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Most of us have experienced the annoyance of a ‘bad’ boss. But now that you’re a manager, your employees certainly don’t think that way about you, right? Right?? Does any of this sound familiar?

Employees often express frustration with leaders who:

  • Don’t listen to new ideas
  • Don’t communicate openly about issues in the workplace
  • Don’t give feedback at all or do so in a negative manner

If you think any of these might apply to you, learn to be a better leader by focusing on incrementally improving your leadership abilities.

The first step is to undertake a self-analysis to identify the weaker areas of leadership in your skill set. From there, a management or leadership development course, executive coaching, or peer mentorship group can help guide the way and connect you with other professionals to form a support network.

Based on these common complaints from employees, focus on improvement in:

  • Interpersonal communication
  • Giving and receiving feedback
  • Collaborating with employees for innovative change

Improving in these skill areas can help improve leadership and influence, allowing you to cultivate an innovative environment for workplace improvements, be constructive in feedback and work review processes, and establish trust and rapport with employees across your team.

Keep taking incremental steps and soon you’ll be a leader that your employees love working with. If you’d like some help on the journey, please contact me.

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“Everything is negotiable. Whether or not the negotiation is easy is another thing.” – Carrie Fisher  

If you’ve been with your current employer for a while, it may be time to think about asking for a raise. Just the thought of this can be intimidating, but if you handle things properly, it doesn’t have to be a scary undertaking. Follow these strategies to prepare for the big negotiation.  

Words Matter  

Decide how you will phrase your ask. Will you request a certain percentage increase, a flat sum of money, or for your total compensation to be a set amount? All these are essentially the same, but if you know your boss relates better to percentages versus bottom line totals, use that to your advantage.  

Just the Facts  

Be prepared with data-driven evidence to justify the pay increase. Provide internal metrics showing your contributions to the company. Include anything relevant to the position. Number of hours worked, projects completed, budgetary savings, sales figures, client reviews, etc.  

External data is influential as well. Research salary rates at similar companies for people with comparable positions, tenure, and experience. This gives an idea of current market trends. You can find this type of information through sites like Glassdoor and Indeed or through company job postings. 

Keep it Real

While many people secure an external job offer to use as a raise negotiation tactic, I advise against this. If you stay with your current employer, you’ve already thrown up a red flag that you’re looking elsewhere. If you turn down the other employer, you could burn a bridge that you might need further down the road.  

Remember, no matter where you work or what industry you’re in, it’s a small world. People talk. And no one thinks well of someone who wastes their time or manipulates them for personal gain.  

Dry Your Tears

As with any business meeting, don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Yes, your salary is highly personal to you, but to your employer it’s all about the numbers. Showing your anger at not making enough money won’t help your case. And showing your sadness about owing money to creditors will won’t help at all. If you can’t justify the salary adjustment to your boss without yelling, crying, or pouting, it may not be the right time to negotiate.  

 

When it comes to asking for a raise: don’t be scared, be prepared. If you need personalized advice for your salary negotiation, feel free to contact me.  

 

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Writing your cover letter can be tricky for job seekers. You want to keep things professional, you don’t want to come across as desperate, and most of all you want the person reading it to pick up the phone and call you.

Here are some quick tips for you as you work on your next cover letter. And remember, you should be writing a new letter for each job you apply to – customize each one for the position and the company.

Cover Letter Do’s
  • Do know your cover letter’s purpose. It should focus solely on getting the hiring manager to read your resume. The resume’s purpose, then, is to get you an interview. The interview gets you the job.
  • Do address the letter to a specific person. Find out who the hiring manager is for the position. This can be a challenge, depending on the size of the company, but every effort should be made to avoid the dreaded, “To Whom It May Concern.”
  • Do let them know what job you’re applying for. You don’t have to start out the letter with a boring statement (i.e. “I am writing in response to the opening for an assistant manager”), but you do want to let them know why you are contacting them. Find a more creative and interesting way to say it.
Cover Letter Don’ts
  • Don’t rehash your resume in your cover letter. Your resume should list your skills and accomplishments, and so should your cover letter. However, don’t just list the same things from your resume in your cover letter. Instead, expand on some aspect that you really want to highlight.
  • Don’t attach a cover letter to an email – the email IS your cover letter. When applying for a position, you’ll often send an email to the hiring manager or recruiter with your resume attached. There is no need to attach a cover letter as well. Simply use the email you send as your cover letter.
  • Don’t get too quirky. You’ve got a personality and you want that to show through, but it is notoriously hard to express yourself in written form – especially in professional documents like resumes and cover letters. Your personality will come through in your interview, you don’t have to force it into your cover letter.

If you’re struggling to get your cover letter just right, let me know. I would be happy to give feedback and help you get it just right.

Email me: westcoachingandconsulting@outlook.com

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Taking your resume from good to great takes time and effort, but it can be the difference in getting an interview or not, so it is well worth it.

1. The first step is eliminating typos and grammatical errors. Have several people read through your resume (and cover letters) to make sure there are not any misspellings or typos. Try the editor at HemingwayApp.com to sharpen up your writing, too.

2. Make sure your resume is not just a list of your past job duties and responsibilities. Highlight some key accomplishments and projects you have worked on.

3. Keep it short. No resume needs to be over two pages long. Reformat, make cuts, and tighten it up until you are under that two-page mark. No one is going to read past page two; they’re just not.

4. Finally, if you need help getting your resume from good to great, know that help is available. If you are working with a staffing or recruiting agency, ask one of the recruiters to help you fine tune your resume. Ask a mentor for advice on what they think you should change. Or, hire a professional resume writer through an agency or freelance site to rework your resume for your specific industry and job level.

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A new year is upon us! Why not make some resolutions that will help this be your best year at work?

Think like a boss when you make your resolutions – what will make you a happier, more productive employee? How can you be more involved in the community and your company at the same time?

Try the following things over the next year and see if your boss doesn’t throw some appreciation your way:

Work Resolution: Be Engaged

Endeavor to have and exhibit a positive attitude about your work and your company. Volunteer and participate in office events, committees, and activities. Develop working relationships and friendships with your coworkers. Stay involved with what is going on at work – read company newsletters or memos, ask others to take part in projects, and speak up in meetings with ideas and constructive feedback.

Work Resolution: Grow Your Network

Many of us think about growing our professional network to make connections that might lead to a new job opportunity. However, your network is an opportunity for business growth. New clients and referrals are built through connections made in a variety of ways – alumni groups, volunteering, social interactions, chambers of commerce, industry associations, even sporting events. Any chance to meet someone new is an opportunity to introduce them to your company and what you do.

Work Resolution: Brand Yourself

You are a brand, just like your company. The better your personal brand is, the better it reflects on the company. Any time you attend a conference, business dinner, trade show, association meeting, or social event, make sure you are representing both yourself and your company in the best ways possible. Share your expertise on LinkedIn, speak to a business group about your company’s products and services, and maintain your professional reputation when using social media.

Work Resolution: Be an Innovator

Being an innovator doesn’t need to be as extreme as creating a totally new product or disrupting an entire industry. Just look for simple ways to make things work better. For example, reducing redundancies in paperwork or developing a better way to catalog network files. Innovations like these can save time and money and increase productivity.

Whatever your resolutions this year, best of luck in keeping them and making long term improvements!

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There’s nothing more frustrating than spending your time applying for positions and never being called in for an interview. If you are submitting a ton of applications and not getting interviews, there are a few things that could be your likely culprit.

Generic Applications
Using the same resume and cover letter to apply for different jobs at different companies is a common mistake. Generic means you are not doing anything to stand out. If you send the same thing to every company, you aren’t getting through.

Your resume stands a better chance of getting a second look if it is tailored to the job description of the position you’re applying for. It should highlight your skills and accomplishments that match with the job duties of the position. Your cover letter should also be customized for the company you are applying to – show that you know a thing or two about their products or services.

Wrong Jobs
Make sure you meet the qualifications and requirements of the position to which you are applying. If a job requires a certification that you don’t have, you are probably not going to make it through the resume screening process unless you have some very impressive things to compensate for your lack of certification. Be realistic with yourself when looking at positions and deciding whether to apply or not.

Over-Applying
Applying repeatedly for multiple positions at the same company will catch the eye of resume screeners, but not in a good way. In my recruiting experience, seeing the same name pop up for every open position (in different departments, at different levels) was always a red flag. Only apply to the one or two jobs for which you are the best fit. Applying to every open position they have does not increase your chances of an interview, it actually does the opposite.

Finally, if you’ve tried everything you can think of, it may be time to get an outside, neutral party to take a look at your job search documents (resume, cover letter, etc.) and help you improve your job search strategy.

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Applying for an out-of-state job can be tricky, but will it hurt your chances of getting the job? Here are some tips to compensate for the distance between you and your future employer. 

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Be ready for an interview.

You have to be ready to take an interview if offered, and to make it work. If the company is flexible and willing to do a phone or Skype interview, make sure your technology is working perfectly. Test it, test it, and test it again! The internet connection cutting out and freezing your screen during a video chat will not help you in an interview. If at all possible, offer to travel to the interview in person. That is always preferable to a phone or video interview.

Talk relocation.

You will also want to address relocation in your interview. Let the hiring manager know that you are willing to relocate and are flexible to working with them on start dates. However, be careful when mentioning things that will complicate a move (housing, school districts, spouse employment, etc.) until you have actually received an offer.

Be realistic about your expectations regarding relocation expenses. If you are only willing to relocate if you receive compensation to do so, and the company is not willing to offer that compensation, you may be wasting time pursuing a position there.

Know your worth.

Being an out of state candidate is not necessarily a red flag for most companies. Many times, companies (especially large ones hiring for multiple positions) have exhausted the local talent pool and are actively searching for ways to bring more candidates into the area. Finding someone that is willing to move is often like a needle in a haystack for recruiters.

If you are ready to make a move, don’t be afraid to put in applications and contact a local recruiter or LinkedIn connection located in your chosen state.

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Your learning path is your roadmap to gaining skills and knowledge that you  

  1. Didn’t learn in school 
  2. Aren’t learning or don’t have time to learn on-the-job; and 
  3. Will help you meet your career goals. Whether that means a new position, a raise, or a new career altogether. 

Why do you need to plan your path? 

You’ve heard the saying, “the difference between a dream and a goal is a PLAN?” Well, that is why you need to mark out your path. Without it, it’s impossible to track your progress to see how far you’ve come or to know what you should do next to move toward that dream job. 

Setting your goals  

Your field and career goals will determine a lot about the learning that you choose.  

If you are in certain professions (accounting, law, or nursing, for example), you are already responsible for earning a specified number of continuing education hours to keep your licensing current. But beyond that, you may look at soft skills training, project management, and technical training on new software systems that you can implement.  

If you are not in a profession that has mandated continuing education hours, you may look at pursuing a certificate in an area that would benefit you. To get an idea of what certifications might be relevant for you and your field, take a look at your career role models.  

The influencers you follow in your field, or those who have the position you want to have someday, look to see what letters follow their names. Find out what certifications they hold then do some research to see if those would be helpful for you.  

Another way to see what might be good for you is to look at job postings for positions you would like to have someday (you don’t have to be actively seeking a new job, just check out the job descriptions of open positions). Under the required or preferred qualifications, there are likely some certifications, training, or skills listed that you don’t yet have.  

These make great goals to work toward in your learning pursuits. 

Personal learning preferences 

“Know thyself” is so applicable to learning. With all of the learning opportunities available today – live classes, online, blended, games, hybrids, micro, and more – you really have your choice of how to get your education. But just because all of those options are out there, doesn’t mean they will all work for you.  

  • Are you easily distracted?  
  • Do you like interacting with others?  
  • Do you like to ask questions and get immediate answers?  
  • Are you self-motivated?  
  • How busy is your schedule (home, work, etc.)?  
  • Is completion of a class a motivating factor for you?  

There are no right or wrong answers to these questions, but your answers say a lot about what type of learning will serve you best. 

Start with low-hanging fruit 

Look to see what opportunities your employer offers in training and professional development. Some companies have partnerships with online skills training companies such as Lynda.com or Skillsoft. There may be training in both technical and soft skills, as well as exam prep classes for certifications that may be applicable to your career. If your employer has such a partnership, these classes are likely offered free to you, the employee.  

Another employer resource may be tuition reimbursement. If your employer offers this, check the specifics of the reimbursement. In some cases, this may apply only to classes that earn academic credit hours or you may even be limited to classes in a specific field relating to your job duties. Other companies are more flexible with tuition reimbursement and will allow you to take any class you are interested in whether it earns credits or not. In this case, you may be able to apply your tuition reimbursement toward Project Management or Six Sigma training.

The bottom line 

Pursue training that helps you reach a new career goal, interests you, strengthens your contribution to your organization, and works with your learning style. 

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While reading the recent article, 6 Key Career Move Questions, from Ellen Huxtable on the Business 2 Community site, I started wondering, how DO you know when it is time to start job hunting?

Sometimes this can be an easy question to answer – if you’re moving to a new city, facing a pending layoff, offered a promotion, etc. But often, I think people keep an eye on what’s out there while not really committing to the job hunt. There is a difference between the passive and the pro-active job search.

Passive searchers watch for something better to come along, but are pretty comfortable in their current job. Pro-active searchers already know they are leaving their current job and are now actively applying and (hopefully) interviewing for a new position. How do you know when to make that transition?

For me, I was given some advice once that no one should dread going to work. Sure, there are particular days you might dread – days with boring meetings or terrible projects that you just have to ‘get through’ – but we shouldn’t dread going to work in general every day.

Based on this, I made a rule: If you dread going to work every day for two weeks straight, it’s time to find a new job.

When I say dread, I am talking about that feeling where you wish you had the flu just so you could stay home from work. If that is happening consistently, and you can’t find any reason to look forward to your job, then start your job hunt. Life is too short to spend every day at a job where you’re miserable.

Take note, though, if your sense of dread comes from some specific issue that, if resolved, would cause you to enjoy your job again (disagreement with a coworker, unrealistic expectations from your boss, lack of support or flexibility) then you should try to resolve the issue if possible. Talk to your manager or an HR representative to see what can be done.

If you’re still on the fence, the article above can provide some more decision making help, or check out, Should You Stay in Your Job? Here’s How to Know, from Harvard Business Review.

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For many people who find themselves in leadership positions, they got there because of their technical skills. Maybe they made the leap from a financial or operations position; maybe they have worked their way up through the ranks; maybe they founded the company. Those skills have great value to the company, but they don’t necessarily make the person a leader.

The things that make someone a great leader – the ability to inspire and motivate, listening, mediation, finding problems before they happen, and keeping in touch with employees at all levels – those are skills that aren’t always top-of-list for a CEO but they are sorely missed when absent.

Can you fundamentally change as a leader?

In order to make a change, you have to work for it. Changing as a leader is like playing the piano. If you want to play the piano, you must learn the notes and practice playing them. If you want to be a better leader, you must learn the skills and practice using them.

Learning the skills takes an investment of time and dedication to self-improvement. But first, you have to decide how you learn best.

  • Are you a hands-on learner who needs one-on-one coaching or classroom interaction?
  • Do you like to go at your own pace and read about the things that apply specifically to you?
  • Is an online course that is flexible but provides feedback more motivating?

There are leadership learning modules for any and all of these learning methods. You just have to find which one works for you. Investing the time and dedication won’t pay off if you are investing it in the wrong thing.

What is leadership help?

As a leader, you can bring in a consultant to point out ways to improve your leadership style, you can ask for feedback from a mentor or peers, you can look at performance measures in your company and identify things that you should work on. There are many options available, and hopefully most leaders won’t get to the point of having footage of them berating an employee go viral before they seek help.

Reading about leadership is a great way to start continuing your education and growing in this area. 

For starters, I recommend a couple of books that are good reading for current and future leaders.

Of course there are some timeless leadership classics in this field. You can’t go wrong with the tried and true How to Win Friends and Influence People or The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People or most anything by John C. Maxwell. Of his books, I would suggest starting off with The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership or The 360 Degree Leader.

Millennials out there may just be advancing into leadership roles and struggling to gain the respect of not only those of older generations, but their own peers as well. An essential read is Manager 3.0 – A Millennial’s Guide to Rewriting the Rules of Management. This is a generational perspective on the new ways that managers will lead as Gen Y takes over the workplace.

For those of us who are not running a global brand, but are leading a small business or a team within our office, check out The Ordinary Leader. It focuses more on small to medium-sized teams and organizations.

Best of luck to the leaders out there – remember there is help if you need it!

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