Five Things to Do This Week if you Suspect a Layoff is in your Future




The signs are there.

The company announced dramatically reduced earnings. There are rumors of “restructuring”. You have a boss who is too busy to meet with you.

While an impending layoff can make us feel helpless, there are things you can do to give yourself options if the “pink slip” is inevitable.

Here are five things to do this week if you suspect a layoff might be in your future:


1. Assess your career capital.

What skills and experience do you have that people pay for? Most of us can list four easily. 1) The role we’ve been filling. 2) Our education. 3) Software we know how to use. 4) Some internal quality like “self-motivated” or “great with people.”

Then we hit a hard stop. What else are we good at?

There are some great assessments, like Gallup Strengths Finder or the more in depth (and more costly) Johnson O’Connor Aptitude Test, but what if another method is simply to sit down and figure out how what we do that creates value?

Here are four targeted questions to help you name the skills you have that bring value:
  1. What do you do that directly contributes to money being earned by your firm? 
  2. What have you done that improved efficiency? (Helped your firm bring in more money with less resources) 
  3. What do you do that helps other people bring in money to the firm? (This might be training, support, administrative, research…anything that makes others more valuable.) 
  4. What do you do that would be difficult for a company to replace? (This will help you identify things that are niche and hard to get.) 
Assessing your career capital will give you the content you need so that you can update your resume—and it is better to do this now. It gets harder to think about once you are actually laid off. 


2. Document your network—then reach out.

While stealing your company’s client list is unethical—and potentially illegal—documenting your own business relationships is a different story.

One of the best ways to maintain your own professional network is through LinkedIn. Hopefully, your connections are curated (ie. you didn’t just “friend” everyone.) If not, now is your time to focus on the people you’ve actually met that could help you professionally.

Go broad with who you reach out to. All you need is a quick check in. Something like, “We haven’t spoken in a while. How are you?” Then connect again with those who respond and ask for advice. Depending on their role they may have industry intelligence on who is hiring—or if they know you more personally—they may be able to write a recommendation or serve as a reference.

It is easier to make these kinds of inquiries while you are still employed, so jump on it. 


3. Check your wardrobe.

People are swayed by how they perceive you, so pay attention to your professional image—including the way you dress. Right or wrong, we all form impressions based on what someone is wearing.

While it may not affect whether your name shows up on the list of cuts, it can subtly influence how people recommend you after the cuts are made. It can also influence what leads are given to you by people outside of your company. Professional clothing won’t make you a better employee, but it can make you look like one.

It would be unwise to run up your credit cards in the wake of an impending layoff, so simply focus on the best of whatever is already in your closet, or hit a thrift store to upgrade some basics.


4. Write a single paragraph that describes who you want to be in two years.

We all get locked into ways of seeing ourselves based on our current surroundings. Take the time to write about yourself as if you are two years in the future. It needs to be true, but aspirational. For example, if you are marketing manager who wishes you did more graphic design, your paragraph might begin with: “I’m a skilled graphic designer who enjoys working in a fast paced agency environment.”

This can be a powerful exercise to help you identify what you want, and it will change your vocabulary when you talk with people about the type of work you want to pursue next.  You might even use it as your summary paragraph on your LinkedIn profile.


5. Leverage your social media.

Social media can be a powerful tool in getting you to your next position. How many times have you met someone who got a job through a friend of a friend? You can make those connections work for you with a few simple steps.

1. Communicate with your profile picture. Use a profile picture that communicates how you want people to see you professionally. (This doesn’t mean that every picture of you needs to be in a suit, but it might mean you lose the one of you in a swimsuit toasting with a beer bottle.)

2. Search your name.
Open an incognito browser (Ctrl+Shift+N) and search for your name. What comes up? Chances are that Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn come up on the first page. Click the links. If you didn’t know yourself, what would you think based on what you see? Do you need to post better content? 

If something comes up that you would rather not have associated with you, drown it out. Purchase your name as a domain (.me is a popular option), then make it your online resume.  It will usually come up on the front page, unless you share a name with a pop star--in which case you probably don't have to worry about something unflattering coming up about you at all.

3. The day you are laid off, let people know. In the event you are actually one of the people cut, make an upbeat post about it. (Desperation drives people away. Optimism makes them think they can recommend you and you won’t bleed on their contacts. Weird, I know.) Everyone knows that layoffs are hard. You might be surprised at who steps up to help you.

Four Surprisingly Effective Strategies for Dealing with Difficult People at Work

You know the one.

That person whose name you dread reading in an e-mail. The one you let go to voice mail so you can brace yourself before talking with them in real life. The one who makes your blood pressure rise just a little when they take a chair at a meeting next to you.

Most of the time, we don't get to pick the people we work with. Difficult clients and co-workers are just part of the equation.

And they come in a variety of types all designed to suck the life out of us. A few examples:
  • Steve, the obstructionist. Steve is a big ball of "no." Regardless of what your team is trying to achieve on a given day, Steve will be the obstacle.
  • Judy, the complainer.  Her dripping of negative commentary makes the world feel like a terrible place to be.  (Judy is closely related to Playwright Mike, whose every story is a tragedy starring him.) 
  • Rachel, the master manipulator. Every conversation winds up with you accidentally committing to something that meets her priorities while sidelining your own. 
  • Kevin, the incompetent. You need to be able to throw the ball to him and have him catch it, but that is never going to happen. Not only that, but Kevin is full of excuses as to why he didn't get things done. 
  • Kassandra, the rager. You never know what is going to spring her trip wire. 
  • Carl, the critic. Regardless of how amazing the idea is that you just put on the table, Carl will zoom in to highlight the insignificant item that isn't absolutely perfect. Almost every move Carl makes is designed to make himself look good and others look inferior. 
While dealing with difficult people is an unchangeable fact of life, there are some surprisingly effective strategies to switch the game regardless of the variety of difficult person you are dealing with.

1. Narrow your focus. Identify your goal. 


Making your goal to get a difficult person to change is a Herculean task—one that drains your energy and has a negligible success rate.

Dropping the fantasy that it is even possible, changes how we come up with solutions. So narrow the focus to what you have influence over and identify your goal.

Here's what that looks like in different contexts:
  • With Steve, the obstructionist, you want to be able to get things done. 
  • With Judy, the complainer (or Playwright Mike), you want to work in a positive environment. 
  • With Rachel, the manipulator, you want to quit being railroaded. 
  • With Incompetent Kevin, you want to prevent mission failure. 
  • With Kassandra, the rager, you want to not have to walk on eggshells in meetings. 
  • With Carl, the critic, you want collaboration and contribution in healthy ways. 
If we can narrow our focus to zoom in on what we actually want, we stop the futile brainstorming on how to make the difficult person better (an impossible task), and begin to put energy toward meeting our actual goal.


2. Solve for what you want, but treat the person as a fixed variable in the equation. 


If you were solving the problem of getting what you want without the emotion attached to it, what would you do? Remember that the person is a fixed variable in the equation. They are not going to magically get fired or suddenly move to Morocco.

What are your options if there is absolutely nothing you can do to impact the difficult person?

Let's go back to one of our examples:
  • Judy is a huge complainer—and she sits right next to you.  Every day her dripping of negative commentary drains your energy.  What do you want? To be able to work in a positive environment. 
While you have the option of confronting Judy, most of the time negative thinking is so ingrained in people that they can't see it. (As a general rule, telling someone they are not self-aware isn't helpful.)  If Judy is always going to be toxic, what can you do to get to a more positive work environment? 
  • You might be able to rearrange your office space to have less physical contact with Judy. 
  • You could apply for that promotion. 
  • You could try working from home.
  • You could throw on some headphones and stream more positive messaging.
  • You can create strong psychological boundaries at work and limit your interaction.
  • You could walk away when Judy starts in on her whining. (We are programmed socially not to do this. It isn't nice. But complaining isn't nice either.) 
  • You could look for a new position with a different company. 
Another example: 
  • Kevin is just incompetent. You need to be able to throw the ball to him and have him catch it, but that is never going to happen. Not only that, but Kevin is a blamer and is full of excuses as to why he didn't get things done. What do you want? To prevent mission failure.  
Hopefully at some point Kevin gets fired—but you can't count on that, especially if Kevin is the owner's nephew or if he is really good at playing a shell game with his responsibilities.  If Kevin is always going to be incompetent, what can you do to prevent mission failure? 
  • You could get creative with your budget and find a way to outsource some of Kevin's tasks. 
  • You could go around Kevin and do it yourself so the mission is met. 
  • You could check your bias and see if Kevin is really incompetent at everything, or just some things. 
  • You could be proactive put redundancies in place to protect from failure. 
  • You could implement reminders for the team that happen to help Kevin out (or out Kevin). 
  • You could speak with your boss about where the points of failure are without actually complaining about Kevin.
  • You could look to transition to a different team. 
Solving for what we want without attempting to "fix" the person, gives us far more possibilities. But it isn't easy. By the time someone gets to "difficult person" status in our head (or more disparaging terms that probably shouldn't be typed out here) there is already a lot of emotion attached. The brainstorming is more effective if you can minimize the angst you feel while doing it.


3. Figure out why it triggers you.


Tony Schwartz in his HBR Article, "The Secret of Dealing with Difficult People is About You," writes, "Our core emotional need is to feel valued and valuable. When we don’t, it’s deeply unsettling, a challenge to our sense of equilibrium, security, and well-being. At the most primal level, it can feel like a threat to our very survival."

The reality is that we deal with difficult people all the time, and often, it just slides right by us. Yet, when we encounter someone who especially triggers us, it often touches something that makes us feel threatened in some way.

For example,

Rachel, the manipulator, might make us feel stupid, like we've been tricked. Or she might cause us to feel powerless. Whereas, if we were less emotionally triggered by Rachel, we would likely go back after committing to something and let her know that after more evaluation, we can't take on that project after all. We wouldn't care what she thought about us, and we wouldn't be intimidated by the hard conversation.

Kassandra, the rager, might tap into experiences we had as kids with bullies or with an abusive parent. If we weren't triggered, we would likely see Kassandra as foolish for being so tossed about by her emotions rather than feeling threatened by her rage. (We might also be brave enough to stand up for ourselves and call her on her BS.)

The Momentous Institute has a strategy they teach young children: "Settle Your Glitter." Remember the bouncy balls filled with water and glitter that would get shaken up when you bounced them? Look inside a shaken glitter ball and you can't see through it, but once it settles, you can see clearly to make a good decision.

Noticing why we are being triggered can help us settle our glitter. (As can three minutes of deep breathing.)

4. Find your growth edge. 


If we keep running into the same type of "difficult person," there is a good chance that we are encountering a normal person who just happens to uncover a place we need to grow.

In the examples of Steve, the obstructionist or Carl, the critic, we may need to develop a black belt in communication skills.  Or we might need to improve our process so we weed out concerns before they become objections. Or we may just have to improve our professionalism to a point where we can let the work be the work without feeling like critiques are a commentary on our soul.

Since the difficult person is a fixed variable in the problem, then often the only power we have is to get better ourselves, so that it has less impact. Difficult people can be an invitation to our growth edge as a signal that its time to make a change.

How to Craft a Go / NoGo Strategy for Your Career



Imagine walking into work on a Monday morning feeling the anticipation of doing what you love to do. You are skilled. People value your competence. Not only that, but you feel connected to a purpose bigger than yourself.

Now contrast that with coming in late to work and feeling overwhelmed. Not only do you not feel valued, but you aren’t even sure if the people above you know what you do. Purpose is limited to a mission statement on a wall filled with so many catch phrases that it is difficult to feel you are connected to anything at all.

Smart B2B companies have Go/NoGo protocols to protect them from the kind of work that will take their company under. The Go/NoGo is a list of questions or criteria that help teams decide if the work they are contemplating pursuing is “good work.”

What if you could do the same?

Having a personal Go/NoGo career framework can help you evaluate the opportunities that come to us to help get to work we love.

Go/NoGo protocols can keep us from getting stuck:
  • Working with terrible people. 
  • Working in a way that is contrary to your core wiring and prevents you from growing in competency. 
  • Working in a way that creates misalignment with your time and resources. 
  • Doing unprofitable work. 
  • Feeling discontent because you are disconnected from a mission. 

Here are five things to consider as part of a personal Go/NoGo Protocol:

People

How do I find a company with good culture?

1. Build a network in order to find the people you want to work with.

While we can do a “best places to work” search on Google and figure out what companies have good corporate culture, it is trickier to find which companies have a great corporate culture for us personally.

Building a network in an industry leads to conversations over drinks or coffee that can connect us with opportunity. Think about it. Every great opportunity that comes to us usually involves a conversation.

It's not enough to know the influential people in our industry, we have to seek them out. If we don’t have a starting place for this, we can join a professional organization. While networking events can be torture for introverts, serving on a committee can give us an easier way in. Organizations are always looking for volunteers and because we wind up volunteering with others, it creates a softer path for relationships rather than shaking hands and exchanging business cards.

2. If you don’t have good culture where you are at, can you become good culture?

While we can’t change bad culture, we can often influence it. Gandhi had a point when he said to “be the change you want to see in the world,” and just as one person can take good culture and sour it, one person can also sweeten it.

The challenge with this strategy is that it takes giving energy in a place that drains it. If you decide to take a position where the culture isn't great, focus on strategies that recharge you outside of work. This is going to become an art on your part where you recharge outside of the office, and use your energy to improve your environment while you are there.

3. Level up your people skills.


One of the big blind spots we have to navigate in our life is how our actions and attitudes impact our experience of the people around us. We can't land in a place with good culture if we won't be a fit when we get there. For most of us, it takes effort to grow our people skills.

People questions that might be part of our Go/NoGo:
  • Is this culture a fit? 
  • Is my network strong enough to get to a better culture? 
  • Can I influence the culture I’m in? 
  • Am I part of the problem? 


Position

How can I be in the right position if I don’t know myself well enough to figure out what makes me valuable?

Self-assessment can be one of your strongest tools in finding the next right position for your career. Knowing yourself—where you are right now—can help you assess the position you want to be in.

1. Figure out what is hard-wired. Some things in us are part of our biology or are hard-wired into our psychology:
  • We are Tiggers or Eyores (optimists or pessimists).
  • We are introverts or extroverts. 
  • We are night people or morning people. 
  • We love to launch new projects or we take great pride in the craftsmanship of finishing one. 
Knowing these hard-wired tendencies in ourselves can reveal if a position isn’t a fit because it violates our core wiring. For example, an introvert with an outreach job gets drained really quickly. For a launcher of projects, the last 20% can feel like torture. Spend time assessing the things you know to be true about yourself that would be very difficult--if not impossible--to change.

2. Figure out what is soft-wired.  Often our skills are soft-wired and just like software on a computer. We can improve our programming. There are multiple ways to do this:
  • We can say yes to opportunities that stretch us.
  • We can get training.
  • We can read books that expand our ideas of what is possible.
  • We can seek a mentor. 
  • We can ask for honest evaluations from our co-workers and use that feedback to make us better. 
Position questions to include in your Go/NoGo evaluation:
  • Do I know myself well enough to understand what position I want? 
  • If there is a mismatch with the opportunity, is it hard-wired or soft-wired? 
  • Do I need to acquire skills to be a match for the opportunity? 

Priority

How will I allocate my resources with this opportunity?

Work has an impact on our most important resources: time and energy. Consider that most of us invest the best hours of our day and our highest energetic output with our day jobs. But some commitments take more time and energy than others.

1. If this opportunity is demanding, do I need to free up time and energy resources to pursue it? 


The only way I know to evaluate this is to pull out a spreadsheet and list every single time commitment for work, family, hobbies, friends, organizations, volunteering, etc on a spreadsheet and rank them in terms of if they drain or energize you. Then do your best to get rid of the embezzlers to be able to pursue the opportunity you want to pursue.

2. Figure out your essential “one thing” and de-prioritize all the other things. 
Taking the path of essentialism is liberating. Defining the most important skill we need to acquire, project we need to launch, battle we need to win, or relationship we need to foster keeps us from feeling diluted in our efforts and is the biggest secret for getting off the hamster wheel we feel like we are running on. 

Priority questions to include in our Go / NoGo evaluation:

  • Are my resources aligned with my priorities outside of work? 
  • Will this work bring me balance or take me further out of balance? 
  • Do cuts need to be made so I have more bandwidth? 


Profit

Am I receiving a good return on my time investment?

1. Find out what is custom in the marketplace. Many professional associations offer salary surveys for their industry. If there isn’t a recent one available for your area pitch the idea to association leadership and organize a team to create your own.

2. We can negotiate other forms of compensation besides money.
What would it look like to ask for:
  • Reimbursement for cell phone, mileage, childcare or education. 
  • Paid attendance at events or conferences. 
  • Unpaid time off or a paid sabbatical.
  • Creative control.
  • Flexible work hours or more control over where you work.
  • Gym membership.
  • Transit passes or tickets to cultural events.
Alternative compensation can sometimes be easier for companies to provide because they can come from different budgets. The company may also be in a position to purchase some alternative compensation items at a heavy discount because of volume and provide them to employees.

3. Sometimes our ideas about salary are way off. We have an intense emotional connection to external valuations of ourselves. After all, someone is putting a hard number on our worth. Take a look at how you feel about the way you are compensated and see if there is any work you need to do internally to shift your mindset. We can easily under or over estimate our value. It pays to take the emotional component out of it.

4. The best way to ask for a raise, is to ask what we need to do to become more valuable.  The best way I know to get to the income level you desire is to ask what the steps are to get there. No company wants to pay more for the same work. Consider how we feel when our cell phone bill goes up with no change to service. Asking might be a bold move, but it is better than asking for a higher salary without being willing to offer more skill. Once your supervisor gives you direction, go for it. There is no opting out once you’ve put it on the table.

Profit questions to include in your Go/NoGo: 
  • Have I researched comps to make sure the opportunity is aligned with market? 
  • Have I looked at the non-monetary compensation in my career? 
  • Is my internal dialogue keeping me from making more money? 


Purpose

What about this job would connect me to a purpose bigger than myself?

Everyone wants to do work that matters. But there is a big difference in finding purpose in your career and throwing all of your career capital away to “find your passion.”

Our purpose may be to the company’s highest goals, to the team we work with, or maybe just about growing our skill or influence through an opportunity so we can take the next step. Whatever we are working at, having a sense of purpose gives us more satisfaction in our day jobs.

Sometimes we have a dream or a cause we are committed to outside of our day job and feel frustrated if the job is using up time and energy resources that we feel should go to the dream.
When we are really committed to a purpose outside of work, the best path is to take the smallest possible viable step we can toward our dream and see what happens. We should also consider that our day job may simply be “fund raising” for our core purpose. 

Purpose questions to include in our Go/NoGo:
  • Am I test driving things so that I learn what I really want? 
  • Is there tension between my dreams and the day job? 
  • Could there be creative overlap where I could live a version of my dream in this opportunity?
  • Do I need to launch a minimum viable product for the dream on the side in order to test drive it while still pursuing my career? 
Evaluating career opportunities based on people, position, priority, profit and purpose can help us make decisions on whether an opportunity could be a good fit. And while we don’t know everything about an opportunity until we take it, having a framework to evaluate it can help us better make a decision about taking a leap.

The Epic Post on How to Create Your Personal Branding


While most of us spend our day jobs building the brands of the companies we serve, we also have a personal brand of our own—whether we pay attention to it or not. This post starts from scratch to cover everything from how to win at search, crafting a tagline, deciding what to feature, to identifying personal messaging.

It doesn’t matter if you are freelancer, solopreneur or serve as part of a larger firm, you can create big impact by building your personal brand.

What is your personal brand?

A personal brand is the image people associate with you. While celebrities and starchitects have crafted personal images for years, the digital world has made it more essential for each of us to craft our own.

Why?

Because pragmatically, our personal brands are whatever a Google search turns up.

Want to know your current “brand”? Google yourself.

Open an incognito window in your browser [CTRL + SHIFT + n] so that the results aren’t colored by your location and browsing history.

What came up in the search for your own name? Was there anything about you on the front page of the search listing? Did you show up in the images? Does a celebrity own your name eclipsing you from the search entirely?

What would someone who didn’t know you think about you based on what they found?

What if you could shape that?

Improve how you show up in a Google Search (4 quick fixes)

If our personal brand is determined by what shows up when people search for us, then we need to do everything we can to influence it. Here are four quick-fix ways to improve what shows up when someone searches your name.

1. Control Your Headshot.

One of the most immediate influences you can have on your personal brand is to get a single great headshot (or 3-4 related headshots) that captures the image you want to communicate and use it everywhere—for every social media platform you have a profile on, for your website, whenever you have to submit a headshot professionally.

Ideally, you would get this taken professionally, but with some good lighting on your face, you can often get something that works from a smartphone.

When crafting your headshot:

  • Consider the mood of your clothing, hairstyle or any accessories you wear.
  • Consider your expression—is it warm and friendly, cool and serious, whimsical?
  • Consider the backdrop—what associations does it have?
  • Consider what the overall shot communicates to someone who has never met you before.

In order to have the image come up in search, it matters what you name the file. By consistently using firstname-lastname.jpg (or png, or tiff), you improve your chances of having your image come up in organic search. After all, search bots don’t look for images. They see names of files.


2. Buy your name domain and put something on it.

In a perfect world, you would be able to get firstnamelastname.com. But the world isn’t perfect. You may have to settle for .me, .net or any other list of extensions. Search engines prioritize keywords in domain names because typically it means the whole domain is about that topic.

You can purchase your domain through a service like GoDaddy, Google Domains, Host Gator, SquareSpace or another service.

Then, because this is a “quick fix” exercise, you can start with a one-page website. Wordpress, Blogger, SquareSpace, Wix and a few other services are easy-to-use ways to launch your site.

Here are some ideas for great one page websites:

Strong header image with a paragraph linking to the clients or projects you’ve worked with: vikramgandhi.com
Powerful statement, personal image and a list of current and previous projects. http://www.erondu.com/
Your name and a single paragraph with no images: http://jasonbriscoe.com/
Simple and unexpected (use scrollbar to see full design) http://baddesigner.by/
Lighthearted illustration http://redrussak.com/
Large image, call to action and a CV https://rafaelderolez.be/
Custom header, a headshot and some bullet points http://www.cathyhutchison.net/


3. Maximize your LinkedIn profile

Because LinkedIn is such a linked-to site, it will often be the first site that comes up when someone searches for your name. Build out your profile and grab your custom URL so that your name is prioritized. For more advice on how to maximize your LinkedIn profile, sign up for 8 Ways to Maximize Your LinkedIn profile to get a Job You Love.


4. Do something with your Google+ profile.

I know that you probably aren’t using Google+ as your dominant social media profile, but it doesn’t hurt to create your profile since there is a good chance your favorite search engine thinks it is important.


Craft Your Tagline

Most strong brands have memorable taglines that captures the essence of who they are:

  • Apple. Think Different.
  • L’Oreal. Because you are worth it.
  • BMW. The Ultimate Driving Machine.
  • De Beers. A diamond is forever.
  • Lays. Betcha can’t eat just one.

But they also spent a lot of money with agencies crafting those memorable taglines. If you can’t think of a phrase that embodies who you are, you aren’t alone. Luckily, there’s an exercise that can help. The 3 Word Exercise.

You can craft a “for now” tagline based on three words that help communicate what you want people to know about you.

Scan the lists below to see if you can find 3 words that might work well on a social media profile to communicate either who you are or what you do. They can all come from the same list or different lists to craft a 3-word descriptor. (This isn’t an exhaustive list, but is intended to help get you started.)

Skill-Based

Accounting, Aerospace, Analytics, Agriculture, Architecture, Brand, Business Development, Client Experience, Communication, Computer, Connection, Construction, Content Creation, Creative, CRM, Design, Digital, Education, Emotionally-Intelligence, Engineering, Event Planning, Financial, Graphic, Healthcare, Illustration, Influence, Information, Language, Management, Manufacturing, Mechanics, Medical, Ministry, Operations, Photography, Productivity, Programming, Promotions, Proposal, Public Relations, Publishing, Pursuit, Revenue-Generation, Programming, Repair, Research, Sales, SEO, Social Media, Software, Team-Building, Technology, Transportation, Troubleshooting, Visualization, Web Development, Writing


Attribute Based

Accurate, Achiever, Adaptable, Adventurous, Analytical, Aspiring, Athletic, Big-Picture, Candid, Caring, Cheerful, Confident, Connected, Consistent, Cooperative, Courageous, Creative, Delightful, Devoted, Direct, Disciplined, Dynamic, Empathic, Energetic, Enthusiastic, Flexible, Focused, Friendly, Funny, Futuristic, Generous, Gregarious, Hard-Working, Harmonious, Helpful, Honest, Hopeful, Imaginative, Inclusive, Individual, Insightful, Intellectual, Interesting, Intuitive, Involved, Joyful, Kind, Loyal, Mature, Motivated, Objective, Observant, Optimistic, Organized, Patient, Perceptive, Persistent, Personable, Positive, Practical, Professional, Quirky, Realistic, Reliable, Resourceful, Responsible, Self-Assured, Strong, Strategic, Systematic, Tenacious, Tough, Trustworthy, Truthful, Upbeat, Vibrant, Warm, Wise


Persona-Based

Actor, Adept, Administrator, Advisor, Advocate, Agent, Analyst, Artist, Associate, Attorney, Blogger, Catalyst, Cheerleader, Chef, Commander, Consultant, Curator, Creator, Designer, Director, Entertainer, Entrepreneur, Evangelist, Executive, Expert, Extrovert, Facilitator, Farmer, Geek, Genius, Guru, Hacker, Ideator, Introvert, Jedi, Journalist, Leader, Learner, Maker, Maximizer, Negotiator, Orchestrator, Planner, Producer, Programmer, Speaker, Specialist, Storyteller, Strategist, Teacher, Technologist, Trainer

Some examples based on these lists:

Jane Doe
Creative Digital Design

John Doe
Tough & Trustworthy Attorney

Joe Schmo
Medical Operations Geek

Sally Sixpack
Athletic, Motivated, and Disciplined

The most important part of selecting your tagline is to not worry about perfection. Get something that is close, then one day—when you have a moment of brilliance and something pops in your head—you can update it. Everywhere.


Develop your Differentiation

Have you ever gone to a conference where you met a sea of people, only to get back and not remember anyone? Well wait. Anyone except that one woman in the hat. Or that man who was a Navy SEAL. Or the one from your hometown.

While we all have difficulty remembering names, some details are remarkable because they stand out.

Seth Godin is famous for saying, “Be remarkable or be invisible.” In his book, the Purple Cow, he tells the story that no one talks about brown cows. They are common. But if you are driving past and see a purple cow…well, that you might comment on and remember.

Here are some places you can look for personal differentiation:

Physical Characteristics. Consider how both Danny DeVito and Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson are known for their stature. Painter, Bob Ross for his afro. Sarah Jessica Parker’s curls. Marilyn Monroe for her bleached blonde hair and mole above the lip. (I didn’t say you had to be born with the characteristics). If you have a physical characteristic that is different from the norm, don’t play it down. Celebrate it and feature it as part of your brand.


Dress and Accessories. Madeline Albright is known for her lapel pins. Michael Jackson for a glove. Prince for the color purple. Elton John and John Lennon for their glasses. The reason they became known for these items is the consistency of use. Even well-branded people who don’t align around a single accessory can often claim a consistent color pallet or style of clothing such as Tilda Swinton’s androgynous neutrals.

Unique History. Jane Goodall is always associated with gorillas. Loretta Lynn was a coal miner’s daughter. Bob Marley embodied Jamaican culture. Jennifer Lopez sang about being “Jenny from the Block.” Sometimes the best place to look for differentiation is in something in our history that defines us.

Personal Quirks. Comedian, Eddie Izzard often has a nod to cross-dressing in his publicity photos. Ellen DeGeneris is always dancing. Miley Cyrus repeatedly sticks her tongue out. Stephen Colbert raises one eyebrow. Quirks can very easily become a trademark.

Hobbies You Are Into. Whether you are obsessed with Bullet Journaling or weekend circus arts, you have the option of wrapping that personal passion into your branding whether it is in the photos that you post, the stories you tell or the descriptors you use on your personal bio.

A niche of people you relate to. Yogis, runners, slam poets, food truck owners and fly fishermen create tribes around their interests. Professionals connect in organizations. You can also have a more serious group you relate to like recovering addicts, survivors of abuse, or people connected by overcoming a disability or disease. There is power in belonging to a tribe and making that part of your personal branding.


Craft a personal message

While differentiation may make you memorable, you have the opportunity for people to associate that memory with a message. You can pick a signature issue—but it has to be authentic to who you really are in order for it to ring true as a personal message.

Look for your personal messaging in:

What you are committed to. Kenneth G. Williams became America’s first vegan bodybuilding champion and Alicia Silverstone also aligned her brand to animal rights. Rapper, Common seeks to empower underprivileged youth to be strong citizens, and Patricia Arquette is focused on equal pay for women as evidenced in her Oscar acceptance speech.

Pain you’ve overcome. Three-foot-tall, Sean Stephenson built a brand around ‘ridding the world of insecurity.’ Monica Lewinsky speaks about the price of shame. Robert Downey Jr, broke the serious drug addiction that kept him from being cast in movies in his younger years.

Challenge that shaped you. Professional surfer Bethany Hamilton-Dirks never hides her missing arm in publicity photos—it is a badge of proof that it is possible to keep doing what you love even after an unthinkable setback.

Way that you help others overcome their challenges. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg (aka. Notorious RGB) broke through glass ceilings at every level of her career inspiring several generations of young women.

Why develop your personal messaging? Because people love stories of possibility and accomplishing good in the world. Besides, we can’t resist a good origin story. We tend to remember them.

If you are having a hard time with this, think back to the stories and ideas you share often that people tend to respond to and connect with. Let that be a clue for where your personal messaging starts.


Work for alignment

The thing about brands is that they are created through consistency. You don’t know the Nike swoosh or “just do it” because you were exposed to it once. You’ve heard that phrase and have seen that swoosh hundreds if not thousands of times.

You will get tired of your photo, tagline, differentiation and message long before it has fully taken hold as a brand.

How to get alignment:
  1. Use the same headshot (or series of closely related headshots) everywhere.
  2. Create a tagline and/or short bio for yourself and use it on every profile you ever create online.
  3. Develop your differentiators and make them part of every image of you.
  4. Decide on your messaging and post around it frequently. Bonus points if you boil it down to a phrase and it either becomes your tagline or shows up in your bio.
  5. Make sure that whatever you post to yourname.com captures your image, tagline, differentiators and messaging.

Examples of normal people with strong personal branding

While it is easy to identify the personal branding of celebrities, to be fair, most of them have stylists and publicists who help. The best examples of “normal” people who are rocking personal branding are the podcasters, bloggers, and new media gurus.

Here are some examples:
  • Seth Godin – note the bold glasses, consistent color pallet and fun expressions
  • Kris Carr – note the natural settings, pink swatch in hair and consistent color pallet
  • Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists) – the brand embodies the message
  • Jeff Sanders – note the consistent tagline, message and images
  • Drew Canole– note the consistency of personal image and a brand aligned around vibrancy
  • Kara Benz (aka BohoBerry) – note the consistent color pallet and the simple tagline "get inspired."

Inspired to upgrade your personal brand? Get started!

Actually implementing your personal brand is the place where many of us get stuck in “paralysis by analysis.” The beauty of the digital world—however—is that you can do this incrementally. Best of all, getting started is easy.

  1. Sit down with a piece of paper and write down some ideas.
  2. Test drive the ones you like.

The thing about personal branding is that it doesn’t have to stay static. You can shift it over time.

And the best part? If you try something you decide you don’t like, changing it is only a click away.


So what's the point of all of this? Why do we need to shape our personal brand? 

Because if you don't.  Someone else will do it for you. You are at the mercy of the search engines.

Owning your own image gives you more control over the impressions that people see and consequently, the opportunities that will come to you in your career.

  • Your personal brand can make you attractive to potential employers. 
  • Your personal brand can make you known in an industry. 
  • Your personal brand can make you a better business developer. 
  • Your personal brand can shape how much clients will pay for your services. 

So what are you waiting for? Upgrade your personal brand.

11 Ways to Say No Professionally

Common advice says that if we want to alleviate stress, we have to learn to say 'no.' But often we feel like we can’t say 'no'—especially at work.

Why?

For one thing, we are programmed to say “yes.” We each have at least a 12-year history of completing term papers, handing in homework and—in general—finishing all of the tasks assigned to us if we wanted to pass.

Not only that, but most of us who are successful at what we do didn’t get there by refusing to do the job. We stay late, work through lunch, answer e-mails on the weekends--never noticing how much the lack of boundaries impacts how we feel about work until we are really, really miserable.

If being able to manage our lives is essential to our happiness, then we have to up our game when it comes to declining things that use up our personal resources of time and energy.

Here are 11 ways to say 'no' professionally:

I would like to help you with that. I have some competing deadlines [this, this, this]. Could you help me prioritize them?

There is a good chance that when a superior asks us to do something, they have no idea how much time it will take us to complete the task, nor do they understand our other responsibilities (even if they are the one who assigned them). Agreeing we are willing to do the task diffuses any sense of resistance in our response; and asking for help, enlists our boss in aligning what needs to be done with the resources available to do it which creates understanding.

I don’t have bandwidth to take that on. Let’s brainstorm another way we could get this done.

Sometimes no amount of prioritizing is going to help us fit a task into an already overburdened production schedule. Just saying 'no' can launch a negotiation with the other person into how you might possibly fit it in. By redirecting the conversation to focus on other resources, you create new possibilities that don’t involve you. Plus, you get the added benefit of being seen as a solution rather than a closed door.

I am honored that you thought of me for that, but in order to do it I would have to say no to some other things that are a priority right now.

Being presented with good opportunities that are not aligned with our highest priorities, can be tricky--especially if it is an opportunity that might be advantageous in the future or if we are being asked by someone we respect. Our tone has to acknowledge, the value of the opportunity and placing the qualifier “right now” in the mix lets the offerer know that we aren’t dismissing it completely. (Of course, if we know we are never going to be interested, we should leave that qualifier off.) If appropriate, offer to come up with ideas of comparable candidates and send the list the same week.

I don’t have time to chat right now, want to have lunch later? Or, I’m working on a deadline right now. Could I come talk with you in a couple of hours? 

One of the most important uses of the word 'no' at work is in preventing random conversations from impacting our ability to complete tasks during work hours. That doesn’t mean that social conversations aren’t important. In fact, they can be vital in maintaining healthy relationships on the team. We simply need a strategy for keeping them in check when we need to. So, defer the conversation and keep getting things done.

Thanks for sharing those suggestions. For this project, we need to follow a prescribed path. [Describe the path, if appropriate.]

When we are leading something, we have the responsibility of making the call, and that requires saying 'no' to all of the other options. (Did you know that the word ‘decide’ is from the Latin root decidere, which is a combination of two words meaning to ‘cut off’? We literally cut off the other options.) When we have to say no to someone else’s ideas, it helps to start by verbally recognizing that those ideas have value. However, we don’t have to refute those ideas or argue the merit of ours. We simply have to highlight the path that has been decided on.


I am so sorry. I have really overcommitted myself and I have to withdraw. (Don’t just drop this. Walk in with a plan.) 

Have you ever committed to something only to realize it was a huge mistake? Many times we just soldier on, building resentment when the better strategy would be to quit. The key to this method of saying 'no' is to walk in with a plan either with the agreement of someone who will take our place or another creative solution that eliminates our position entirely. This path requires some time to execute, but can produce the biggest win in alleviating a time and energy drain.

While I can’t create this, I’d be happy to review it.

Sometimes the best way to say ‘no’ is to offer to participate without being the creator of something. We trade a large time commitment for a smaller one. Other versions of this strategy include: While I can’t lead the big project, I’d be happy to contribute this small task; or while I can’t organize the event, I’d be happy to promote it to my friends; or while I can’t chair the committee, I’d be happy to serve as a member.

What would my role be on this project? Or, what would you like my role to be at this meeting?

People can wind up including us on projects and in meetings when it isn’t actually strategic to do so. And while we may not have a position where we can say ‘no’ to the assignment, we can ask to clarify what it is that we are expected to produce. Sometimes the conversation reveals to us a big picture angle we didn’t see and other times the conversation reveals to the requestor that we don’t really need to be part at all.

Send me the details so I can make a decision.

Often we don’t know the full impact of what we are committing to in the moment that it is being asked. We need some time to read and process the fine print. Just because someone asks for a commitment in real time doesn’t mean we have to give the response in real time. In fact, it is often to our benefit to delay. (Such as in a car dealership.)

Is this the best investment?

Rather than saying ‘no’, we can sometimes just ask a better question than the one we are being asked. I once presented a marketing initiative that required a $10,000 budget. My boss was brilliant in his response. He didn’t say ‘no.’ He simply asked, “If we are going to spend the $10,000, is this the most strategic way we could spend it to reach our goal?” The answer to that question? No. The difference was, that I was the one who supplied the ‘no.’

[Silence]

Far too many times we are not being asked to contribute anything at all, yet we jump in with a solution that contributes our time and energy when we really don’t have those resources to give. Just because we have the skills that are needed doesn’t mean we have to be the one to supply them. Sometimes, the best way to say ‘no’ is simply by not volunteering.

Lost a passion for your job? Here are 4 proven ways to recapture meaning.

Remember that first day in your new job? It was so full of promise. In fact, you were probably thrilled when you learned you got the position.

Over time, we can lose that sense of possibility and feel trapped by the very job we were excited to get.
If you find that you’ve lost the sense of meaning in what you do, here are four proven ways to get it back:


Recapture areas of autonomy.

In Dan Pink’s book, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, he highlights the example that children play and explore all on their own. That each one of us is created with inner drive. He also shares in his book that one of the keys to maintaining our inner drive is having a sense of autonomy in our work.

Susan Fowler writes in the Harvard Business Review, “Autonomy is people’s need to perceive that they have choices, that what they are doing is of their own volition, and that they are the source of their own actions.”

While few of us have complete autonomy in our jobs, the more we have, the easier it is for us to experience meaning and engagement. If you are suffering a lack of autonomy, look for the areas where you can recapture it. You may be able to ask for greater creative input, more influence over your schedule, impact on how certain things are done or even the ability to make changes to the space you physically work in. Often, it isn’t even a matter of asking for permission. We can identify an area and take responsibility.

Take a hard look at the tasks you do.

It is hard to feel connected to meaning when our days are eaten up by seemingly meaningless tasks.

Pulling back and thinking through what the real need is that we are trying to meet, then doing a “task audit” usually reveals a number of things we give energy to that don’t serve that high purpose. Of course, it helps if you have a sense of the mission for your job. If your company is convoluted in that area, you can craft your own. For example, if you are in marketing, you can see your job as helping provide for the families that work there.

Taking the time to figure out which tasks would serve the high goals takes some creativity. But if you are going to have the conversation with your team about making changes to the tasks you do, it is essential to be able to walk in with possible solutions.

Reframe your role.

“When it comes to purpose at work, there are three core drives that will determine whether we feel fulfilled in what we’re doing," writes Aaron Hurst, author of The Purpose Economy, "who we serve, how we serve them and why we serve them.”  

We can get in a rut of just seeing our little piece of the world forgetting that it fits into a bigger picture.

“The happiest people feel like they’re needed,” says David Brooks, an NY Times Columnist who studies satisfaction at work. Brooks shares the story of a study of hospital custodial workers where some described their work as cleaning up after people, while other workers described it as creating a safe environment for patients. “If your attitude is about that service, you just have a happier job and a more meaningful job,” Brooks says.

How we tell the story of what we do matters. Not only can it influence our own mental view, but it can also shift how others see us as well.

Tell the voice inside your head to 'shut up'

Most of the time the stress levels of high achievers are internally generated. All of the self-critiquing and judgmental thoughts we have about ourselves create unnecessary pressure--and frequently have nothing to do to with what has to get done or the way the people we work with see us.

We can get caught up comparing ourselves with friends at other firms, co-workers, people with more experience--or even just what we see on a daily basis via Facebook. That critical voice draws attention from the meaning in our job and puts it squarely on us--shifting our reason for working from meaning and purpose to our own egos. (Yes, I may be writing from personal experience here.)

And ego-driven service almost always burns out.

So, the next time you start to feel that anxiety, shift the focus back to the people you are serving. That shift forces us to stop defining our identity based on our performance and has the power to reconnect us to the meaning of why we do what we do.

5 Hidden Things that Affect Your Promotion (that Nobody Tells You About)



You are being judged at work.

Here’s the kicker—most companies won’t tell you what they are judging you on.

For sure, there are objective metrics that people assess, but many times the things we are judged on have nothing to do with our core performance.

Why?

Well, while each of us have true value we bring to a company, the people above us often don’t know exactly what we do, so they rely on other factors to form an impression. Luckily, you can influence this “perceived value” if you are aware of what people notice.

Here are the 5 hidden things you are being judged on (that nobody tells you about):

1. How well you deal in your company’s covert currency.

Every company has a “covert currency.” It’s the thing that people value that isn’t directly stated. And to make things even more confusing, many times it is in direct opposition to what a company says they value.

There is—however—a place you can look for clues. Listen to the “hero stories” your company tells. For example: You may work for a company that says they value work-life balance. But if every “hero story” tells the tale of working into the night and having to meet the deadline by dashing to the FedEx location at the airport, then that is not what is valued. What is valued is the “diving catch.”

That doesn’t mean you have to give up work-life balance to be part of that culture. What it does mean is that you’d better be able to make a “diving catch” and have a few hero stories of your own.

Other hidden value propositions might be about prizing frugality over investment. (If the company says they value investment, but all the “hero stories” are about how people saved the company money, it’s a clue.) Or basing worth on how much you travel (all the hero stories are people comparing airline status).

To figure out your company’s “covert currency,” all you have to do is listen. Then start dealing in it.

2. What you wear to work.

Of course, the clothes we wear have no bearing on how valuable we are to our companies—however, everyone judges people based on what they wear.

Don’t think it’s true?

Imagine that two people walk into a meeting you are attending. One is dressed in an Armani suit with a pocket square and the other is wearing cutoffs, a t-shirt and flip flops. Be honest. Which one would you assume was the presenter? (The sad fact is that we all make judgments based on first appearances and much of that has to do with clothing.)

Professional dress varies wildly based on industry and geography, but if you want to be judged well, dress for the position you want, and not the one you have. If you want to be C-suite someday, match your attire to whatever that level looks like at your firm whether it is conservative, casual, edgy or wildly creative.

While you don’t have to spend a ton of money to achieve this, you will have to spend some. Luckily there are things like thrift and outlet stores to help you out. Don’t have talent in this area? No worries. Ask a friend who is, check out services like Stitchfix, eshakti, Dressing Your Truth (or Dressing Your Truth for Men), or set aside a larger amount of cash to use a personal shopper at Nordstrom’s.

3. What you say around the water cooler.

Stephen Covey, in his book, the Speed of Trust, writes about behaving in ways that build trust. He also highlights that one way that either builds or chips away at trust is how we talk about people who aren’t present. Even if others join in talking about a competitor or a former colleague, people will come away with impressions of how much they can trust us based on what we say about others.

Whether we realize it or not, we are constantly making an impression about our trustworthiness.

Covey highlights that in order to show loyalty and build trust we need to give credit freely acknowledging the contributions of others. He reminds us to speak about others as if they were present and to never bad-mouth others behind their backs.

Our credibility is on the line when we are speaking and we are judged by it.


4. Whether you respect that leadership has more skin in the game than you do.

We leak the way we feel about things.

No matter how well we think we cover, most of the time our attitudes come off of us in waves--even if we don’t want to.

Respecting that leadership has more skin in the game than we do can be a healthy framework in balancing the way we pitch ideas. (It also influences how we feel when our ideas aren’t invested in.)

While most of us could walk out the door tomorrow and make a lateral move, the higher people are up the leadership structure, the more difficult it is to do that--and the tier above us usually has way more on the line in terms of managing the budget.

Keep in mind that leadership has more at stake that you do. It leaks off of you as respect.


5. How well you make your immediate supervisor look to the people they care about.


While most of us are conscientious about giving credit to the people below us for their good ideas, it is also beneficial to do it in reverse. Making our direct supervisors look good to the people they care about--whether it is the next level of leadership above them or to their clients--goes a long way in affecting our perceived value in a company.

We’ve all seen this done in smarmy ways--and nobody respects a suck up. So do this with integrity. It’s about being on a team and having your leader’s back. About making them feel seen in a way that lets the people who matter to them see it too.

Another reason to do this? Well, if your boss stays in place, you will never get that job. Helping your boss rise, can help you rise too.

Working to influence the 5 hidden ways we are judged gives us the power to impact our perceived value. And no matter how objective a company tries to make the promotion process, there is always a subjective component. Those who happen to notice and work with that component have a better chance of getting promoted than those who don't.

Unhappy at Work? A fresh way to decide if you should stay or go

Do you feel trapped by that thing you do to make a living?

Do you draft your fantasy resignation letter on a repeated basis?

Or maybe you just feel so beat down that you’ve resigned yourself that it is always going to be this way. After all, if you leave, you might land in a situation that is worse.

While the scenarios that make us unhappy at work are highly individual, there are only a few categories for why we are miserable. Once we identify the category, we are in a better place to take steps to break through.

The Types of Blocks

There are five categories for why we disengage in our day jobs:

- The people we work with--typically a boss, direct manager or people who work closely with our team.

- How well the position is aligned with our personality and skill sets.

- How effective we are at managing our priorities and energy resources.

- Not making enough profit in our work to meaningfully support ourselves.

- The amount of purpose we feel in the work we do.

Even though the specific challenge might be unique, knowing which type of problem the conflict resides in makes it easier to find solutions.


Identifying our block.

People blocks are the easiest to identify and the hardest to resolve. If the conversation of misery around our day job includes rehearsing interactions, complaining about an individual or sharing stories of the horrible (or just incompetent) things a specific person or group has done, then we have a people block.

In contrast to the people block, a position block is the easiest to resolve, but the hardest to identify. A position block happens when there is a mismatch between our functional work every day (ie. what we are doing) vs. our core personality, talents, skills and wiring.  It can result in frustration, boredom, feeling undervalued or it can simply induce apathy.

Priority blocks often aren’t seen as blocks when we are experiencing them because there is so much frenetic motion associated with it. The elusive possibility  'catching up' always seems just around the corner--making us blind to the fact that we are going not making progress.

Profit blocks are difficult because often we feel guilty about them. We think we aren't skilled enough to make more money or that we simply aren't managing what we have well enough.

Purpose blocks are all too obvious to the people experiencing them. The intense desire to resolve the gap between the dream and the day job results in a perpetual frustration and lack of fulfillment at work. It feels like the day job is using up too many resources away from the dream.


Do we stay or do we go?

Identifying the type of block we have before answering the ‘stay or go’ question can be highly effective in keeping us from leaving our situation and landing in a place plagued by the same problems we resign to get away from. But identifying a block doesn't always result in leaving.  Sometimes it helps us delay and choose the time of our departure, or--in many cases--it helps shift our expectations so that we are able to stay long term.

So how do we know if we should stay or go? Well, it depends on how we want to navigate our block….

Strategies for leaving

If we have a people block, we can play roulette and hope that the people in our next place are better than the ones we are leaving, or we can do some research. By getting involved in a professional organization we can learn which companies have great culture. While online research will show which firms have won ‘best places to work’ awards, the ‘real deal’ gets shared across lunches between professionals. By expanding our network, we not only learn where the people we want to be with are working, we also put ourselves in a place to get recommended when it is time to make the jump.

If we have a position block, our exit strategy is going to be a bit longer. The key is to figure out the source of the misalignment. Is it hard-wired (i.e. we hate sales and are working in a sales position, or we are extroverted in a job with no human contact)? Or is it soft-wired (with training we could pick up the skills we need, or there is another position in the company that interests us.)? The caveat is that if our employers have noticed the gap, we may not be in full control of the timing of our exit.

If we have a priority block, leaving should be a direct decision of identifying our priorities, then deciding the job isn’t aligned with them. If we leave because we feel overwhelmed without doing the hard work of identifying what is most important to us, then we will simply keep experiencing the same draining hamster wheel everywhere we work.

If we have a profit block, research is in order. Are you making a fair salary for the work you do? Professional organizations can be invaluable in providing salary surveys and there are salary-specific websites with a variety of information. In some industries, it is necessary to move to another company in order to negotiate a salary jump. You simply have to do your homework first.

If we have a purpose block, there are only two reasons to leave: 1) To take a position that is at least 80% aligned with our purpose; or 2) To take a job that requires less of us to free up time and energy to invest in our purpose. Making a lateral move when we have a purpose block won’t resolve the issue.


Strategies for staying

If we have a people block, the only thing we can change is us. Annoying Janice in accounting is still going to keep being passive-aggressive and micromanager Dave is still going to keep micromanaging. The issue is almost always about how these people’s actions make us feel, and that is something in our power to control. Because while we comprehensively cannot change them, we can set emotional boundaries so that their actions don’t impact how we feel about ourselves.

If we have a position block, staying is about reconnecting with what is special about us. Being mismatched in our work can make us feel undervalued. Taking the time to try new things can help us rediscover (or uncover for the first time) the things we are good at. Use joy as a clue. If it sparks our interest and feels like life, it probably is. And once we know what we are good at it becomes possible to bring all of that life and talent into our current job.

If we have a priority block and decide to say, we have to become a pro at writing down our highest priorities, aligning our resources to them and making the cut of all of the low priority things that drain us. It isn’t about ‘learning to say no,’ it is about learning what we most want to say yes to and not giving away all our resources so that we are empty when those priorities comes around.

If you have a profit block and want to stay, the best way to ask for a raise is to approach your boss and ask what you need to do to get to the next salary level. There is no compelling reason to provide more money to someone simply because they ask. Ask what your firm values and don't be shy about sharing why you are asking. Also, you can ask for things besides money.  Mobile phone, education reimbursement, company car, gym membership...sometimes it is easier for a firm to share those resources because they come from other budgets.

If we have a purpose block, staying usually requires finding where our day job and purpose overlap. This can be about opportunities to develop our talents, connecting with the company’s mission or carving out a purpose of our own within our context (ie. Caring for the people we work with and helping meet their needs.)


What to do after we break through a block

We all experience blocks in our work life, and just because we break through one doesn’t mean we won’t have to break through another later down the line. We can—however—observe some best practices to keep things in our day jobs flowing, like:


· Keeping good emotional boundaries so that other people don’t make us crazy.

· Maintaining a constant state of personal growth so that we have more choice when it comes to position.

· Making sure that our time and energy resources are aligned with our priorities and that we aren’t overspending.

- Ensuring we are providing high value to our firms so we can increase our profit.

· Being clear in our purpose so that we can move on opportunities that grow it.

Suspect you may have a block? Take the quiz to identify what type. 

Forget Time Management. Focus on Energy


Feel like no matter how many extra hours you work that you will never catch up?

Or maybe you live with the overwhelming feeling that there are simply too many demands to get done in a day.

It's easy to find ourselves barely managing the anxiety that there is not enough time.

We've been taught that our success (or failure) in this area is based on time management. And yet, everyone has the same 24 hours each day.

Why do some days seem to be wildly productive—yet others leave us feeling like we never left the finish line.

What if time is actually irrelevant?

Remember when we were a kid playing and time would fly by? Contrast that with the way we felt when our mom told us, "Clean your room!"

Time crawled.

So. Slowly.

We've all experienced how time ceases to be a factor when we are doing something we love. Minutes, hours and days can fly by when we are absorbed in a task that energizes us. When we are doing something engaging, we never notice time. We will get up early, stay up late and perform amazing feats of productivity in pursuit of it.

While time is a limited resource, energy is not. It is exponential and can be renewed.  Managing our personal energy is the difference between being a high performer enjoying our life or living depleted feeling like a hamster in a wheel.

Tony Schwartz of the Energy Project writes, "We feel better and perform better when four core energy needs are met: sufficient rest, including the opportunity for intermittent renewal during the work day; feeling valued and appreciated; having the freedom to focus in an absorbed way on the highest priorities; and feeling connected to a mission or a cause greater than ourselves."


Purpose impacts our energy. 

In thinking about your responsibilities right now...if you had all the time in the world to complete your task list, would you actually complete that task list?

Or if you had no time at all—such as with a terminal diagnosis—would you still do the same things with your limited hours that you are doing now?

The tasks that suck the life out of us are the ones that have lost their purpose. 

Benjamin Franklin is famous for asking himself at the end of every evening, "What good have I done today?" When we have a sense that the tasks we are committed to actually matter, we are energized by their completion. (Contrast that with the TPS Reports from the movie, Office Space.)

If you were to do an "energy audit" on your schedule right now—identifying things you do that energize you and things you do that drain you, there would likely be a  correlation—both high and low—in the sense of purpose you experience in those commitments.  While we might consider a task "important," it isn't the same as feeling like it contributes to a "mission or cause greater than ourselves."

Calibrating our tasks with purpose, can be a big boost to our energy reserves.


Motivation is a perishable commodity. Only commit to short timelines.

If we can execute quickly—before we start to question and second-guess ourselves—then big things can happen.  The faster we can get from ideation to execution, the more likely it is that we will put something out there in the universe.

There is a trend in personal planning to move from plotting out an entire year to only looking at 12 weeks at a time. Books like The 12 Week Year and planners like the Self Journal  or Freedom Journal focus on executing in short timelines in order to keep our motivation high. 

Why 13 weeks? Because moving quickly and creating tangible results silences our doubts. 

Perfectionism, fear and insecurity chip away at ideas. The caveat is that they need a timeline.  Tight planning cycles short-circuit our propensity for circular decision making.

Not only that, but 13 weeks allows us to create tighter alignment between motivation, purpose and activity.  Our context continually changes.  We may have once loved serving on a board, but 3 years later find we aren't in the same place that we were back then in terms of purpose.  Or maybe we committed to something only to learn a few weeks later how much it drains us.  Planning our commitments in 13-week increments keeps us focused on what matters most to us and minimizes getting trapped by things that drain us.

What do we do when we find that we have committed to too many things that deplete us? We have to man up and have the hard conversation. Motivation matters.


Building energy at work

Most of us respond to increasing demands at work by putting in longer hours, which takes a toll on our energy reserves:  physically, mentally, and emotionally.

"When we regiment our days too severely, when we stay completely focused on one task, our minds tend to stagnate after a time." writes Ori Brafman in The Chaos Imperative, "We need white space in order to avoid becoming so task focused that we lose our creativity."

Brian P. Moran, author of the 12-Week-Year, writes, “An effective breakout block is at least three-hours long and spent on things other than work. It is time scheduled away from your business during normal business hours that you will use to refresh and reinvigorate your mind, so that when you return to work, you can engage with more focus and energy.”

Few of us have the freedom to completely own our time at our day jobs; however, we can create pockets of time where we are engaged in something that recharges us.  While three hours may be ideal, 15 minutes can also have impact.  

We can also start to become aware when we've hit the point of diminishing returns. If what should be a short task begins to take way too long, we need to have the courage to either engage it the next day, find someone who has more skill in it than we do, or write it off as a task that lacks purpose.


Having exponential energy takes some investment.

We would never write a $10,000 check on an account with $150 in it, but we regularly write energy checks we can’t cash. Shifting our focus from managing time to managing energy can make a big difference in how we experience our schedules.

For example, with a time-management focus, we might skip working out because it takes too much time. But in an energy-focused system we will never skip the workout because it increases our energy.  Or we might get up an hour earlier each day to focus on our 'passion project' so that the rest of our day is fueled by knowing we've already accomplished something that matters to us. We might take the extra time to shop for groceries or make our lunch so that we aren't trapped in a fast-food rut.

Daily rhythms are a significant part of building personal energy.  Our spiritual practices, eating habits, physical activity and relationships play a big role.  But one of the most significant factors in energy management is how well we sleep.

All of us are under the drive of circadian rhythms—which influence the complex relationship between our body chemistry, timing and light. (It's the reason jet lag hits us so hard.) One of the biggest things we can do to help our bodies sleep is to wake up and go to sleep at consistent times each day—even on the weekends. If sleep is a problem for us, solving our sleep schedule has to become a priority if we ever want to have the kind of energy that makes time irrelevant.


It's not about time. It's about energy.

Shifting our focus from managing time to building energy isn't just recommended, it's essential.  The thing is, deep inside we know the things that energize us and the things that drain us.

It simply takes intention to look at them.

And the courage to work it like a balance sheet to make sure we are building our energy income and eliminating the embezzlers. 

5 Ways to Become a Networking Champion (without Sounding Desperate)


Ever see those people who effortlessly network with industry leaders and potential clients and wonder how they do it?

Or maybe you just wish you had better friendships at work.

Developing more meaningful professional connections increases our relevance to the companies, organizations and industries we serve.  (And lack of connection looks a lot like Milton in Office Space being relegated to the basement clinging to his red stapler.)

The more connected we are, the more access we have to influence and information—which might just make us more valuable than our current job skills.

This post shares proven strategies for inspiring genuine engagement with the people that you meet professionally.

Be genuinely interested (or at least get good at faking it). 

Ever have a conversation where someone was looking over your shoulder to see if there was someone more important in the room? Contrast that experience with a person who seems like they really want to meet you.  Author, Sean Stephenson writes, "Connection comes into being the moment that one individual feels that another genuinely cares about him or her. As soon as this genuine caring energy is mutually experienced, the connection is reciprocated."

One of the fastest ways to create connection is to communicate caring.  Eye contact, warmth in our responses, deep listening and an open posture all prioritize the person with whom we are engaging. This is done non-verbally because walking up to someone and just saying I care about you out of the blue makes us sound like an awkward Hallmark Card.

Become aware of what you leak. 

Busyness, distraction, stress, judgment and boredom leak off of us. People can read it.

With the notable exceptions of spies and professional poker players, most of us reflect our mental and emotional states to the people we come in contact with—whether we want to or not.

It isn't enough just to put away our phone or to smile at people.  We have to have the discipline to shift our thoughts from criticism/worry to compassion/hope. Of course that can be a lifetime endeavor. A more immediate "fix" is to show up completely for the conversation we are having in order to leak attention.  Being fully present is a way to leak good stuff.

The other thing we need to leak? That we are of equal worth to the person we are speaking with.  You may have heard the term "impostor syndrome" which is where we fight feelings of inadequacy even in the face of evidence of our achievements. That insecurity can leak causing the other person to "downgrade" us in their assessment.  While fake confidence may come off as arrogance, having a positive sense of our professional value makes good business sense. It conveys that we are someone worth speaking to even if we don't share the same title or influence of the person in front of us.

Learn to ask better questions. 

We all know how annoying it is to be with someone who only talks about themselves.  We also know how hard it is to stand in front of someone at a complete loss for words.  Want to become a better conversationalist? Amp your game when it comes to asking questions.

Our brains are more interested in questions than they are with statements, and the best conversationalists know how to leverage them.  A great resource with a list of 235 questions for engaging people is the book, Power Questions by Andrew Sobel and Jerold Panas, but here are a few I use personally that I've found to be really effective:

  • What do you most love about what you do? 
  • What are you working on that really excites you at the moment? 
  • What is the heartbeat (or mission) of your company (or organization)? 
  • What ideas are inspiring you these days? 
  • What do you enjoy when you aren't at your day job? 

Draw them out by learning to prompt. 

Susan Murphy of Murphy Motivation coaches people in the art of  improving their business connections. She trains people to ask a single question, then to follow it up with statements that draw more out of the person sharing.  Phrases like: 
  • Tell me more. 
  • Go on. 
  • And then what happened? 
  • Could you share more about that? 
  • Why do you think that was significant?
Prompts for another person to give more information is an active listening skill and can be learned through practice. Clarifying phrases not only communicate interest, but they can also cause the person to share valuable intel. Murphy says that it takes a conscious effort to pay attention to other people. Which is valuable. It can make your career.

Express gratitude for someone else. 

Stephen Covey, in his book The Speed of Trust communicates the things we do that build trust and the things we do that tear it down.  Covey warns of the damage watercooler bad-mouthing does to our "trust bank accounts."  Why? Because everyone knows that someone who is critical of another person can easily be critical of you. It creates distrust.

On the other hand, this principle also works in reverse.  When we express gratitude for others, it not only sparks positive energy in the current conversation, it also conveys something about who we are as a person.  Verbalizing gratitude for a co-worker, industry leader—or even something more immediate like showing appreciation for the service of a waiter—engenders trust.

Engaging these connection strategies, might feel awkward at first—much like a new yoga pose—but the more we practice, the more it becomes muscle memory.  Besides...

Every career opportunity that comes our way will be through a human connection.  (tweet this)

So pick just one of these methods and put it in practice. It will help you make more meaningful connections which can benefit your career and increase your value.
© Love Your Day Job • Theme by Maira G.