream job is the right job for you – hold on. Eventually you will end up where you are supposed to.

Dealing With Imposter Syndrome

13 Jul

Have you ever felt that you weren’t good enough, weren’t smart enough, to be doing whatever it is you are doing – whether it be a job, schooling, parenting, etc.? Have you ever worried, constantly, that someday somebody would figure you out, would find you that you are a phony and undeserving of all that you have achieved? Sure, you may be smart or hard-working, but maybe you feel that you are lacking in something that you believe others think you have, and you are worried that if they discover that you don’t have this they will think of you as a phony. If you have ever felt this then you have been a victim of what is known as Imposter Syndrome.

I know this isn’t a new topic. In fact, I read stories about Imposter Syndrome all the time here, here, and here for example. And while I have read so many articles about it I feel that this is a really important topic for career women to discuss. Not only does this so-called Imposter Syndrome make women feel unworthy of their success, but in my opinion, it holds some women back from the success they could be achieving if they didn’t feel this way.

SO WHAT EXACTLY IS THIS IMPOSTER SYNDROME?

Think about Imposter Syndrome as that bully at school or the mean older sibling that tells you that you are a loser, fat, ugly, and stupid. No matter what you do and how much you achieve that bully is always there pulling you down, telling you that you are worthless. And in return, that bully, no matter how hard you try, eventually makes you think those things about yourself. You end up feeling that all of your success has come about as a matter of luck and not because of your hard work or knowledge. You are unable to actually stand up and say, Yes, I deserve this success.

What Are Some Symptoms Of Those Who Experience Imposter Syndrome?

1.     Downplaying your accomplishments (saying that they are successful because of other people or because of pure luck, not because of you);

2.     Being afraid to speak up and take credit for something;

3.     Thinking that your success is not well-deserved;

4.     Fearing that people will discover that you are not as smart or deserving as they perceive you to be;

5.     Telling yourself, constantly, that you don’t deserve the success you have achieved;

6.     Always comparing yourself to others and wishing you were more like them and less like yourself;

7.     Feeling as if everyone else other than yourself has all the answers and knows more than you do;

8.     Being afraid to step out of your comfort zone or take on a great opportunity;

9.     A feeling that you have fooled others into believing that you are smart and knowledgable; or

10.    Setting low expectations for yourself to avoid failure.

OVERCOMING IMPOSTER SYNDROME

While I am no expert on this topic, I do think there are various ways to battle your inner demons and grab ahold of your unbearable anxieties. Here are some of my tips:

1.     Recognize That Others Really Aren’t Thinking About You

We all have a tendency to assume that others are really thinking of us, focusing on us, when the truth is that they aren’t at all. Have you ever had someone tell you that they thought you were making fun of them or ignoring them when the fact of the matter is that you weren’t even really thinking about them? While it is hard to assume that others are thinking about you, because in some ways we want others to be thinking about us, just take a look and think about how closely you really think about others. Do you spend your entire day focused on how other people have been handed success or are too stupid to be working in a particular job? Probably not, and if you do you may need some more excitement in your life.

2.     Understand That Your Fear Is Just Your Way Of Protecting Yourself From Failure

We all want to protect ourselves from anything that could come along and make us feel bad about ourselves, and the Imposter Syndrome is one way to prepare yourself for any failure that may come your way. There are people out there (the glass half empty people) that always assume the worst, and in the end they say that they are better prepared for the worst when things don’t go their way. While this may help some cope with the failures that come knocking, relentlessly, at their door, do you really want to be a glass-half-empty type of person? Do you want to spend all of your energy preparing yourself for the worst when you could be living in and celebrating the best of times?

Sometimes I am a negative person and focus on what will go wrong, but when you achieve something you shouldn’t be focusing on what others may perceive of you or what they may (or may not) find out. While I know this is the very battle that those with Imposter Syndrome are working to overcome, try to recognize that these feelings – the feeling that you are not good enough – is your body’s way of preparing you for the worst.

3.    Choose To Focus Your Energy Elsewhere

I know this may be hard, but try to push those inner demons aside when they try to tell you that you aren’t good enough and focus your attention on other things – like getting that project completed, making your client happy, writing your book, or whatever it is you are doing. If you try to tell the demon within you that you won’t give it any of your time, then eventually it will go away.

4.     Recognize That Your Aren’t Perfect

Usually people who suffer from Imposter Syndrome have unrealistic expectations of the successes they should have and are often referred to as perfectionists. Do you know someone like this or are you like this? If so you probably have times of extreme self-doubt and feel inadequate, am I right? What I am here to tell you that this is ok. It is ok to feel self-doubt and to have times where you are unsure, and if you do that doesn’t mean that you are not smart enough or hard-working enough to have achieved everything that you have. Recognizing that you are not perfect should be your first step to overcoming Imposter Syndrome.

5.     Share Your Feelings With Other Females

Chances are if you are a working woman who has achieved some success that at some point in time or another you have doubted yourself and wondered whether you really deserved it. While it may feel like something you have to deal with on your own, it isn’t. The truth is that there are tons of women out there who feel this way. Just try asking some of your successful female friends whether they have ever felt this way and discuss your feelings with them. They may give you some perspective on how to handle your anxieties and overcome your fears. I mean, what are friends for, right?

6.    Wake Up Every Morning Saying Something Great About Yourself

I know this sounds sort of silly, but the more you tell yourself that you are great, talented, smart, nice, a good friend, etc, the more you will believe it. Try leaving yourself a note the night before to wake up to the in the morning. Maybe create a jar with tons of good things to think about yourself and pull one out every morning and say it out loud and believe it. Cut out magazine quotes, book quotes, or other inspirational quotes and frame them in your office, your bathroom, or wherever you feel your most vulnerable. Do whatever it takes to encourage yourself to think highly of yourself and your achievements.

ARE YOU A SUCCESSFUL WOMEN THAT IS PLAGUED WITH IMPOSTER SYNDROME? HOW HAVE YOU COPED?

Resources:

http://www.magpie-girl.com/20091102/the-imposter-syndrome-diagnosis-and-treatment/

http://overcomingimpostersyndrome.com/

http://www.forbes.com/sites/bonniemarcus/2012/03/19/why-cant-we-just-be-real-overcoming-the-imposter-syndrome/

http://www.forbes.com/2010/02/22/imposter-syndrome-professional-fraud-forbes-woman-leadership-psychology.html

 

You Have The Power To Make Yourself Happy

6 Jun

The other day I was listening to a good friend complain about her job. She was going on and on about how her boss micromanages her too much and drives her crazy on a regular basis. I let her vent because sometimes that is really all we need, and then I said, “But I thought you liked your job?”

She responded by saying, “I do like my job, just not all the time.”

This got me thinking, is not liking your job some of the time normal? I have days where I wonder whether my career path is the right one for me, and then my husband tells me that it is called work for a reason. While I tend to agree that work cannot be exciting all of the time, aren’t there people out there who claim that they absolutely LOVE what they do? I always hear actors saying how blessed they are and how much they enjoy their job, but are there really average-Joes out there who thoroughly enjoy their jobs enough that they can tell you with a straight face that they are 100% happy?

If you listen closely you will find that a lot of people complain about their jobs. Heck, I even complain about mine. Either the drive is too long, your boss is a jerk, you don’t get enough direction, your boss micromanages you, you aren’t learning enough, you are bored, you aren’t making enough money, or your work simply doesn’t stimulate you. At some point in my life or another I have felt every single one of those emotions, but does that mean that my career path is all wrong? Does that mean that I am unhappy?

Even if having those days where you hate your job is normal, how do you know if you are really happy?

In my opinion you have the ability to make yourself happy. Happiness is a decision you make and you alone hold the power.

Ok, I hold the power, what does that even mean?

To me it means that we have a responsibility to ourselves to take a step back and evaluate our situations and feelings to determine whether or not we are happy with our given job and life circumstances. If you feel down about your job one day try taking the time to really thinking about how you feel. Ask yourself, “why do I feel unhappy?” Is it because your boss just yelled at you or is it over something much more serious, like working your fourth weekend in a row and feeling like you want to cry or throw yourself off a bridge?

Once you figure out what it is that is bothering you, consider whether this is something you can live with forever. For my friend I mentioned above, I asked her if she could stand working for her micromanaging boss forever. Her answer – probably not. This tells me that deep down she is unhappy in her current situation. Sure, there may be days when she feels good about her job, but those days where her boss is overwhelming her stand out in her mind more so than the good days.

When I have a bad day or am annoyed at work I always sit back and think about why I am mad or annoyed. Usually finding the answer and being honest with myself allows me to fix the problem. At my last job I found that I was always in a bad mood after work. It wasn’t because my boss was mean, it was because my day had been boring or very uneventful. Yes, I know that work gets boring and slow sometimes, but I was bored and slow all of the time. I took a long time thinking about whether that meant my current career path was wrong for me or not. I did almost everything I could to try to see if something else made me happy – I thought of applying to business school, I started writing a book, I created this blog, and I applied to other positions that I was qualified for. In the end I discovered that my current working situation was what was making me unhappy, so I made a change. Now I am working in a new position that fits my overall life and professional goals better.

We all have the power to change our own lives and get them moving in the direction that we want them to go. I always hear people saying they are stuck in a rut or have no other options, but I don’t agree with that. If you are unhappy at work figure out why and make a change.

Enjoying The Simple Pleasures In Life

31 May

My husband and I always have conversations about saving and spending money. It is one of those conversations that literally sounds like nails on a chalk board to me. He is usually the one talking and I am usually the one nodding my head, pretending to listen. Sure, I understand that we need to save money to buy the house that we both want and to pay off our massive student loan debt. I get it. And usually I agree that I can cut out some of my spending on needless things (like the pair of pants I will only wear one time or the heels I can only wear out to really nice restaurants). What I don’t agree with is cutting down on those simple pleasures in life that make us all happy. The latte from Starbucks, the book from Barnes & Noble, the $40 dinner with good friends, the trip to the nail salon. I have heard so many people say that they have cut out their Starbucks addiction in an effort to try to save a little money. My response is always the same. Why? Why cut out the one thing that really makes you happy? Why force yourself to save that extra $5?

While my thoughts may seem outrageous to some of you, author Laura Vanderkam agrees with me in her book All The Money In The World: What The Happiest People Know About Getting And Spending. Like me, Vanderkam agrees that you should buy that Latte because it is the small pleasures in life that matter most. According to Vanderkam, “small, repeated pleasures . . . are the bread and butter of human happiness. In an interview with Forbes, Vanderkam states, “the problem with giving up those simple pleasures is that it requires you to exercise self-discipline every single day. “The question is whether you want to be exercising self-discipline every morning as you pass by Starbucks or if you’d like to use it for something more important in life – for instance, in your job or in your interactions with your family.” I don’t know about you, but I would rather use self-discipline at work and home than on those things that make me happy when my work life and home life frustrate me.

Ok, so you are probably wondering how you save money if you are always indulging in your favorites simple pleasures. Just as I said above, saving that extra $5 a day really won’t break the bank as much as purchasing a Mercedes that requires you to pay $500+ a month or purchasing a house that makes you live paycheck to paycheck. I guess it depends on who you are and what makes you happy, but for me driving around a Mercedes ranks lower on my list of pleasures than other things.

What are your favorite simple pleasures in life? Mine are as follows (ranked in order of importance):

  • Buying a good book on my Kindle Fire
  • Eating dinner out with my husband
  • Enjoying a night out on the town with friends
  • Enjoying a nice bottle of wine or my favorite beer (Shocktop)
  • Getting my nails done

While I do allow myself to enjoy my favorite simple pleasures, there are some limits. Obviously I don’t go get my nails done every week (that would be expensive). Usually I go about once a month. So there is some restraint, but at the end of the day if I want to go get them done I don’t hesitate.

Do you agree that we should all be enjoying our favorite simple pleasures more often?

Are You Unhappy At Work? Make A Change!

30 May

I was recently talking to a good friend about how her job was going when she told me that she pretty much does her boss’s job without her boss’s pay. When her husband suggested that she go into the office the following day and ask for a promotion I totally agreed. Here is a woman who has been busting her ass at work for a very long time without being properly recognized. So we all waited for her to say “Yes, I will go ask for that promotion,” but she didn’t. Instead she seemed uneasy with the idea and said that while she did do things outside of her pay and skill level, she was afraid of having to learn something new. She was also uncomfortable with the idea of managing people who were at least five years her senior.

While I understand that asking for a promotion and a pay raise can be extremely nerve-racking, I am of the opinion that if you are unhappy you need to make a change. If you continue to go above and beyond everyone’s expectations without asking for more your company may never give you more. This is what we call taking advantage of the little man. All of us do it, and if you don’t do something about it you will find yourself looking back ten years from now wondering why you didn’t just ask.

That’s it. All you have to do is ask. And as you have heard your entire life, all they can say is No. If you think about it that way it makes the whole process a little less scary.  So, if you feel that you are working harder than your co-workers but are in a lower level position or are not being paid well enough, JUST ASK.

But how do you know when it is appropriate to ask for a promotion or pay increase? The truth is that there is no “appropriate” time to ask. The “best” opportunity to ask will probably be at your annual review, but if that has already come and gone then you need to think of other options. Try scheduling a meeting with your boss and say that you would like to discuss how you are doing at work. If you feel that is too formal for your work environment then simply walk into your boss’s office when he/she seems the least busy and ask if you can talk to him/her. Yes I know it is scary, but you can do it!

Before going in to speak to your boss think about how your company is growing and changing. For example, are people from your team being moved to different positions? Is your company merging with another? Are there openings in a position that you are interested in? When companies are changing and growing it presents a great opportunity for you to go in there and ask for a promotion.

But the economy sucks right now so they probably won’t give me what I want, right? WRONG! Yes I know that the economy is not at its greatest, but you have to understand that if you are a valuable employee (and if they are smart) they will do what they can to please you and keep you at the company. Obviously if your company is going under it may not be the best time to ask for a promotion, but if that is the case I would suggest looking for a backup job.

Make sure you can tell your boss exactly what you have brought to the table. Asking for a promotion is one thing if you are actually making the company grow or better off, but it is an entirely different thing if you aren’t bringing your company any benefit. Make sure that you are prepared to defend your promotion by showing your boss how valuable you are to the company. At my last job I had a meeting with my boss about the pay increase I was promised. At that meeting I went in prepared to tell him that I had saved the company X amount of dollars in legal fees that year and had accomplished things that no one else had accomplished at the company. In the end my boss was more than happy to give me the pay increase, and so will yours if you can show him/her why you deserve it.

Make sure you know what you want before you go speak to your boss. A lot of times we assume that our bosses have these big plans for us and know which direction we are going within the company. The truth is that a lot of times your boss doesn’t know what you really want out of the company and whether you are truly happy. So when you go to ask for a promotion be prepared for your boss to ask you what it is you want. Do you want more responsibility? Do you want to manage others? How much of a salary increase do you think is appropriate? Be prepared to show that people working in your field and performing your responsibilities make X amount of dollars before you ask for an increase in salary.

If you get the promotion or pay increase good for you! Be happy and celebrate, but make sure that you understand your boss’s expectations. Your best bet will probably be to have another meeting with your boss in which you go over everything that your new position entails and make a list of exactly what your boss expects from someone in your new position.

At the end of the day asking for a promotion or a pay increase is NOT easy, but it is necessary if you find yourself completely unhappy at work. Remember, we all have the power to change our own lives, so if you are unhappy go out and do something about it.

Have you ever asked for a promotion or pay increase? How did you go about asking and how did your boss respond?