branding best light

Branding yourself in your best light

dirty laundry branding

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Transparency. Isn’t it lovely? Unless we’re talking about bra straps or Scotch tape, not necessarily. No one wants to see (or smell) your dirty laundry. I promise. While transparency certainly has its place in the world of business and marketing, it doesn’t translate well to personal and professional branding.

Why? We’re flawed. We all possess defective character traits. If we care about our colleagues, and we care about creating a positive impression on others, we spend all day long hiding those little flaws. We work to build better character traits. When we’re hungry, angry, lonely, tired, sad, or overwhelmed, we try to suck it up and carry on. We may let it all hang out the minute we walk in the door after work. We heat up a frozen pizza, throw on the sweats, and lean into the sofa with a beer and our dog. We have ourselves a good cry. But do we show it at work? Absolutely not.

Is this healthy? Are we all imposters? What in the world is wrong with us? Why can’t we just be ourselves in the workplace?

First of all, let me be clear. If you’re struggling to get out of bed every morning due to depression or anxiety, seek professional help from a counselor. If you’re so overwhelmed by stress in the workplace, and this topic is causing you neck pain, you may need to consider yoga (or a new career path altogether).

But most of us aren’t struggling with emotions or concerns which are extremely out of balance. We’re just trying to make it through the day. Some days are tougher than others.

branding best light

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How do you make it through those tough days without losing your cool and burning bridges with people at work–your professional network? How do you brand yourself in your best light on a regular basis? And is branding yourself in your best light really being honest with yourself and others?

Here are a few thoughts on branding yourself in your best light and the notion of transparency in the workplace.

  1. Don’t be transparent at work. Set appropriate boundaries. If you need to learn how to set appropriate boundaries, hire a professional counselor or therapist. Read the book Boundaries by Henry Cloud and John Townsend. Don’t expect yourself to understand how to have positive, healthy relationships with coworkers if you’ve never had positive, healthy relationships with anyone else in your life. You cannot snap your fingers and gain this ability.
  2. Remember that you choose the brand you portray. A brand is simply your reputation. A reputation is built by choices you make. Choices include words and actions. Our words and actions are preceded by decisions. We make decisions all day long every single day.

    Did you know that decision-making is one of the most sought-after soft skills by employers? It’s true. If you brand yourself as level-headed, positive, kind, and thoughtful, you simultaneously brand yourself as someone capable of making good decisions on a regular basis.

  3. When you choose to showcase yourself in your best light–to bring your good stuff to work and share your struggles with only your closest friends, family members, and paid professional counselors–you are not being dishonest. You are being wise. You are behaving in a way which builds your self-esteem. You’re building dignity and confidence in the workplace. You’re giving yourself space from whatever problems you’re facing outside of work, allowing yourself to focus on work while you’re working. You are growing professionally.

    Here is how to brand yourself in your best light… Be the best version of yourself. Continually grow. Make choices you’re proud of on a daily basis. Develop your strengths and character assets. When you focus on developing your soft skills, strengths, and assets, guess what happens to your weaknesses and defects? They die of neglect.

    Your brand will begin to evolve as you evolve. Your brand is simply a moon. If you are working toward career fulfillment and toward becoming the best version of yourself, you’re going to be reflecting nothing but light–and branding becomes much easier.

 

If you need help developing a written branding statement, a bio, an elevator pitch, or a solid LinkedIn profile, reach out to me for help.

For more thoughts on branding yourself in your best light, check out this 3-minute video.

 

 

 

 

Why manners matter

Have you ever met someone who made a terrible first impression? Chances are, this person practiced manners poorly and lacked communication skills. He may not have had a firm handshake. Maybe he avoided eye contact with you (or worse yet, ignored you while interacting with others). Perhaps the person was attempting to sell you something yet failed because he was so over-the-top, aggressive, and obviously only interested in earning your business rather than getting to know you as an individual.

Manners matter. If you don’t think so, read up on the importance of soft skills. Manners matter to employers; they ought to matter to you, too, if you’re searching for a job or hope to earn a promotion at any point in your lifetime.

Here are five outcomes of practicing good manners. Consider these outcomes proof that manners matter.

If the video is not playing or displaying properly click here.

 

  • You make a great first impression.

We’re all prone to interpret others’ behavior and make a judgment call within the first 20-30 seconds of meeting people. It all goes back to the primacy effect and negativity bias. When you meet someone new, and the person makes a poor first impression, it sticks with you—often permanently, even if the person’s future behavior is completely different (and better) than the behavior he exhibited when you initially met.

This means you need to make a great first impression every single time you meet someone new. One tried and true way to do this is to practice great manners, proper etiquette, and strong communication skills.

  1. You stand out.

Let’s face it. People who go above and beyond to practice good manners are an endangered species. Many Gen Z students and recent grads have faced the conundrum of being kept on a tight leash as children while given unlimited virtual access to the world (and beyond). Under the thumb of ever watchful parents, afraid of tragedies, kidnappings, and accidents, many Gen Z children have been thrown electronic devices to keep them pacified since they were preschoolers. These devices introduced them to social media, video games, and false realities. Many Gen Z students and recent grads feel more comfortable communicating via devices than face-to-face as a result. The same students and grads express a desire to spend more time face-to-face with others, even though their communication skills are often lacking.

If you lack knowledge of how to practice good manners, and you know your communication skills aren’t up to par, seek help to improve these soft skills. Your ability to gain and maintain employment may depend on your willingness to develop better manners!

  1. You brand yourself well.

If you want to stand out to employers, college faculty and staff, alumni, and peers, you’ll attempt to practice great manners. When you interact positively and politely with others, you brand yourself as the kind of person people want to hire and work with.

As I discuss in the video accompanying this blog post, when you practice good manners, you brand yourself as courteous, thoughtful, attentive, kind, generous, helpful, and grateful. The people you meet will remember these great character traits and assets when they think of you. And maybe the next time they learn of a fabulous job opening, you’ll be one of the first people to come to mind.

  1. You build a strong network.

When you’re polite, courteous, thoughtful, attentive, and grateful, who wouldn’t want to hire you? Who wouldn’t want to keep in touch, connect with you on social media, interact with you in discussions, or meet with you for an informational interview? All great employers want to hire candidates who exhibit good manners and strong communication skills.

If you treat others well and make a positive first impression, you build strong, lasting relationships with other professionals, your peers, and your supervisors. Networking is all about relationships. When you practice good manners, connecting with others, building those relationships, and maintaining them is natural.

  1. You improve your self-esteem.

When you take esteemable actions, you gain self-esteem.

When you possess a sense of self-esteem and self-respect, you behave differently in the workplace, particularly in times of conflict. You can carry your head high because you know you’re doing the best job possible. When people gossip, you brush it off because no one else’s opinions define your sense of value or worth. This sort of self-esteem is a direct result of your actions. If you’re doing the next right thing each day at work, and you treat everyone politely and courteously, you can feel calm, comfortable, and proud of the work you’re doing.

At the end of the day, the way you treat others speaks volumes about how you feel about yourself.

If you recognize that practicing good manners and interacting with others positively is a challenge for you, reach out to me for help with soft skills coaching.

Making the most of working with your career mentor

I’ve never regretted one minute spent listening to my career mentors. I learn so much when we meet, chatting over pancakes at Bob’s Diner or pizza in downtown Little Rock. Sure, I do some of the talking–opening up about where I’m at in my career, asking questions, and even sharing about troubling situations in the workplace in hopes my mentors will offer potential solutions. They always do because they’re brilliant women. I picked great career mentors. One owns her own business, consulting small business owners who want to market themselves and attract better clients. The other manages recruiting for a telecommunications corporation. My mentors have been where I am in many ways. They know what I’m going through, and even if they haven’t found themselves puzzled by an identical client or partner, they have likely been in similar situations.

That’s the beauty of working with a career mentor. A career mentor is a mentor you ask to guide you through your career journey–not just from point A to point B during one stretch of your career or while you strive through the most difficult mess of it. Your mentor learns all about you, and your career mentor can give you very pointed, detailed advice. Since your mentor doesn’t work with you in your workplace–unlike a workplace mentor–she doesn’t care about office politics. She only cares about seeing you succeed in the long run. She sees the big picture.

If you already have a career mentor, you’ll want to watch this video with three tips/reminders about making the most of working with your career mentor. You’ll find ways to apply this advice to the relationship you already have with your mentor. If you don’t have a career mentor, think about a few people you admire while watching the video and reading the article. Maybe by the end, you’ll have narrowed down your list.


If the video isn’t playing properly click here.

  1. Remember, your career mentor isn’t a fairy godmother (or godfather).

    Your career mentor won’t float out of the sky, pixie dust sprinkled in her hair, announcing her desire to guide you through your career (but wouldn’t that be great?!). You’re going to have to break down and ask someone to mentor you. Sometimes mentoring relationships evolve naturally. This happens in the workplace and in higher education; you might fall into a relationship with your career mentor if she’s your professor or boss. But most likely, you’ll find someone you admire who works in your dream job or similar career field. You will observe this person to ensure she exhibits character traits you admire. Then you will ask her to serve as your career mentor. Asking can be difficult, but acting against your fear of rejection is important. You potentially have so much to gain from a great career mentor.Also, we can often believe our career mentors are fairy godmothers in the sense that we place them on pedestals. We think they’re professionally perfect. But they’re definitely not, and learning from your career mentor’s failures and defects can be just as helpful as learning from your career mentor’s successes and assets.
  2. If it’s not working, make a change.

    It would be great if everyone’s career mentoring relationship lasted for a lifetime. Some do, and some don’t. If you work with a career mentor for five years, and you find yourself growing apart, accept that it may be time to seek a new career mentor. Some relationships–even professional relationships–are only meant to last for a season. We all grow, change, and develop, and as that happens, we often grow apart. Trying to force a fit doesn’t feel natural and can make a mentoring relationship very awkward. If you’re asking questions and not receiving answers which feel aligned with your values, ethics, or goals, it might be time to seek a new career mentor.
  3. Don’t expect your mentor to serve as your career coach.

    Unless your mentor works in career services, career counseling, or career coaching, your mentor will probably not feel comfortable providing you with detailed assistance with your resume, cover letter, interview preparation, branding, networking, job search assistance, or other areas of career coaching. While your mentor can certainly share her unique experiences in these areas, your mentor won’t pretend to be an expert in an area outside her realm of expertise. And she shouldn’t! If someone comes to me for personal counseling, I don’t pretend for one minute I’m licensed as a professional counselor. I immediately refer that potential client to a qualified professional.Seek your mentor’s advice and ask her to share her experience, but don’t drain her either. Remember that your mentor probably juggles work, family, and personal interests, including mentoring you (and possibly other mentees). Respect her boundaries.

    If you need help determining how to find a great career mentor, how to ask someone to mentor you, or how to seek career coaching help from a professional rather than from your mentor, reach out to me to schedule a free consultation. 

How to look your best for professional events

Whether you’re preparing for an upcoming job interview, a professional networking event, a career fair, an important meeting or conference, or dinner with clients or potential employers, you need to look your best.

But how do you define “looking your best?” What should you wear, and how should you prepare your overall appearance? What matters most when it comes to appearance, and what will employers and your professional contacts really remember about you?


If you cannot view the video properly, click here.

  1. Always be comfortable.

That being said, don’t wear yoga pants or sweats. You want to appear professional, but you don’t want to be slouchy. If in doubt, dress up (not down). Suits are almost always appropriate for workplace and professional events.

That being said, do your best to purchase clothing (or have clothing tailored) which fits you really well. If you’re uncomfortable, you will be completely unable to focus on important people and conversations. You’ll be focused, instead, on how tight your pants are, whether your neckline is plunging too low, or comparing your new very tight and uncomfortable dress to the other very tight and uncomfortable new dresses in the room.

Don’t do that.

Invest (moderately) in a few key pieces of professional clothing. These pieces should fit you well, be tailored to your body, and mix and match with separates which you can dress up or down.

And let’s not forget shoes. Never–I repeat, NEVER–wear uncomfortable shoes to a networking event, work function, or site visit/tour of a facility. Your feet will thank you.

2. Focus on who you are instead of what you look like; content matters.

If you struggle with feeling egotistical or self-conscious, you may have difficulty with this one. The more you can let go of your thoughts related to your own appearance and focus instead on the content of the conversation, the more likely you will have a great time. The more you can ignore your own appearance and enjoy yourself, the more likely those around you will enjoy being around you, too. Like attracts like.

People who enjoy themselves and exude joy attract happy, joyful, positive people. Be that person at networking events, interviews, career fairs, and conferences. Strike up conversations about interesting social issues, current events, and your own life. Ask your colleagues and new connections about their own lives, personally and professionally. The more you focus on content (instead of packaging), the deeper the relationships you’ll build. And if you’re trying to land a job or connect with people who may know about great job leads, this is really significant!

Don’t obsess about your physical assets. Let that stuff go.

Certainly wear flattering clothing and practice good hygiene. But rather than focusing on physical assets, play up your character assets. This is the stuff that gets you hired.

For more networking tips, branding suggestions, and hiring secrets, reach out to me for a free consultation. 

 

 

 

About to graduate? 3 networking tips for college seniors

It’s spring semester, and graduation is two months away. Congratulations! If you’ve been consistently branding yourself, networking your tail off, applying for grad school or jobs, and have your resume and other materials in order, you’re probably feeling ready to launch into the next stage of your life: transitioning from college student to entry-level careerist. If you’ve been procrastinating visiting with career services professionals on campus and never read articles like these (and your mom just forwarded this article to you, or you stumbled across it as part of some divine intervention), you may feel a little nervous about what’s coming in May.

It’s great to get an early start on preparing for your future career and job search, but better late than never. Networking is a huge piece of the career preparation puzzle; remember, experts estimate (based on research) that up to 85% of jobs are landed via networking. Don’t spend all your time researching companies online and applying for jobs without ever attending career fairs or networking events. Don’t fail to connect with real people.

“Don’t be afraid to put in work on the front end to connect with people who can help you in your career or job search,” says Becky Warren, Career & Disability Services Coordinator.

Here are several great networking tips for seniors in college ready to launch their careers.


If the video isn’t playing properly click here.

  • Talk.

Sounds simple, right? But it’s so easy to focus on everything else… your appearance, the food at the networking event, the overwhelming number of employers or attendees, the number of job candidates or students, the noise in the room, the pit in your stomach or butterflies dancing in your belly.

Focus!

If you don’t have genuine conversations with people at networking events, career fairs, alumni events hosted on campus, and in other situations designed to give you opportunities to engage with real, live people, you’re missing the point. And guess what? You need to branch out and avoid talking to the people you already know.

Give yourself an assignment to talk to at least three new people when you attend an event. Obtain business cards if possible because this gives you an easy reminder for following up later (and contact information, too). It’s great to talk to people in your career field, but if you can’t identify people in your field, that’s okay. The point is to practice overcoming your fear of communicating with new people and to make new connections. You might enjoy yourself, and you might build great new connections.

  • Update your brand.

Before you step out the door to attend a face-to-face networking event or prior to logging on to a virtual event, check your online brand. Log into every social media site. Google yourself. You should do this regularly, but definitely do it prior to events.

Recently, I attended an event on a college campus. I interacted with a really cool, engaging, savvy student. Immediately following the event, I searched for the student on social media. Her profile picture gave me pause and seemed inappropriate. I chose not to connect after all. The bummer for that student is that I’m connected to some really awesome employers, recruiters, talent acquisition leaders, and entrepreneurs. These are all people who may have benefited this young woman in her future job search. But I have to look out for my own brand. I don’t connect (or remain connected) with people who don’t portray themselves in a positive light.

Don’t let this happen to you. Put your best self out there online, particularly when you’re job searching and prior to graduation. Remember, you cannot disconnect your brand from your networking efforts.

  • Don’t overlook the little people.

When you’re networking, don’t make the classic mistake of walking into a room and glancing at name badges or honing in on the most important looking people in the room and ignoring the rest of the minions. It’s egotistical and rude to focus on a few “big names” in the room, and honestly, it might be a waste of your time because—news flash—many other candidates will be playing the same game.

You’re better off to network with everyone. Just as in life, mix it up and try to engage with a very diverse group of people from all socioeconomic backgrounds, all levels of experience in the workplace, etc. You’ll have interesting conversations, and you may be surprised that those “little people” often have some hidden connections which can help you later in your job search.

The same goes for building and maintaining relationships in the workplace (not just at networking events).

“Don’t sell any co-worker short. Someday that person may be a leader, in a hiring role, or know of a hidden job they could tell you about because you have a professional relationship with them. Be nice to everyone you work with. It will pay off,” encourages Matt Krumrie, freelance writer and career expert.

Remember, networking is a web of relationships you’ve worked to build; you have to maintain them, too.

“As with any relationship, what you put in is what you get out,” shares Warren.

Networking is a two-way street; what are you giving back to the people who have given so much to you?

“Be a resource for others in your network. Be willing to connect them with people you know; help them if they have a question. Always be willing to help them solve a problem. It may not pay off immediately, but it will someday, guaranteed. And that is much more rewarding,” promises Krumrie.

About today’s contributors:

Becky Warren works in career services at a community college. With five years of experience in higher education, she has a passion for serving students and helping others plan for their futures. 

Matt Krumrie writes about careers, jobs and workplace topics and issues. Learn more at resumesbymatt.com

For help building your network, branding yourself well, or writing your own entry-level resume, reach out to me for a free consultation. 

Think before you post

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

It’s disappointing to hear, but it’s the truth. You’re not a celebrity.

When Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon arrived at an Oscars party in a Prius instead of a limousine, people (at least some people) noticed. And people cared. On the contrary, if you purchase a hybrid vehicle and drive around your neighborhood or post status updates and Tweet about saving the environment, no one will snap a photograph (except perhaps your wife).

We’re not celebrities. The problem is social media has given us all a false sense of power, authority, and entitlement. We believe we can actually change the world (or at least our friends’ minds) by posting, sharing, and liking. We think we’re little celebrities, saving the world one Tweet at a time. It’s insane.

This would simply be a societal phenomenon (an amusing one, albeit) if it weren’t for the impact it has on our personal branding and networking efforts, which heavily impacts our careers. If you spew negativity around social media for two years, and all of your 2,391 connections see each of your negative, over-the-top, whiny, offensive, and heavily opinionated posts, you have effectively branded yourself as negative, whiny, offensive, and heavily opinionated.

You may currently feel so strongly about your opinions, beliefs, and values that you don’t think this matters. Or perhaps you have a sinking feeling in your gut while reading this. You know it matters, but you feel so strongly about your opinions, beliefs, and values that you are going to Joan of Arc it to the death in the name of X cause all over social media. However, as a career coach who has managed social media accounts for several organizations and assisted many clients with branding and networking efforts, I implore you to reconsider this frenetic online behavior.

If you have any intention of searching for jobs, networking professionally with people who do not share your beliefs and values (that’s probably half the world’s population), seeking a promotion, or switching career paths at any point, please pause before posting content which is emotionally loaded, politically slanted, or in any way gives off the “us versus them” vibe. Even if people don’t tell you they find your posts offensive, whiny, arrogant, negative, heavily opinionated, or inappropriate, they may.

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Photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

We are always branding ourselves, whether we intend to or not. By the same token, we’re always either tightening or loosening our connections with our network because people we’re connected to see our actions (including posts, shares, and likes). These create an impression of who we are. If we’re not mindfully working to ensure our connections see the best version of ourselves, they won’t.

This requires that we gain some objectivity and stop reacting to every single political news article which comes across our news feed. We must practice dignity and ask ourselves, ‘How important is it?’ before commenting on others’ posts (which are often immature and asinine). Unless our connections are all purely personal, we’re digging ourselves into a deep branding hole. It’s hard to recreate your brand once you’ve labeled yourself–over a long period of time–as whiny, negative, highly volatile, heavily opinionated, intolerant of others’ opinions, and prone to snap.

If you’re in a branding hole or want to find a way to express yourself honestly while maintaining a positive brand (and great relationships with your contacts), reach out to me for help. 

 

5 ways to connect with alumni at networking events

If you’re a college student or recent graduate, and you’re not connecting with alumni from your college or university (or alma mater) at networking events, you’re skipping over one of the most valuable networking resources available to you.

Alumni care about helping you. You already share something in common so you’ll find it easy to strike up conversation. And most of the time, your college or university hosts networking events on campus, in the community, or even virtual networking groups/chats online. There’s no reason to sit back and observe any longer. Here are five ways to start connecting with alumni.


If the video is not playing properly click here.

Don’t be intimidated by alumni.

Alumni often have earned impressive job titles, have years of experience under their belts, and have polished their soft skills. Don’t let those things intimidate you (or at least pretend you’re not intimidated when networking with alumni). Believe in your gut that alumni want the best for you. They do. Sure, they attend alumni events to network with other alumni. They also attend alumni networking events to network with college students and to give back, to share their experience, and to mentor others.

Spend more time talking to alumni than to your fellow students.

It’s easier to chat with other college students than to launch into your elevator pitch seven times while shaking hands with alumni. It’s also probably less lucrative in terms of ROI. You’ll invest the same amount of time at the networking event talking to other students as you will talking to alumni. Why not invest that time talking to professionals who may add long-term significant value to your current or future job search?

Connect with alumni online immediately following networking events.

During your job search, if you don’t apply for job openings within 72 hours after positions are posted, your chances of being considered drop considerably. The same goes for following up after networking events. Reach out to new connections within 24 hours after networking events if possible. Send an email or invitation to connect on social media. Personalize your greeting whenever possible because at networking events, alumni meet multiple people and may not remember every college student’s name or face.

Consider asking alumni for advice or to serve as mentors.

If you meet someone and make an immediate, genuine, strong connection, don’t be afraid to invite that person for coffee and visit about the possibility of mentorship. Finding a mentor is key in the early stages of your career, and workplace mentors are not the same as career mentors. How great would it be if you could identify a career mentor while still in college? Even if you’re not sure you want to ask someone to serve as your mentor, there’s no harm in asking someone for an informational interview or running a few questions by a person who has great bits of advice to share. Be sure to meet in neutral, public locations and to arrive on time, respecting the other person’s work schedule and/or personal time.

Follow up and say thank you.

No matter what, follow up and say thank you. There’s no act of kindness too small that you should ever brush it off. Always say thank you. The same goes for following up. If you’re timely, gracious, and grateful when networking, you will rarely fail to make and maintain genuine relationships.

If you need help building your networking skills, preparing an elevator pitch, or understanding the ins and outs of mentoring or informational interviews, reach out to me for a free consultation.

Giving to your network during the holidays

‘Tis the season for giving, and who better to give back to than your professional network?

We’re all thankful for people who have aided us as we’ve searched for jobs, sought promotions, and struggled in our professional lives. Here are some quick, easy, affordable gifts to give to your connections this holiday season.

  1. Updated contact information

Have you recently provided your contacts, particularly those who frequently serve as references during your job search, with updated contact information? Send your closest contacts a greeting card along with your updated contact information. Don’t forget to ask them for their updated contact information, too.

2. Letter of reference

If you haven’t already endorsed and recommended your contacts on LinkedIn, do it this week. Consider writing a genuine, old-fashioned letter of reference, too. Email it in PDF format to your connection. He will appreciate it the next time he begins searching for a job, and who knows, he may reciprocate and send you one in return!

3. Offer to collaborate or partner

Do you have connections who are trustworthy, hard-working, dependable, and share common career interests? Consider partnering with them on research projects, fundraisers, or other tasks. Collaboration is very 2017.

4. A listening ear

Everyone in your network appreciates a great listener. If you ask someone how she’s doing, listen to the entire response, and then respond thoughtfully, you will deepen your connection with your contact.

5. Your mentorship

If someone in your network has recently graduated, taken on a new role, or transitioned into a new career field (and you have years of experience to share), offer to mentor this person or at least share your experience if desired. Most of us have been mentored professionally by our supervisors, colleagues, or other generous professionals. Take the time to give back to your connections similarly.

6. Volunteer work

Does one of your contacts manage a non-profit organization or volunteer for the board of a non-profit organization? Consider volunteering alongside your friend. Not only will you become better acquainted with your connection, but you’ll also form new connections with other volunteers while donating time for a good cause.

7. Sharing causes

If you feel comfortable sharing your connections’ social media posts related to various non-profits and other great causes, share away. Your connections will thank you for spreading the word about their events and for raising awareness, and you’ll be doing some good in the world, too.

8. Spreading good news

Has someone in your network contributed to the world in a valuable way? Has she earned an award at work recently or donated her time to Big Brothers Big Sisters? Brag on your contact by sharing this good news on social media. Tag your friend. This helps brand your contact in a positive light, and it demonstrates that you share positive news, too. Everyone wins.

9. Showing support during tough times

Be mindful of those in your network who may be having a tough time during the holidays, too. It never hurts to send a “thinking of you” email or to ask someone who’s experienced a loss how she’s doing during the holidays.

10. Coffee and cookies.

If all else fails, just bake some cookies and buy great coffee. You really can’t go wrong with these two full-proof gifts.

Enjoy the season. Enjoy one another. Enjoy life.

If you need help navigating your own career journey, email me to schedule a free consultation. Start 2017 out right. 

Branding yourself with gratitude

When your coworkers mention you—when you’ve stepped out of the room, or when you didn’t join them for lunch—what do they say? Are you mindfully branding yourself in the workplace in hopes they’ll be lifting you up, not tearing you down? When former supervisors and colleagues respond for requests for references during a job search, what characteristics and values will they attribute to you?

Consider working to develop an attitude of gratitude; it can benefit your relationships with colleagues, supervisors, and clients. It can also improve your outlook on your current position within your organization, even if you’re not working in your dream job.

Let’s talk about how the practice of gratitude improves your behavior, transforms your attitude and outlook, and sharpens your branding and networking skills in the workplace (and even your job search).

If the video is not playing/displaying properly: click here.

How did I become an expert on gratitude? I learned this lesson the way I learn many lessons—the hard way. I had an incredibly cynical, negative attitude at one point in my life. I allowed my circumstances to drag me down, particularly related to my job at the time, which I still contend was “the worst job of all time.” My mentor instructed me to begin sending her a daily gratitude list via email. I had to document three unique, specific items each day, and I couldn’t repeat items on the list. I included things like, “I’m thankful today that when I merged onto the interstate, I remembered to put my coffee in the cup holder first because I was cut off, and otherwise it would have spilled onto my white pants. So I didn’t have to worry about removing stains, stopping to buy new pants before my meeting, or anything like that. Yay!” Over time, my mind began identifying positive moments more easily; I completed this assignment for over 1000 consecutive days.

It changed me. This habit has become second nature to me. In the workplace, it’s a game changer. I’m now less likely to identify problems and pick them apart. I want to help identify solutions instead. And trust me, this isn’t my personality type. I’m less disgruntled and discontent. Don’t you think this makes me more pleasant to work with? Don’t you want to be more pleasant to work with? I promise you every employer wants to hire pleasant, kind employees.

It’s important to remember this: gratitude is more than simply saying thank you. It’s a way of life. It’s a result of taking actions regardless of circumstances. We choose to behave as if we were thankful even when we don’t feel like it. In the workplace, this isn’t always easy, but if we choose gratitude over grumbling, we feel better about ourselves at the end of the day, and we build better relationships. This means we brand ourselves as people who are kind, generous, thoughtful, considerate, humble, joyful, and inclusive.

How can you practically practice gratitude in the workplace?

  1. When interacting with clients, customers, patients, students, or the public, treat them well. Make them a priority; they do matter, you know. Remember to greet them with a smile and a handshake. Invite them into your place of business (virtually or otherwise). Share a freebie. Create a welcoming atmosphere. Try to cut down on wait time. Improve your response time online. Say goodbye and ask them to return again soon. Remember, your clients may not remember what you say, but they’ll remember how you treat them. Word-of-mouth is your best advertisement. Treating your clients as if you were thankful for them—even if you’re having a bad day or feel rushed—is key to a successful business/organization, and it’s also key to living a life you feel proud of when your head hits the pillow at night.
  2. When serving on teams or committees at work or in the community, attempt to smile and serve with a positive attitude. Many times, we don’t approach these tasks with gratitude. We forget that many people are unemployed and underemployed and would love the opportunity to sit in our chairs, listening to our coworkers discuss upcoming events or debate about seemingly trivial matters. Keeping the big picture in mind can help you find gratitude even in your least favorite tasks at work.
  3. Display willingness to serve. Clean up after meetings without being asked. Tidy up the breakroom if you have a few extra minutes. Bring a dozen doughnuts on Friday. Donate your time to help another team when they put out a call for help via email rather than refusing to respond. Volunteer for events and activities as time permits. Expressing willingness can demonstrate gratitude for your part within the organization. When you’re grateful, you give back.
  4. If you’re a supervisor, regularly thank your employees. Host a recognition day or reception. Keep it simple to conserve costs, but make the effort to ensure people feel appreciated. There are fun and affordable ways to extend kudos for contributions. Consider doing a social media shout out on a regular basis. Who doesn’t love that in this day and age?
  5. Express gratitude to everyone, not just people who can promote you. Does the maintenance crew regularly empty your trash or clean your office? Leave them a gift with a note on your desk at night. Bag the trash for them occasionally to save them a step. When you visit the on-site deli or café, purchase a gift card for the administrative assistant anonymously.

Do things for fun and for free, expecting nothing in return. Taking these actions—and expecting nothing in return—will transform you individually. When you become a better person, you’ll behave differently. When you behave as a more thoughtful, more considerate, more joyful, and more productive employee, you will gain attention from colleagues and supervisors. This is the heart of branding, but all terminology and self-promotion aside, it’s really the heart of being a decent human being.

And that’s what really matters.

Let me help with your branding, networking, and other career coaching and workplace communication needs. For more pointers on your job search and workplace relationships, follow me on LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

 

 

My secret to stress-free networking

Holding it all together as a professional–not to mention finding time for networking–in today’s competitive workplace often feels like walking a thin, greased tightrope. Just open LinkedIn and view the images of your suggested connections for two minutes. Read their titles. Check out their white, shiny teeth and unwrinkled suits. Feel intimidated yet?

I do.

Now exhale.

The good news is you don’t have to perform at your best 100% of the time to network successfully. You really don’t. You simply have to be your best self as often as possible.

How do you accomplish that?

speaker
Volunteering my time by sharing career tips with college students at the University of Arkansas Community College at Batesville

You don’t become your best self by arriving earlier, staying later, spending more on your work wardrobe, paying an additional $200 per month for Botox injections, or by obsessing about metrics constantly. You won’t feel like your best self by focusing so much on return on investment that you neglect to listen to people during conversations. And you probably won’t feel like the best version of yourself after spending hours having superficial conversations with people over drinks week after week. You will not feel like yourself after giving the same spiel to everyone you interact with—at the grocery store, at the career fair, or online.

You become your best self by getting outside yourself.

This isn’t meant to be a super touchy feely article—it’s just the truth.

I’ve learned from experience that when I’m honestly seeking to serve others in my community or even at work, I forget about ROI, making connections, branding myself, and pitching my services to clients. I stop worrying about whether my suit is trendy enough, whether my nail polish is the color of the season, and whether my forehead wrinkles are peeking out from behind my bangs.

When I get outside myself and into service, I am a better version of myself. And if I am serving in an area I am good at and truly enjoy, and I am serving an organization I respect whose aligns with my own values, I’m the best version of myself.

We don’t all work for companies or organizations we respect, but we all have the option to volunteer for organizations with great causes and missions. I don’t know of many non-profit organizations willing to turn their noses up to professional volunteers. I’ve volunteered as a writer, editor, fundraiser, event organizer, teacher, board member, and more. Whatever your specific passion or professional talents, there’s an organization out there willing to put them to work. Why not utilize your skills, build your resume, and make professional connections while contributing to a great cause?

When you’re volunteering alongside other professionals—and I don’t mean just sitting in a board meeting next to other suits who are there simply to be seen, because I’ve done that before—you’ll build genuine relationships with professionals. This isn’t just networking—it’s relationship building at its finest, and if you ever need to call upon these friends, you’ll find that they’re willing to help. I’ve called upon former fellow volunteers to serve as references during my job searches, to speak at events on campus, and to donate to charities. The friendships—not connections—I have made by networking while serving are some of my strongest. They know the Bethany who is passionate about serving. They know the Bethany who cares about a cause and is committed to something greater than the bottom dollar. They know the best version of Bethany.

Why not let others get to know the best version of you, too?

Need help building your networking skills and branding yourself? Reach out to me for help.