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May 13, 2009

Job tip #2: Make time for lunch (with people)

If you're a high achiever like me, you're often at a crossroads whenever lunchtime comes around. You ask yourself, "Should I have lunch with so-and-so?", or, "Should I eat in my office to make sure I make my deadline?" Most of the times, the second option seems more sensible for your career, but you could be in danger of isolating yourself if you choose it too often.

Lunchtime is a rare opportunity to get to know people and form a relationship with your otherwise busy co-workers. Sure, you may have to work a little later to make up for your leisure hour away, but you get to build on trust and camaraderie in turn. That trust and camaraderie can go a long way during challenging times at work... Think about it, would you rather help your friend out of a ditch or an aloof associate?

Lunchtime can also be a great way to set up a one on one interaction with the big boss... or your direct reports (if you're the big boss). Since the big boss is always busy, but needs to eat, a walk down the block to grab a sandwich is just as good as a 30 minute pow-wow meeting. In fact, it may be even better, since the BB will see you outside of the "office" element and will perhaps loosen up a bit. Vice-versa, the big boss needs to build loyalty with the staff, perhaps paying for an occasional lunch or coffee is enough of a treat to build favor among the troops.

So, take some time out to have "lunch", their is a business purpose to it after all!

May 12, 2009

Rants and Raves: Vending Machines are Evil!

I'm convinced that vending machines are evil; you wouldn't really know it until a vending machine starts to whisper to you in the desperate hours after lunch and just before dinner. Sometimes they even have the nerve to beckon to you when you have an early morning meeting and skip breakfast... unbelievable! These things have no shame. Just look at all the multi-colored artery clogging goodies poised to kill...

Positioned in the top rungs are the carb-loaded, high sodium, crunch soldiers, that say, "It's okay... you're all that, so why not have a bag of chips?" Below eye-level, the sugar-mongers taunt you with promises of an energy boost for just a little under a buck. However, notice that the healthiest alternatives (nuts, trail mix, etc.) are shoved in the bottom nooks of the machine -- poor little things, gathering dust.

Unfortunately, one of these bad boys are a little more than ten feet from my office. So, everyday I have to avoid its evil tractor beam. Just a small indication that evil never dies....

May 9, 2009

Job tip #1: Play by the rules!

Well, I've decided to rehash all of the tips and tricks of the trade that I've learned during my time in both a client-facing role, as well as a corporate role. I will share these little tidbits through my daily job tips. Feel free to review them, think about them, and apply them to your own careers and hopefully they will provide you with pointers and support, in an ever-changing job market.

Job Tip #1: Play by the rules (when you're new or when you get a new boss)
Every workplace has its rules. These rules may be clearly written in an employee guidebook, taught during orientation, or communicated by those already “in the know”.

It is easy to take the employee code of conduct and toss it in the recycle bin, fool around during orientation or sexual harassment class, and sign and disregard the employee technology policy without a second look. Just know that doing so, may involuntarily end your time with your company sooner than you think.

What many new employees fail to realize is that almost all companies/organizations have a little, hidden but known clause that details a new employee's probationary period. During the probationary period, usually the initial three months of employment, an employee can resign without notice and can be released from employment without notice, the opportunity for corrective action, or severance pay. While this is critical to new employees, the same can be said for employees who have already passed the probationary period; especially when you get a new boss! I've seen so many colleagues get *dinged* for multiple violations, most especially in this volatile job market, so make sure that you know the rules!

The important thing is to learn the obvious rules, play by them, and avoid crossing the line; then learn the unwritten rules and do the same thing.

May 5, 2009

Leadership Tips: 7 Points to Remember

Earlier today, I was listening in on a global conference call to kick off Asian Heritage month. For anonymity's sake, I won't mention the name of the keynote speaker (we will refer to her as Ms. Success), but I will tell you that she is a minority in the corporate world due to her gender and ethnicity. She lived most of her life in the Northwest region of the United States, in a time when people of her ethnicity were not welcome... but she persevered, and is now one of the most influential executives of a global company.

What struck me as interesting and made me even more engaged during her speech was her humility. The woman did not advertise her credentials, nor did she seem boastful or self-entitled. She went on to say share some of the finer points she learned during her uphill battle with prejudice and adversity:

Be Yourself. There is nothing more difficult than trying to be who you are not. It is important to remember where you came from, and what you've done to get to where you are now. Have no shame, and use any struggles and bad experiences as sources of strength... after all, you did eventually overcome them. Besides, smart people will always know if you're wearing a mask.

Persist. Ms. Success mentioned that at one point in her career, she interviewed for a high level job for which she knew she was more than qualified. Unfortunately, the hiring executive bluntly told her that she did not fit the image, since all of her contacts were old, school, boy's club types, and they would be uncomfortable interacting with a petite, female, minority figure. Well, she did not let this comment phase her and persisted in interviewing with numerous companies - some telling her the same thing. Eventually, she landed an even greater position at a more prestigious company. She learned that by persisting, a door of opportunity will eventually open.

Adapt. During numerous boardroom meetings, Ms. Success noticed a trend in the way the majority of executives interacted. Since 99% of them were All-American, alpha males, they usually broke the ice by talking football or golf. Now, Ms. Success is neither a football or golf fan... but she did realize the importance of interacting with her peers and not being left out and exposed as an outcast. So, before every meeting, along with reading the headlines in the Wall Street Journal, she would also flip to the Sports Section to catch up on the interests of her peers. While this may seem contradictory to the first point (Be Yourself), remember that much of success comes from relationship building. And, if you don't make an effort to adapt and try new things, you will block the natural growth of a relationship.

Don't lose sight of the other 25%. Ms. Success stated that as an individual, you are always judged by your performance and contributions at work... 75% of the time! But, what about the other 25%? The relationship building aspect? Well, if you forget about the other 25%, you will soon reach a plateau in your progression to the top. Thus, don't skip out on too many lunches with your peers or superiors, make every opportunity to chit-chat, share your experiences and stories. If you don't build relationships, you may end up alone in a mediocre position with nothing to look forward to but a pat on the back from time to time. Building relationships ensures that you will eventually have a network of people who will help propel you towards your goals in the future.

Stretch Beyond Your Comfort Zone. Let's be honest... everyone loves the feeling of being the best at what we're doing. But how long will you feel good, if what you're doing remains the same year after year? Colin Powell once said, “If it ain't broke, don't fix it' is the slogan of the complacent, the arrogant or the scared. It's an excuse for inaction, a call to non-arms.” It's usually the person who becomes complacent who no longer continues to grow in self-worth.

Give Back. Along your journey, you will have learned many valuable lessons and gone through many enlightening experiences. Why not share that knowledge with others? Be a mentor, confidante, teacher... None of us would have succeeded if not for the advice and teachings of those in the know. Pay it forward, because it will eventually catch up to you.

Balance! That is... find balance in your life. If you have a family, make sure you have quality time devoted to them. Enjoy your time with your spouse, parents, siblings and relatives. Spend time with good friends and make sure to laugh often. If you want to focus on yourself, make sure that you find ways to personally develop. Take some classes in something totally unrelated to work, travel, try new foods, meet new people. No one can keep sane with all work and no play... that's not what life is all about. Being happy in your personal life, will make success easier and more fun to accomplish!

Remember these 7 points... and take advantage of Ms. Success' knowledge and experience. I know I will!