Category Archives: Interpersonal skills

How to make small talk and why it’s important for your career

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Have you ever been in a meeting where the senior people are in a pointless conversation with each other? It has nothing to do with business or anything important at all.

Acme Corp CEO: “Did you see the ballgame last night?”

Acme Corp Board Chair: “What a game! It looks like we’re going to the playoffs. Do you think we’ll win the championship?”

Acme Corp Junior Analyst thoughts while sitting quietly: Can we just start the meeting already…

But after the senior executives are done with the banter, they are noticeably more comfortable with each other and more open to talking about sensitive business topics than they were before that conversation.

Small talk is defined as when people talk about nothing important or relevant to the situation. But small talk is actually an important part of building trust and a deeper social connection. Learning to make small talk and then transitioning to a more meaningful conversation is very important for your career too.

Nicholas Epley, a professor of behavioral science at the University of Chicago’s Booth School of Business, notes that people enjoy connecting with others and consistently connecting with people is a key factor in happiness.

Naturally, your coworkers and clients want to be happy when they are around you. Talking to them, whether through small talk or a deeper conversation, is a great way for them to enjoy your company.

Still, many analytical people see small talk as pointless and a time waster because you should talk about something more meaningful. But research shows small talk is actually a key component for building business relationships.

Small talk helps build the initial levels of communication and begins the formation of a social bond within the group. People don’t just go from being strangers to acquaintances. First they talk about some common topics that are going on in the world like sports or a new movie out in theaters. After a few minutes, they then start to talk about more personal topics like their career path and family. But they don’t get to that level of trust without small talk first.

Most people don’t like to jump directly to talking about themselves or listening to a stranger talk which is why small talk is important. It bridges the gap.

Camille Virginia of Master Offline Dating

My friend Camille Virginia is the Founder of Master Offline Dating and one of the best I know at small talk. After a decade of experience in health care consulting, she began to learn the secrets of building genuine connections and now helps single women get the skills and confidence to connect with men in the real world. She has been featured in international media publications such as Bustle, Elite Daily, GrowthLab, and YourTango.

Through her work experience as a consultant and running a business, she also knows a thing or two about teaching others how to transition from small talk to a deeper conversation.

One of Camille’s suggestions is to talk about a topic that you are genuinely curious about:

“Pick up on small clues about their clothes, accent, or something they said that you want to know more about. Things that actually interest you, or are natural follow-up questions that give an opportunity to learn more.”

As you build a rapport with this person, you can go into deeper conversations. Camille says, “Every person in the world has a wealth of interesting stories, facts and emotions that are changing constantly. If you think about it, we’re all pretty fascinating (even when we don’t really feel like it).”

Camille gives an example for starting with small talk and moving to a deeper topic: “Complimenting a woman on her necklace, might lead to discovering your shared love of vintage jewelry. The segue from the surface level topic (the necklace) into something more meaningful and actually helpful (the best vintage jewelry places in the city) is practically seamless.”

[For anyone who is skeptical for how this applies to business, I’ve seen a older male CEO compliment a senior executive woman from another organization about her unique colorful necklace when they met for the first time before a business meeting. That led to a conversation about how his wife loves the same type of jewelry and the executive gave the CEO a few gift recommendations for his wife. They built up trust with each other in that short 3 minute conversation. This technique can work for anyone if you are talking about things that you are genuinely curious about.]

Another suggestion for moving from small talk to a deeper conversation is to ask a follow up question on a more personal level. Camille has an example: “Maybe you’re at a networking event and someone mentions being brand new to the city. Ask if they’re enjoying their new home, and where they moved from.”

You may also want to add a story from when you were new to a city. That will help the other person learn a little bit about you too.

While you might not like small talk, it’s a necessary part of building business relationships and trust. If you want to advance in your career, you will need people skills. Learning to make small talk and transition into a deeper conversation is a key skill for climbing up the ladder.

As Camille notes, “It feels amazing to know that someone else is generally interested in you and your life. As the adage goes ‘At the end of the day people won’t remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.’”

Business and trust

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Building trust is one of the most important parts of working with other people.

When you want to get hired, the hiring manager needs to trust your ability to do the job well. After all, she is sticking her neck out with her boss and saying that she thinks you are the best candidate for the job. You build that trust that by presenting the knowledge, skills, and previous work experiences to do the job in your resume and during your job interviews.

When you start working with a new boss, he will stop micromanaging you when he trusts that you’ll do good work without him watching everything you do.

If you want more responsibility, your boss will need to trust that you can handle more important projects without taking up too much of his time or hurting the company.

When a Board of Directors approves the annual budget, they aren’t voting on the numbers in the budget. They are voting on their confidence in the CEO to handle the company’s finances correctly.

Business is all about building trust and maintaining that trust. If you want to advance your career, you will need to act in a way so the people around you trust you.

Human beings

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It’s easy to forget, but everyone around you is a human being.

Your annoying boss. Your company’s demanding customers. Your lazy co-workers. The CEO you’ve never met.

In today’s busy office, it’s easy to get annoyed, be short tempered, and think poorly of the people around you.

But it would be better to remember that all of these people are human beings. They have their own worries, fears, dream, hopes, and goals. Sometimes all it takes is a smile, a kind word, or a minute of your day to make them feel better.

If you treat these people well and understand what they want, they will enjoy working with you and they will reciprocate. Overtime, your office will be a friendlier and more collegiate environment.

Treating each person like a human being might be the most rewarding part of your climb up the ladder.

The importance of Emotional Intelligence in your career and how to develop it

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As your career starts out, the hard skills you learned in school will be very important. And if you excel as an individual contributor, you’ll get promoted to your first management position. From there on, your soft skills will become more important for future promotions than your hard skills. You’ll need to coach your direct reports, handle conflict within your team, and tactfully manage office politics. Building your interpersonal skills, and Emotional Intelligence, will help you excel as a manager up to Director, VP, and Executive.

Numerous studies show that Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is a trait great leaders have in common. Research shows that people with high levels of emotional intelligence are better at managing their stress, negotiating, and leading people. Daniel Goleman, the man who made Emotional Intelligence famous, noted that the qualities traditionally associated with leadership, such as intelligence, determination, and strategic vision, are required for success but are insufficient. Great leaders also needed other qualities – the qualities that he found associated with emotional intelligence. And these EQ qualities became even more important as employees reached higher positions on the corporate ladder. As someone got closer to the C-Suite, they needed higher levels of EQ to make the company successful and to move higher in his/her career.

Emotional Intelligence is the ability to recognize one’s own and other’s emotions and to manage them accordingly to achieve a goal.

According to Goleman, Emotional Intelligence has five components:

  • Self-awareness: knowing one’s emotions, strengths, weaknesses, drives, values, and goals – and their impact on others
  • Self-regulation: controlling or redirecting disruptive emotions and impulses
  • Motivation: being driven to achieve for the sake of achievement itself
  • Empathy: considering others’ feelings, especially when making decisions
  • Social skill: managing relationships to move people in desired directions

As you can see, the first three components all deal with recognizing and managing your own emotions. You need to know the emotions you are feeling, how to control your emotions, and to understand why you want to achieve your goals. One important point is that EQ is not about being emotionless. Emotions are good and healthy. You should not allow your emotions to your control you, rather you should feel and manage your emotions productively. That is the core of Emotional Intelligence.

The last two EQ components are about how you relate to others. Do you understand others’ emotions and do you know how to help them be productive toward their goals and the company’s goals. You can see how these two components are so important for leadership at the office. Whether it is helping a direct report manage his emotions with your social skills or understanding your boss’s goals using empathy, you can improve your career by developing EQ.

So then we get to the question, how do you improve your Emotional Intelligence?

A great first step is to read Daniel Goleman’s book which made EQ popular. But that isn’t necessary. You can also get started at home with two techniques: The Mime Technique and the Shoe Store Technique.

The Mime Technique helps you develop self-awareness and empathy. It’s pretty simple but very powerful.

Turn on your TV (or Netflix for all of us Millenials) and mute the sound. Try to understand the context of the show or movie just from the characters’ body language. The first time you do this, it might be hard. But as you do this a few times, you’ll start to notice which facial expressions signal anger, sadness, happiness, and stress. This will help you develop empathy.

As you watch more shows without sounds or words, you’ll start to label the emotions more in your head. You’ll see the difference between someone who feels joy and someone who feels ecstatic, and all of the other varying degrees of happiness. You’ll see the difference between the levels of anger, sadness, stress, and every other emotion in between. This will help you develop self-awareness. As you notice the different emotions in other people (empathy) you’ll also recognize the emotion in yourself better (self-awareness). That will also help you develop self-regulation over time.

As you learn to see these emotions in other people, you’ll have a better sense of good times to talk about sensitive subjects with your coworkers or when to give coworkers some space. You’ll see when they are stressed about a deadline and when they are happy about an accomplishment. You’ll get much better at handling office politics when you see the body language and underlying emotions people project.

The Shoe Store Technique is also useful: you put yourself in the other person’s shoes, figuratively. When you talk to someone and recognize their emotions, whether it is happiness or something else, put yourself in that person’s shoes. Ask yourself: Why might they feel this way?

Try on a few pairs of shoes. There could be a number of reasons why someone is stressed: is his child sick, did her boss just reprimand her, did he get in a car accident last night? You won’t know the real reason why someone feels the way he does, but picturing yourself in several different scenarios that would cause that emotion can help you empathize with that person.

You’ll understand how he feels which helps you manage your own emotions while talking to him and you will feel his emotion so you can empathize and create a stronger social connection between the two of you.

This can help you build allies at work and to just be a nice considerate person.

Emotional intelligence is one of the most important skills for advancing your career. Even early in your career you can start developing it now and see its powerful benefits.

Give these two techniques a try at work this week and let me know what emotions you see around your office.

“I’m freakin’ awesome!”

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Several years ago, I met with a Senior Vice President at one of the nation’s largest banks to get his career advice.

Of all the great pieces of advice he gave me, one has stuck out through the years. He said that when someone asks you how you’re doing, respond: “I’m freakin’ awesome!”

It’s certainly over the top which he was aware of, but he’s right. People like to work with people who are positive and excited. Sure sometimes you won’t be doing too well and you might want to just say, “I’m doing okay. What about you?”

But people want to be around people who are positive.

And sharing a positive attitude will help you keep a positive attitude when you get to the office.

Showing up to work excited and happy will help you produce better work which is a prerequisite for getting raises and promotions.

Getting the most out of emails at work

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Anyone with more than 30 years of work experience can tell you how email has changed business. Maybe your boss has told you how it’s changed work: You can get answers to questions much faster, reference old conversations with a quick search in your inbox, and even work remotely now because of it. But like all types of communication, you need to use it well to get the most out of it.

Use it well and your coworkers will know what a great job you do. Use it poorly and you risk everyone thinking you’re a fool. Sometimes it’s a fine line between the two and being on one side or the other can influence if you get the next promotion.

As email has taken over the world, some people have learned to use it well and others just get by. Unfortunately, the way people prefer to use email changes from company to company and office to office, but there are a few common principles for communicating well no matter where you work.

One of the keys to using email well is knowing when to use another form of communication. In today’s work environment, there is no shortage of ways to communicate: Email, instant messenger, phone calls, texts, and face to face communication. For sensitive topics, face to face (or video chat if you work remotely) is the best. Sometimes you need to see each other’s body language to get the full message across.

Phone calls are great for quick and urgent conversations. If you need a decision quickly from your boss, giving her a call is a great way to go. How many times have you had a meeting with someone in person, but when the phone rings the other person interrupts your conversation to answer it? It happens all the time. There’s something about a phone ringing that makes everyone think the call is urgent and important, and that’s why phone calls are great for quick questions.

Email is good for things that will need to be referenced later, aren’t time sensitive, and require some consideration by the recipient before replying.

When you’re on the receiving side of emails, use inbox rules effectively. Two of the more effective tips are highlighting your boss’s emails in a different color and your boss’s boss’s emails in another color. That will allow you to pay extra attention to them. Your boss likely sends you emails for things that you directly need to work on so you will have an easier time tracking your projects and deadlines.

Your boss’s boss will likely include you on emails that are more long term in nature, such as emails for your department’s strategic priorities, interdepartmental projects, or industry news. This will give you a better sense of your company’s goals. As I’ve written before, understanding these goals can give you an advantage for building job security and determining your company’s financial health: Two things that will help you get promoted.

Also use inbox rules to file emails on particular subjects to certain folders. If you have projects working with a particular client, you might want to have all emails to and from that client go to an “ABC Project” folder. That will help you reference to those emails faster in the future and give you a quick way to track the communication on the project. It will also keep you less distracted since you will only look into those folders when you want to work on that project, which can increase your productivity. Just make sure you go through all the folders once a day, likely first thing in the morning or before you leave at night, and read through the emails. You don’t want to miss an important email from HR just because you’re automatically sending their emails to a “Company Social Events” folder.

As another tip, keep a folder in your inbox named “Feedback” where you store a record of your accomplishments, praise from coworkers, completed assignments, and feedback from your boss. When the time for your annual review comes around, you can refer back to this folder as a list of what you worked on during the year and how it turned out. (And if you’re interested in negotiating your salary down the road, keeping this record of feedback and what you’ve accomplished can be useful for making your case for a raise.)

If you use Outlook, checkout this link to learn how to setup inbox rules: Manage email messages by using rules. If you use Gmail, checkout this link: Create rules to filter your emails. If you use Hotmail, just kidding, no one uses Hotmail.

Sending a clear and action-oriented email is more difficult than being on the receiving end of an email.

Step one of writing a clear email is to know what you want as a result of the email. Do you want advice from the recipient? Are you only telling the recipient some information and don’t need a response? Are you trying to schedule a meeting? It’s a good idea to only have one objective from the email and to plan around that.

Put yourself in the recipient’s shoes. What level of formality do you need when you talk to this person? Write your email in that level of formality. How will she feel about what you are writing? If it’s a sensitive subject, you might want to send an email to schedule a time to talk in person. If it’s not a sensitive subject then you can get straight to the point in the email. What follow up questions will the recipient have? Anticipate and answer as many of these questions as you can in the email.

Let’s go on to two example emails to demonstrate how to craft a great email. The first email is a weekly status check to a client on behalf of the entire team. It purely provides information to the client and does not need a reply.

To: [client] [The To line is for people who need to reply to the email or who the email is directly addressed to.]

CC: [team member 1], [team member 2], etc. [The CC line is for anyone who needs to know what’s going on but doesn’t need to take action on the email. In many business emails, that’s unfortunately too many people…]

Subject: Weekly status check-in [The client probably expects this email every week so keep the subject line short and consistent every week.]

Hi [client],

The weekly status report is below. [This is a regular, expected email so get straight to the point. The topic isn’t controversial or difficult to talk about so no need to gently ease into the subject.]

Thank you for your team’s help getting us the data this week. We have analyzed the dataset and started running regressions on it. There have been no issues running the regressions so far. [Talk about the first point, in this case what work was done this week and a thank you for the client’s assistance.]

Next week, we plan to have some of the analysis complete and can start making the final report for your team. We will let you know if we need assistance but we don’t plan on it at this time. [The previous paragraph talked about last week, whereas this paragraph talks about next week. Since it’s a separate train of thought, it goes in a different paragraph.]

No reply needed. [This takes the pressure off the client to think of a response. She can still reply with “Thanks for the update.” if she wants, but she doesn’t have to.]

Thanks,

[Your name]

Bear with me on the lack of specifics in the email. Each company sends status reports to their clients differently. But that email template should give you a guide for deciding who goes on the To line of an email, how to group your points into separate paragraphs, and how to let the reader know that you don’t need a reply.

The other email we will look at is for when you need advice on something from your boss.

To: [boss]

Subject: Question about forecasting inventory for the XYZ Project [Let your boss know that you have a question about a certain topic. This will let your boss know how important the email is based the XYZ Project’s priority. It also lets your boss know that she will need to spend a little more time on this email since you are asking a question instead of just providing information.]

Hi [boss],

As you know, I am working on the financial analysis for the XYZ Project. I completed the statements of cash flow projection for the next 12 months earlier this week. That went smoothly. [Give a little context and status report even though she probably knows this information. It helps her get into the mindset to remember your project since she has so many other projects to manage.]

I moved on to forecasting the income statement, but I’m having trouble with it and would like your input. In particular, what document should we use to forecast inventory for the next 12 months? [Be very clear about what question you are asking. Also, you’re more likely to get a quick reply if you ask “Yes/No” questions, but if you need a detailed answer with a “who/what/when/where/how” question, plan for a longer wait time before getting a reply.]

Here are some solutions that might work:

  1. Brian has some reports from our inventory management software with industry averages. The reports are attached to this email. They are reliable reports but they are not specific to our company.
  2. The warehouse has the numbers for the past 12 months. I could use that to estimate future inventory but we will have a lot of guessing in our numbers.
  3. I can use the projections from the sales department. My concern is that it is based on sales quotas rather than inventory numbers which might be too optimistic.

[If you present a problem, also provide possible solutions with some positives and negatives about each choice. Don’t make your boss too much or he might think he’s doing too much of your job. And give your boss as much information as you can which is why this person is attaching the inventory reports to the email. It will allow his boss to see if those reports will work.]

Can you let me know which option you think is best? [This is a good action oriented question to end the email. The boss can simply reply with: “Use option 2”. You are taking the work off your boss so you will get an answer faster and more accurately.]

Thanks,

[Your name]

In a previous article, I wrote a sample email for setting up an in person conversation about a sensitive subject. Take a look at it through this link How to ask your boss for help without looking stupid.

Using email can be tricky, but learning to make your coworkers’ lives easier by writing good emails is well worth the time investment. Staying on top of your emails and getting quick, helpful replies from your coworkers will make you more productive. It will also make working with you more enjoyable for those receiving your emails.

Give these principles a try to increase your productivity at work.

You just need to ask

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Employees often get frustrated with their lack of autonomy. We have a great idea to help make your department more efficient. We want to work from home occasionally to save time commuting. We want to take on a few tasks from another department so you can learn more about the company as a whole. But you feel frustrated that you aren’t allowed to do those things.

Sometimes, getting the autonomy to try to things is just as easy as asking your boss a yes or no question.

Honest conversations are pretty easy to have. And when two people have built a trusting relationship with each other over time, they want to say yes to each other.

If you’ve done good work and helped your company become better, your boss will be much more likely to let you try new ideas. Sometimes, it’s just as simple as asking “can I try this new idea” to your boss, explaining why everyone will benefit from it, and getting a “yes” response.

Why Dressing Like Your Co-Workers Is Actually Hurting Your Career

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For anyone who’s worked in an office, you know that your wardrobe plays a part in how people react to you. The better you dress, the more senior you appear. Dressing appropriately for your job is part of developing your interpersonal skills for your career.

While I dress well, I’m no expert so I’ve asked Sunjeev Prasad of Street Gentlemen to write about dressing well for the workplace. He does 1-on-1 consulting for men looking to improve their style and physical appearance and get more confidence in their lives. And while this post focuses on men’s style, women can use the principles also to improve their confidence in the office. Sunjeev knows a thing or two about fashion so here are his words about using fashion to improve your career.

Welcome Sunjeev!

Looking for a competitive edge?

It might actually be easier than you think.

Positioning yourself as a well-informed leader, go-getter, and likeable guy can all be achieved through how you present yourself.

You’re probably wondering, “how the hell is this possible?!”

Let me explain.

Your image plays a key role in your career success.

Guys that don’t care about their work or climbing the corporate ladder often don’t put much effort into their appearance. They do just enough to “get by.”

These are the guys who buy their suits off the rack without giving it any thought.

This results in a wardrobe that fits poorly, looks cheap, and doesn’t command any respect or barely any attention from women during happy hour.

If you’re taking this approach and you’re not happy with your dating life or your career situation pay very close attention to this post because you’re going to find out exactly how to turn things around.

Get familiar with your tailor:

You can find some very nice suits off-the-rack.

Don’t sell yourself short, they NEED to be altered to your body shape before they see the light of day. Doing so will highlight your best physical assets.

This has the ability to make you appear leaner, more muscular for the skinny guys, and taller if that’s what you’re looking for.

Of course before you even go to the tailor it always helps to know what your measurements are first.

This article outlines exactly how you can achieve that.

Mirror the boss:

Using his style as a source of inspiration would be wise for more than one reason, even if you don’t always see eye-to-eye.

Before you become a leader at work people need to picture you in that role.

That means that you look the part. When you look the part, you’re going to carry yourself as a leader in the workplace.

There’s actually an emerging branch of science called Embodied Cognition.

The main idea is that we don’t just use our minds to think but also our bodies.

It’s all about the way our clothes influence us —  how they feel against our skin, when we see ourselves in the mirror, and actually wearing certain items like a suit completely alter how we carry ourselves.

Break free from the pack:

Unless you’re ok with being an office drone don’t do what everyone else is doing.

If most guys in the office are typically wearing khakis, a light blue button-up shirt, and black dress shoes avoid dressing like them at all costs!

Your first step will be to come to terms with the fact that you’re going to stand out. When you stand out, there’s a chance that your buddies may crack a few jokes at your expense.

Deep down we all know they wish they looked as good as you.

Once they realize that you’re in serious consideration for the next raise or promotion they will come running to you in hopes of finding out how you did it.

Though all of your qualifications may be on even playing field, you’ve found your competitive edge by positioning yourself as a leader through your style.

Last Thoughts:

You’ve heard it a million times before — dress for the job that you want, not the job that you have.

So if your goal is to become an executive, partner, or upper management, it’s time to start dressing like you’re already there.

Remember, your colleagues need to picture you in that role before you’re even considered for it.

I hope you enjoyed reading this post as much as I’ve enjoyed writing it.

Make sure you’re well-dressed for any occasion by downloading this FREE style guide.

It outlines the 16 Essential Items Every Man Needs To Build The Perfect Wardrobe.

Bio:

Sunjeev Prasad teaches men how to dress well and know what’s stylish so that they can carry themselves with confidence.

This mission came about after a fateful trip to the mall back in high school. He was the butt-end of jokes and took a huge blow to his confidence.

After promising to never feel that way again, he’s dedicated the last 10 years of his life to learn as much as he can about men’s style.

Today he works 1-on-1 with men to help them achieve their personal style and confidence related goals.

You can connect with Sunjeev at Street Gentlemen — personal image consulting.

What to do when you feel overwhelmed at work

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New tasks pile on your to-do list twice as fast as you can finish them. You’re never going to get all of this work done. You wish you had someone who can take some of this work off your plate or that your boss would roll up his sleeves and help.

You feel like you’re drowning in work. Every time you get close enough to see the surface, you get pulled back down.

You’re starting to get short tempered and are less patient with your coworkers. You just want to put your head down and get rid of some of this work. But then someone interrupts you again. You try to escape by checking your email over and over again to ignore the building to-do list.

There is just too much work to do and you are feeling overwhelmed. You might even be burning out.

But you can get back in control of your work day. We’ll focus on the big picture first and then dig into the specifics projects you need to accomplish.

Start by putting your projects in perspective.

Write a list of all the tasks you have to do in order of priority. Take a step back and see if any of them can be outright ignored. Perhaps they were important when they got on your list but compared to the new items on the list, they just aren’t worth the time anymore. Take those tasks and move them onto a separate list that you can look at when you don’t have anything important to do. But for now, we’ll take them off your immediate priority list so it’s less overwhelming.

Now look at the remaining list. To tackle these items, we’ll borrow two concepts from personal finance: the snowball method versus avalanche method in debt reduction.

The snowball method is where you take the smallest item and finish it first. You then move on to the next smallest item and finish that task. As you keep going, you’re to-do list gets shorter and shorter quickly. You’ll feel less overwhelmed more quickly.

Or you can choose to use the avalanche method. This is where you take the most important project, however you choose to define that (due the soonest, will generate the most revenue, most important to your boss, etc.) and complete that item first. The advantage of this method is that you add value to the business faster but the disadvantage is that your task list will continue to be long for a while.

I personally prefer the snowball method but please choose whichever you prefer.

Once you’ve knocked a couple of items off your task list, take a moment to identify the cause of all of the work.

As one of my mentors says, “If there are babies floating in the river, you can spend all day trying to pull them out, but at some point you have to go upstream and fix why they are falling in the river.” Weird analogies aside, you’ll need to fix the source of the problem: Identify what’s causing you to get so many new projects and also why it’s difficult to finish them on time.

Are the people reporting to you asking for too much help? Is your boss piling on more work? Are coworkers coming to your desk too often and interrupting your thought process?

Once you’ve identified the problem, you’ll need to handle the situation with tack. If your reports are asking you for too much help, see if one of the senior employees who reports to you can field questions from her coworkers for a week and only send the really important questions to you.

If coworkers are stopping by your desk too often for work related issues, ask your boss if you can come to the office early before anyone else so you get some quiet time. (And if work-life balance is important to you, also ask to leave earlier in the day.) If coworkers are stopping by your desk for non-work issues, let them know, “I’m sorry. I’d love to chat, but I’m swamped with work right now.”

If you’re boss is giving you too many projects to work on, you have a few options. First, see if you can delegate to someone who reports to you. If not, ask when the project needs to be completed by.

If that doesn’t make the project manageable, try asking, “Where does this fall on the priority list?” and show your boss your priority list. Seeing your projects will make it immediately obvious to your boss if this project really is important, and if it is, which other project should get dropped.

Keep in mind that even though you try to fix the source of all the work and interruptions, they won’t go away 100%. But if you cut it down 50% it will help you out a lot in the long run. You’ll get more time to do your existing work at a higher quality and you’ll feel overwhelmed less often.

Once you’ve solved the source of all the work, it’s time to go back to your projects. Slowly but surely you’ll finish them, one by one, and you won’t feel overwhelmed anymore. In fact in a week or two, you’ll look forward to coming into work because you’ll be in control of your work day again.

Networking: More Than LinkedIn

Published / by gopivajravelu / 2 Comments on Networking: More Than LinkedIn

In the digital age, we have networks larger than ever before. Just look at your LinkedIn and Facebook profiles where you get to keep in contact with people you haven’t seen in years. Social media is great for maintaining old relationships, but it isn’t as good for building new relationships. Think about all the messages you get on LinkedIn from people you’ve never met. Even in the digital age, there is no type of networking more powerful than meeting face to face and having a genuine conversation.

As an analyst, you will benefit from finding a mentor. As a partner, you need to find clients. As a VP, you need to meet others in your industry to recruit employees and learn about what other companies are doing in your industry. Networking is a skill that gets more important as you progress through your career. Fortunately it’s a skill that can be learned just like any other skill, and it’s one that will open up doors for you in your career.

My last semester of college, I made a goal to network with one person a week. I emailed 15 people and met with 9. Years later, some of those people are still mentors and friends. In fact, one of them was the CEO of a Fortune 500 company, and I met with him again earlier this week, five years after we first talked! He’s been a valuable mentor throughout my career.

A good mentor can change everything about your career and help you climb up the ladder.

Most people go wrong with networking from the very beginning. They either go to some random industry event with business cards and never talk to anyone they don’t already know. Or they get connected to one of their parents friends and then ask for a job they probably don’t deserve.

There are only a few acceptable goals for networking. One is to help the person you are meeting. Perhaps you have some knowledge that might benefit someone you respect and admire. That is a great reason to contact him and share your knowledge without expecting anything else in return. Another reason is to learn from other people. Older people, even if they are just a few years older than you, are glad to share their wisdom and experiences with you. They will tell you the advice they wish they had known at your age.

Before we dive into the tactics, let’s get one thing out of the way: the first time you meet someone don’t ask for a job or a reference to another person. No one likes to be used, and the person you’re meeting is no exception.

Build professional relationships over time and provide value to the other person.

Take a much longer view. Treat them like you would treat someone who will be in your life for ten years or more. Over time, build a relationship with this person, provide them value, and build trust. Once you’ve proven yourself and you have a genuine two-way professional relationship with this person, then you can ask for reasonable favors. If they can help, they will let you know. If not, take it graciously and continue the relationship just because you value that person as a human being. Never network with an ulterior motive. You would never become best friends with someone because you expect he will be useful to you in the future. Don’t do that with your business relationships either.

The most effective way to reach out to someone you don’t know is through email. LinkedIn and other social media don’t work out well because it feels like spam. Phone calls from unknown numbers get screened in voicemail, and well, no one calls anymore. Emails can be answered on the recipient’s schedule and people tend to take time to read through emails.

Below is an email script you can use to meet with almost any person. Emails tend to get better responses when you have something in common with someone else. It can be something very direct like “Our mutual friend Jane Doe suggested that I reach out to you” or something less direct such as “I’m also an alum of State University”. When you have something in common and you are genuinely asking for advice, people tend to take the time to help you out.

Subject: Fellow State University alum would love your career advice [Say what you have in common and that you want advice.]

Hi [name],

My name is [full name], an Associate at XYZ Corporation. I came across your name from the State University’s alumni website. [Say who you are and how you found out who she is.]

I’d love to get your career advice for 15 minutes. I am considering switching companies, but before making the jump I’d like to talk to someone who has worked at many of the best firms in the industry. Your LinkedIn profile says that you have a lot of experience at these leading firms. [Let her know early on what you’d like, in this case a quick talk for advice. Then let her know why you specifically want her advice instead of someone else’s advice.]

Would it be possible for us to meet? You could provide a lot of insight about the firms in the industry and what to watch out for while switching companies. It would also be great to hear about your career path after State University. [Make a direct ask for a meeting. Then say something complimentary and remind her about your shared connection.]

I can meet you for coffee, call you on the phone, or come by your office. I can work around your schedule. Would it be possible for us to meet? [Work around her schedule and location. You are asking for her help so make it convenient for her. End with a yes or no question so it’s easy for her to reply with a yes response.]

Thanks,

[Your name]

Go out and talk to people

Now that you have the mindset and tools to network, I’m going to challenge you to try it. Email 5 people you want advice from and talk to them. At least one person will give you life changing advice that helps your career.

 

This article is part 3 in a series about building interpersonal skills for your career. Click on the links below to see the rest of the series:

Introduction: Feeling stuck on the corporate ladder? Maybe your interpersonal skills are holding you back?

Part 1: Body language – projecting confidence

Part 2: Leadership – inspire others

Part 3: Networking – more than LinkedIn