Customer Service- Yes That Was Your Out-Loud Voice

shoutingOver a two day time period this week I was presented with many examples for this article.

I was asked to wait at a store because the employee was checking something on their personal phone.

My best friend works for a bank. She noticed a discrepancy on her online statement so she called the appropriate number to discuss it with them. The first woman she talked to could not pull her up by her account number. After several attempts it finally pulled up and the agent told her, “Oh, there you are, you must have read your number to me wrong.”

She was then transferred to another agent, who she explained again that she was an employee and had seen a discrepancy. He asked why she was calling now; why not wait until she got her statement – that is what most people do. My best friend is not most people. Then he began asking her a list of questions. One was “employer”, she said she was an employee of the bank and he responded, “Yeah, I heard you the first time.”

I asked her if her issue ever got resolved after all this fun and she said she was not sure. Almost 40 minutes on a call being told she was reading numbers wrong, calling at the wrong time and even being a bother for answering a question and she did not even know if her problem was resolved.

A family member of mine had medical issues this week. We had to go to the doctor to get two medications and received directions to take one Monday evening and come back Tuesday morning to take the other.

Now, let me say this, this family member is a cancer survivor and has been dealing with medical issues for 14 years. We are no stranger to medication, instructions and doctors’ offices.

When I went to get the prescriptions filled I was treated to a tremendous amount of conversation at the pharmacy. One tech ignored a customer standing right in front of them and held up their hand when the customer said, “Excuse me”. Another was complaining about a customer not understanding her id card and what a pain it was to explain it. It was a hodgepodge of disrespecting customers and a general feeling of not wanting to be there.

Tuesday we arrived at the doctor’s office and handed the technician the medicine as instructed. She looked at us and said it was the wrong one. The instructions she had were completely opposite of what we were told. When the practitioner came in and the technician apprised her of the situation, her response was, “I knew that was going to happen, I would have put money on it. You misunderstood what I said.”

Throughout all these adventures my best friend and I wanted to scream out, “I CAN HEAR YOU! You’re using your out-loud voice!”

It is so easy in an age of being able to talk anywhere, any time with anyone that we tend to forget two things in having this amazing technology: space and professionalism.

We tend to forget that not only can the person on the other end of the line hear you, so can everyone else in the general vicinity. This then lends itself to one on one conversations. The technicians at the pharmacy, I believe, thought that because they were talking to each other no one else could hear them in that big open space.

The advantages to technology is you can attend business meetings remotely, even dressed in your pjs – not that I have ever done that. But that relaxed environment flows to our in person interactions. Responding to a customer with “Yeah” instead of ‘yes’; blaming, dismissing and forgetting the most common ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ are more prevalent.

One side note: normally this behavior is attributed to young people. I am in my mid 40s, I officially get to say young people when talking about 20-somethings, yay me.

But in every one of these instances, no one was under mid 30s. We cannot blame bad behavior on the young.

The difficulty is we are not consciously aware when we are behaving in such a manner. Don’t think anyone can hear you? Try sneezing. That is a phenomenon that I love, you can sneeze in a store and people three isles away will chime out, “bless you”.

The bigger issue is this: each customer service agent, no matter what profession or title is a representative of not only themselves, but their organization. The results can mean lost customers and revenues.

There are lots of banks, pharmacies and retail stores to choose from – why would I go back to one in which I felt like a bother or burden to those being paid to provide service? Who wants to feel disrespected or under-appreciated?

As a manager or leader it can be quite difficult to address these issues, as stated before, we are normally not aware of our own behavior. You also do not want to come across as a micro-manager.

One thing I found most helpful and impactful when working in an office with individuals that exhibited these behaviors was to address it immediately, in a non-confrontational and quiet manner by saying, “That was your out-loud voice.”

They were normally caught off guard and I would explain that someone else could hear the comment or that I know they were probably thinking the comment in their head, but it was said out-loud. It was gentle enough to not be confrontational; quiet and directly to them with no other employee hearing so as not to be embarrassing and with a touch of humor to allow them to accept the concept without feeling berated.

We need to reclaim our space and our professionalism. I am not throwing stones; this is something that I am very mindful of because I have also made a slip in judgment about being in a public area thinking no one was around but me. There are even times that my boyfriend or best friend will tell me, “That was your out-loud voice”.

I believe detaching from personal technology can do wonders. Few companies do not allow personal phones in their work space so it is up to us to limit and monitor ourselves. We need to put down our phones now and then.

My best friend and boyfriend have made an incredible difference for me in this area. When we spend time together, the phones are put away. It makes us more conscious of the time together, our location and space. Conversations are better, events are more fun and interaction with others more enjoyable. It helps remind us that we are all in a shared space.

Challenge yourself to keep your phone put away during an event, lunch, dinner, shopping or our running around. Be fully engaged with where you are and see if you do not notice the disconnect in others and their interactions. Then ask yourself, “Am I doing that? And more importantly, am I doing that to my customers?”

Balance is Bull; How My Son Got Me to Get Life

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Having a 21 year old son as a mirror, reflecting certain aspects of my personality can be quite annoying. I am never sure whether to be proud or afraid that our personalities are so similar on several counts.

Physically we could not be any different: I am 5’ tall, maybe 100 pounds soaking wet and fair skinned (he has called me translucent). He is over 6’ tall, very athletics and maintains a perfect tan in the wintertime.

We have a unique communication style having many lively conversations that provide great entertainment to those around us. We are both straightforward, direct and appreciative, devoted students of effervescent witticism. We are a couple of smartalecs.

For all the grief I give my son, and I do so quite a bit in seminars and blogs, I will be the first to admit he has taught me more life lessons than any mentor or idol.

His points are poignant due to his delivery. It is normally a short, direct statement that cuts through any bull, fear or distractions.

I read an article the other day about work-life balance, which I believe is a bunch of bull-hooey. Balance implies equality. I have yet to meet the person that has perfect equality in both professional and personal worlds. The phrase implies some sort of perfectly balanced scales. I don’t own any scales.

This is not to say that you cannot have it all, in my opinion you most certainly can – just not all at one time.

My problem was not that I was trying to make those scales balance; I was on a different extreme. I used to devote myself to only certain areas of my life completely ignoring others.

A few years ago he put it into perspective for me. We were discussing my work and he simply looked at me and said, “When are you going to have a life?”

I backtracked and tried to provide proof that I did, in fact, have a life. Obviously he was mistaken.

He just shook his head and said, “No you don’t.”

He told me that when he was growing up, my life was focused on him; when his dad was diagnosed with cancer, my life was focused on both of them; and when he moved out my life focused on my business. He said he wasn’t talking about relationships, he was talking about me. He asked when I was going to focus on me.

He told me, “Mom, I think it is your turn.”

He was not mistaken.

Damn kid.

That is the day that I began to realize balance is not equal and the each side of the equation are actually multi-part subsets. It is not a perfectly balanced scale; it is a teeter-totter with different size and shapes of aspects sitting on each end.

The Teeter-Totter

One the work end you have your peers, bosses, clients, prospective clients, vendors and every person you come into contact with during the working day.

On the life end you have all the things that mean most to you personally: your family, your community, your faith and your passions.

A teeter-totter is a basically a plant anchored on a fulcrum. According to the dictionary, a fulcrum is the point or support on which a lever pivots. What is the fulcrum in the work-life teeter-totter?

You.

You can counter the feeling of being dropped on your bum when someone jumps off the other end of the teeter-totter by enlarging your fulcrum.

In work, realize that everything is not a means to a financial end. There are interactions, lessons and people there for you to get to know and enjoy.

Understand that everyone has their own path. Careers are rarely a straight line; more often than not they are winding, twisty, topsy-turvy crazy lines that takes you where you are and where you want to go.

On the life side things are sometimes messy. Other people’s actions create fears, insecurities and doubts about ourselves and our abilities as partners, parents or friends. We feel pulled into other people’s stuff.

It is a natural inclination to be all things to all people as a leader, worker, provider, business owner, parent, partner, sibling, family member, friend and volunteer. In doing so you forget the fulcrum holding it all together: you.

This was my son’s point. I had forgotten me. My teeter-totter had no balance point. That is when I hung up then burned my superwoman cape. Here is how I built a better teeter-totter.

Me time

I began scheduling, yes I had to schedule, me time. I started with an hour in the evening where I completely disconnected and did something just for me. Not filling this time with things to check off my list.

At first I felt guilty. I should be using this hour to clean the bathroom, give the dogs a bath, research an article, call a friend, do laundry – anything but mindless, time wasting activities.

If I do not take care of my mental, physical and spiritual health what good am I for all other components of the equation? I needed the time that I gave to others, without it I could still do all things for all people but I was a worn down, exhausted hot mess.

Forgiveness

I began forgiving myself for taking me time, for saying no and for mistakes. I am human and I provide forgiveness for others yet rarely for myself. This led me to the next step.

Treating myself as I do others

We encourage, support, love and appreciate the people in our life, so what if we started putting ourselves in that mix? What if you started treating yourself as you do all others in your life?

What if you started giving yourself pats on the back for a job well done? What if you told yourself that it is okay that you did not get everything checked off your list today? What if you told yourself that you did the best you could do and that is all anyone can do? What if you told yourself that you are amazing? What if you started complimenting, genuinely complimenting yourself? What if you stopped holding yourself to a higher standard, an impossible standard, and gave yourself support, empathy, encouragement and love?

Appreciation vs. Gratitude

Now I was starting to really get a life, and one I liked. Now my dogs started getting into the act.

Then I stopped looking at the didn’t haves and lack ofs and started focusing on what was right there in front of me and around me. I started the practice of appreciation rather than gratitude.

Gratitude is being thankful with an element of something not having happened yet. I am grateful for the balance of my bank account although it is not where I want it to be right now.

Appreciation is being thankful for that exact moment without regard to future needs or wants. I am appreciative for what is in my bank account right now. Period.

My dogs helped me learn appreciation. Every morning I sit outside watching them. It is the same yard, same trees, same grass, same flowers and same smells; but not to them. Every morning they bound out the door to discover the backyard world with fervor of discovering it for the first time.

I started approaching every one of my mornings the same way. Sitting outside with them I started with the little things: appreciation for the beautiful flowers in my yard, the birds playing and the dogs’ curiosity.

I really took notice of where I was sitting and gave appreciation for the deck that my family built and for the house that is my home. I gave appreciation for my clients, for the work I do, the conversations we have and how they inspire me.

Mulligans

If any nagging thoughts come in about not checking things off my list yesterday, I give myself a mulligan. I go back to forgiveness and the natural tendency to beat myself up and state out loud “Today is a new day” What can I do today?

Play

I try to incorporate play into my day, every day. This gives me my greatest release: laughter. I play with my dogs, I play games that challenge me mentally trying to beat my score, I play loud music and dance while I clean.

Disconnect

Throughout the day I completely disconnect. I turn off the sound on everything from my phone to my email notifications. Even if it is for 15 minutes I completely disconnect. This allows me to become acutely aware of my current state. If I have become tense, in stillness I can identify it and release it. Meditation, deep breathing or exercise – whatever it takes to release it.

Time Stingy

I started saying no. I have the opportunity to fill my days to the brim with family, clients, networking, friends, new opportunities and more; however, I started being stingy with my time. I started putting me time on the priority list, as well as time for things that are important to me.

If this week is incredibly busy, then I schedule a couple hours devoted to my dogs. I take them each out on their own walk, I turn off the phone and I make sure I am absolutely present in that time. I schedule time to walk with the girls and make sure my time with them is all about them.

Implementing these things helped me build a better teeter-totter. I went from that stationary center point fulcrum into a fluid, growing, vibrant curve that extended to each side giving me control of a balance that works for me.

–Lisa

Do Not Marry or Do Business with Every One That Proposes to You

Man holding roseI had to stop myself from doing the long, dramatic “No” scream when talking to a business owner the other day.

We were discussing branding and the conversation turned to clients.  This is when they told me that they would work with anyone.

Anyone?  As in anyone and everyone?

No!!!!!!!

Their reason was simple: they need the money.  They did not want to turn down prospective clients.  They did not want to lose a sale.  They need to reach a quota.

Been there, done that; lesson learned.

I had lean times where I took on clients that I knew, absolutely knew, were going to be a nightmare and lo and behold – they were.  That fee that helped keep the utilities on ended up costing me a lot more than a reconnection charge.

I learned I need my integrity and to be true to myself more than a I need a fee with strings and daggers attached.

Defining your target market is critical to success.  It allows you to stop chasing the puppies and cleaning up puddles of pee when you want to run with the big dogs.

The first step in defining your target market is to define yourself, your value and your limits.

This starts with a pretty blunt question: what are you willing to do, sacrifice and put up with?

I often compare job searching and business building to dating, and here is another great opportunity for me to do so.

You are selective about your personal relationships, why not your business relationships?  Let’s take a dating prospective to defining your target clients:

Really – anyone and everyone?

If you were single, would you go out with everyone and anyone who asked you?  I don’t think so.  Would you have a long term relationship or marry anyone who asked you?  I don’t think so.  I do mean anyone, even some random stranger at a bar.  It happens.

I was proposed to by a guy in a bar at my cousin’s reception in California.  He said he had been married five times and asked if I wanted to be number six.  I said no, hoping the conversation would be over.  But then he asked why not.  I told him he didn’t seem to be very good at it having been married so many times.  That ended the conversation.

What is your Type?

What type of clients do you really click with?  Are they in certain industries, positions, stages of their career/business or certain personality traits?  What are the characteristics of a person that are an absolute, a willing to deal with and a oh hell no?

In dating an absolute may be someone who is of the same faith, a willing to deal with is someone who is a die-hard fan of a sport you cannot stand and a hell no could be someone who is a self-centered narcissist.

What is important to you and do these things align with your clients?  It makes for a more harmonious relationship.

Know your value.

Everyone has value to give.  What is yours?  Take a moment to think about your strengths, abilities, assets and positives.  Live in that moment for a minute and take it in.  Be appreciative of yourself and proud of yourself.  Know this is your value and feel good about it.

Being in this feel good place, do you really want to bring someone in your life that is going to take you out of it?  No.  If they cannot see or appreciate your value it will lesson your appreciation of it.  You want clients that understand and appreciate this value.  I am not saying you should expect every client to throw you praises every day about what you do; you just do not want the clients who take it for granted.

I am a nature freak.  I enjoy cutting the grass, trimming the yard, having beautiful landscaping and just generally being outside even taking the dogs on walks. Just because I love to do these things does not mean I want someone to take it for granted and expect me to do it for them.  “You like taking your dogs on a walk, couldn’t you just take mine (while I sit inside and do nothing) since you like being outside so much?”  No.

The take for granted prospective clients are the ones that say things like, “Well, you do this for a living, couldn’t you just do it for free?”  or “Since you are doing this part anyway, couldn’t you just do the rest for free.”  Do you see a theme there?

Set parameters. 

Know what you will and will not accept or tolerate and be willing to walk away.  It is ok to break up with someone who is not respectful of you, just as it is ok to fire a client for the same.

Without parameters, “The client is always right” can go from a cheer for exceptional customer service to a sneer of contempt when you have to redo the proposal or work – again – because they changed their mind, which they expect you to read, and wanted the work done yesterday.

Be clear, professional and firm in defining and stating your parameters.  I would not suggest starting any relationship, personal or business, with a list of demands or “if you do not meet these it is over” type language.  However, when a client has crossed the line or is getting a bit too close, speak up.

Vet the field

Your time is important and valuable, both on a person and professional level.  Take time to vet a prospective date or client before you decide to spend time or get into a relationship with them.  Talk to your prospects and more importantly – listen.

Sometimes the key to knowing this is not the right client for you is in what is said, how it is said or what is not said.

Twenty years of failed relationships without any accountability and each one was someone else’s fault would be a major red flag.

Why do they need your services, what brought them to this place, what are their short term and long term goals?  Are they coming to you for a partnership, a solution or as another person to blame for them not taking ownership of their own business/path?

Give and give with passion.

I heard a quote along the lines that relationships are not 50/50, they are 100/100; you go in giving all you have, as does the other person.

In a business relationship, this equation is not the same; however to give your clients the best of you, your service and your value you must go in 100%, and have the passion and enthusiasm to do so.

When you find your ideal clients, work is no longer work, it is fulfilling a passion, providing a value, a challenge, fun and rewarding.

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

The Only Time It Is Important To Look Back

I had dinner with a very good friend last night who always inspires me and never fails to make me laugh at myself and the world in general.  She is my very wise friend whom I admire and respect greatly.

 

At one point in the conversation, I was telling her about a little fit of doubt I was having in myself based off a situation with a past client.  I asked if she had every gone through that and how did she get through it.

 

She told me to look back.

 

I am not a fan of looking back.  Normally.  Too often we look back and instead of seeing what we have accomplished, we tend to look at the woulda, coulda and shouldas.  Then we fall into the trap of “if only”s and “why didn’t I do it this way”s. 

 

I am a fan of looking at situations from the perspective of what can it teach me for next time then letting go.  Learn and grow, do not dwell and get stuck.

 

But her advice was perfect because it was specific.  You have to look back at your successes.  So one client or boss or interviewer thought you stunk.  It happens.  To all of us.  But that is when you need to look back to the ones that thought you were the cat’s meow.  That helps you remember why you do what you do and that you bring great value to what you do.

 

After saying goodbye a couple of things hit me: an email I received from a client saying they have been offered a job from a prestigious company and asking to set up a time to tell me all about it.  Another very excited email from another client telling me that she got promoted and gave such gratitude for helping her through the transition and to be able to see that she could do really well in this field.  An email from a client who was writing after an interview to let me know the interviewer told me they felt compelled to interview him after reading his cover letter and resume.

 

At first blush you may think it was the compliments on my work that helped me re-center and refocus; but that wasn’t it.  It was the excitement from all of them.  That they came to me from a much different place and together we were able to identify and communicate the value that already existed.  From there, they were able to fully own it and make happen what they wanted to make happen. 

 

It was their joy that made me beam.

 

That’s how I chose to look back, remembering the process and their journey.

 

If you are feeling stuck in your position, frustrated with the job search process or a little self-beating up over lagging sales; look back at the joy.  Why do you do what you do?  How have people benefited from what you do?  How do you define your wins?  What have been your wins – and what did you do then to make them happen?

 

Rediscover the feeling of the wins, remember how you approached it, remember why you do what you do and remember the value you bring.

 

Not everyone is going to think you are amazing, that’s a fact of life.  You know the old saying: you can’t please everyone.  We all hit the blocks of a bad interview, a down period, unhappy client; those come and go.  When they happen look back at the joy and you will find that the lows are not quite as low as you first thought and you have a lot more wins that you thought.

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Brand Strategist & Career Coach

Certified Professional Resume Writer

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Start Wanting What You Have

Luke and his toys (2)For some reason we seem to be stuck in a world of comparison.  We compare where we think we should be based on someone else.  “I would be happy if I had what they had” type mentality.  Never mind what we already have, we want theirs.

 

This thought struck me when I was watching my pups play.  I have two male dogs about 3 and 4 years old a Lab/Boxer mix and a Pit/Basset mix – Luke and Bandit.  Side note for all the animal owners – they came to me pre-named so no, I have no reason for naming them those names.

 

They had discovered two tennis balls that had been tucked away and were overwhelmed with joy in rediscovering these “new” toys.  All was bliss and happiness when they each first grabbed one.

 

Then it began.  The “I want what you have” game.  One would be happily chewing on his toy and the other would just stare at him, waiting for the toy to roll away so he could pounce on it despite having the exact same toy right in front of him all to his own.

 

This went on for quite some time.  There is no reasoning with this.  You could try to tell Luke that he has the exact same toy as Bandit but he would just give you that look like, “I know his is better, I want it.” Dogs don’t reason.

 

For some reason, we get in that same mentality.

 

In searching for a job we think that if we had the same type of opportunities that someone else has then we would be successful, we would be happy.

 

We stop looking at what is right in front of us and the possibilities that might exist within those and long for something else.

 

When you approach it in this way all you are doing is trading one slobbery slightly gnawed on tennis ball for another.

 

With the New Year approaching many are going to be tempted to make out their resolutions and on top of that list might just be to get a new or better job.  Before you put that down, take a moment to evaluate your current opportunity.

 

Is it possible that there are opportunities there that you have not identified, rather looked over because you have slobber toy envy?  Is it possible that if you approached your existing situation with the same enthusiasm and positive expectations that you would be able to see it as the right “next” move for you?

 

As soon as I started playing with Luke and his discarded toy he immediately perked up and decided he really, really wanted that toy.  Then a funny thing happened, Bandit decided he no longer wanted his toy, instead he wanted Luke’s because obviously it was better because Luke was enjoying it much more than he was.

 

It isn’t the toy or the job – it is the attitude.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Thanksgiving is Over – Does This Mean No More Daily Gratitude?

daily gratitudeFacebook can be such a fun thing – a place to share pictures of your family (two and four legged), funny stories, interesting news tidbits and the occasional lists.  A tradition, it seems, is for the month of November for you to post every day something you are grateful for.

 

I watched closely this month out of curiosity and trying not to have a hypothesis proven.  Unfortunately, it was.

 

The month started with the robust proclamations of gratitude for God and Family.  They posts were really lovely and heart felt.

 

During week two we started to see some cracks in the wall, people having to make up because they forgot to post the day before.

 

Week three it seemed to be getting to a stretch people trying to put down something “meaningful” to be thankful for.  My favorites were my friends who were completely themselves and thankful for what others might have thought as silly or meaningless.  Thanks is thanks.

 

Week four it was a sad dwindle; only a fraction of those who started had completed this “task”.   Yes, task, because unfortunately it seemed that maybe it felt like a task there at the end.

 

Now, don’t get me wrong – I am all about gratitude.  But more importantly for myself I am more about putting the “hey that’s a great idea” into practice.  I took a different approach several months ago because I wanted to take it to another level.

 

You have all heard the inspirational quotes and mantras what you praise grows, happy people aren’t grateful/grateful people are happy etc.  I wanted to take that initial feel good and see how far I could take it.

 

I’m a list maker anyway, so on my daily To-Do list I made a small change: I added a Gratitude section.  Right there on the top of the page.  The night before I add to the next days to-dos but leave this part blank so first thing in the morning before I start my day I write down three things I am grateful for.  Yes, three.  I wanted to really stretch myself.

 

At first it was easy: my son, my family, my friends but I stretched it out: I listed them out individually.

 

Then it started getting a little harder.  Why?  Because I was putting some expectation on myself that no where in any of those happy positive inspirational quotes or mantras does it give rules.  But I had imposed rules.

 

I thought that my gratitude should have meaning, big meaning:  Thankful for my freedom, my family, my faith – things like that.  I couldn’t possibly put down that I was thankful for finding a new scent for my wax burner.  That seems silly, insignificant and well, unworthy.

 

How could God or the Universe bless me with more to be grateful for if I wasn’t appropriately thankful?

 

About a month into the daily gratitude it hit me – I was being an idiot.

 

Gratitude isn’t a competition sport.  It was a feeling.  And your feelings are not wrong – they are yours. Period.

 

So I started putting down the “silly” things: the scents, the sale on fresh asparagus, the new recipe for avocado/black olive salad, my friendly mail carrier, finding a five in the pocket of my jeans the night before.

 

I also started putting down characteristics in those I love that I was grateful for: the playfulness of my big puppy, the sometimes irritating way the little dog noses her way up on my office chair to take a nap while I am working, my son’s humor, my best friend’s grace – things I admired and were lucky enough to experience.

 

I start my day out this way for another purpose: sometimes I need a reminder.  Sometimes my day seems to turn into a black hole of crap that I can then look over at my overwhelming to do list and see three things that I recognized in the morning and it helps.  It helps me give myself a little kick in the butt to stop being so negative and suck it up.

 

You know most of my blogs come back around to job searching or business building – so here is the tie-in: start making your own list for yourself.

 

When trying to get hired by the right company or the right client we tend to focus on the bigger things and only the big things.  When we come to a lull in progress we tend to get a little down on ourselves or the situation.  This is when you need the list the most.

 

You have more to offer than just your big ticket items.  Beyond the expertise, length of experience or job title: you have your personal qualities.  The little things that make you – you.

 

If you think making a gratitude list every day is hard try making a self-appreciation list.  At first you are not going to like me too much for this.  But hang in there.

 

Every day start off by writing three things you appreciate about yourself.  Yes – make it all about you.  Step out of that comfy little box and give yourself some love.

 

That is going to be the hardest part because we are not used to doing it.  Especially women.  We really suck at it.  I tell all my female clients I get it, as a woman we are used to putting everyone on top of the list: first our family, friends, community, job, home…and somewhere at the bottom of the list, behind the dogs is our name.

 

I have four dogs, I was way down there.

 

Do it anyway.

 

Be uncomfortable.

 

You don’t have to share it with anyone, you don’t even have to tell anyone you are doing it.  If you have an amazingly supportive spouse or best friend you might want to tell them so they can help you identify some things to get you going, but that is up to you.

 

Write the darn list.

 

Give yourself permission to recognize and appreciate you, your qualities and your attributes.

 

Then here is something that will start to happen.  You will start to see a connection there with those big ticket items and it will give you an additional layer to add when talking to those prospective companies or clients.

 

When you discuss your expertise you can add a layer of how you do what you do and now that you have full appreciation for the details of how you do it you will be speaking for a place of excitement, admiration or love.

 

Let’s give an example to help with this.

 

I am an analytical person, no, let me rephrase that – I am a very over-analytical, research the hell out of it, break it down, dissect it gotta know all the details or death kind of girl.

 

At first blush it doesn’t sound like a positive, right?

 

But it is.  I have come to love this quality about myself.  Here are some things I could say on my Self Appreciation List:

 

  1. I love the fact that I have been called “a dog with a bone” when there is a problem to solve.
  2. I love the part of me that is so inquisitive that I keep digging to find out all that I can.
  3. I love the fact that I won’t settle for surface information.
  4. I love that this is a quirk about me – it makes me unique.
  5. I love it when I get so involved in it that my best friend has to say things like, “sweetie – you really don’t have to know every single detail about this, it was just a thought.”
  6. I love the fact that I still get excited to learn new things.
  7. I love the fact that I feel brave in reaching out to ask people to help me understand and I have grown up enough to realize that ignorance is curable, stupidity is not.
  8. I love the fact that I have a best friend that supports me in my ridiculous efforts and lets me share with her what I found out.
  9. I love the fact that I can take a mountain of information from digging and then put it into a simple way to understand when explaining it to her.

 

Now, if I were job searching or networking in my old playing field of compliance in the financial industry I would definitely use these things to support and sell my expertise.

 

In talking about rules, regulations or compliance requirements I would add in that in working with my brokers I don’t just tell them this is what needs to be done because the Fed said so because I am a very analytical and communicative person.  I personally want to know the whys so I can them work with them in incorporating the new regulation in a way that makes sense to them, doesn’t detract from their business and allows me to protect and serve them better because I have all the behind the scenes “whys” to make the “have to-s” possible.

 

Sounds a lot better than: “I’m good at compliance – I have a decade of experience in it and hold five series license and two insurance licenses.”

 

Not only will you gain a greater appreciation for yourself, but you will have solid, positive examples of how you do it better than anyone else.

 

In the end, isn’t that what you are trying to sell to the prospective employer or client?

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

Career Coach-Strategist

Certified Professional Resume Writer

Career Polish, Inc.

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Appreciation in Networking

thank youI am going to start with the assumption that anyone reading this has an understanding of the importance of networking in looking for a job, expanding on their career or building their business.

 

What I want to bring up today for discussion is one of the most important steps in networking: showing appreciation.

 

I am a big appreciation fan.  I think appreciation should be shown every day at every opportunity.  It is a feel-good all the way around – it makes you feel good and the other person and it take so little effort.

 

The last time I spent the weekend with my best friend we went out for dinner and drinks the first night I arrived.  It was a Friday night and I had just driven 5 hours after working in the morning and she had a full day so we were both a little frayed.

 

Our waiter was awesome: genuinely friendly, attentive without hovering and when the place started getting more crowded he sowed the same care and attentiveness to every table without missing a beat.

 

We asked a waitress to ask the manager to come to our table.  Of course, we knew what this poor guy was going to think having us call the manager – first thoughts: “What did I do?”  And that manager was expecting it – you could just read it all over his body language.

 

Instead, we both gave genuine appreciation for our waiter.  The manager was really taken back and said no one ever calls him to tell him good things.  He said he was going to write this up and put it on the employee board for all the staff to see.  He also said our guy was brand new so it was a very kind thing for us to do.

 

We of course told our waiter we thought he was doing a good job, but we also knew that in the service industry these things never get said to management.  That is why we felt it was the right thing to do.

 

I’ve had a talk with my son a few times about communication.  He and I text a lot, it is our normal method of communication.  I am ok with it because he knows if I need to talk about something, I will call.  Thanking me for something is normally done via text.

 

His father, on the other hand, doesn’t like to be texted for thank yous.  He prefers a call.  Our son doesn’t understand why he can’t just text him since he texts me and it is ok.  I told him because we are different, it isn’t his to understand why, just know that it is important and more meaningful if he makes a call to his dad.

 

It is the same concept, but the delivery is different and that is the distinction.  That is what is important.

 

When someone refers a client to me if they send me an email I immediately email them back and thank them and tell them I will keep them in the loop.  If the client decides to engage me then I send them another email and let them know and again give my appreciation.

 

I also like to follow up with a thank you card.

 

It is important to me that I take a couple extra steps to let them know that I appreciate them thinking of me and thinking enough of me to refer someone they know.  After all, my professionalism it is a reflection on them as well for referring me.  I take this seriously.

 

When networking please remember that it is not expected that everyone will do something for you.  If they do, by giving you a contact, referral or tip it is important to thank them.

 

But that is what networking is about, you might be thinking – sharing of information, helping each other out.

 

Yes it is, however, it is also not a given.  And one way to build a very bad reputation and have all your contacts evaporate before your eyes is to either treat the referral badly or show no appreciation for them taking the time to think of you.

 

They took time out of their day to make the connection and reach out to you.  The least you can do is say thank you.  Their time is just as valuable as yours and it should be acknowledged.

 

Choose your method according to your audience, your relationship and professional bound – but no matter what you choose – just do it!

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

Want Help – Follow 2 Simple Steps

please and thank you

I have a friend that bought a house earlier this year.  We have pretty much converted the whole house into something new and, well quite frankly, it looks great.  Painted every room, decorating, staining and putting up trim, redoing kitchen cabinets, putting up backsplash, new light fixtures – top to bottom we are transforming that house into his own.

 

I say we because I’ve been the head painter, decorator, shopper and project manager.  Last weekend we painted the outdoor storage shed – more like a mini house.  Later I had someone else ask me why I have done so much to help my friend.

 

It is simple, really.  Just two little reasons:

 

  1. He      asked.
  2. He is      appreciative.

 

That’s it.

 

I find as a rule, most people do want to help you.  You might run into apprehension when asking, but that is nothing to take personally.

 

Normally when someone is apprehensive it is due to either having been asked for help but expected to produce results or a continual barrage of requests without listening to the advice given.

 

Here is an example of each of these scenarios:

 

A job seeker reaches out to a possible contact to request their opinion or advice.  The contact agrees to give them time and the job seeker then ends up asking them who they know that is hiring or could connect them to in order to get a foot in the door.

 

A job seeker contacts a possible contact to ask for advice and the contact speaks to them for a period of time giving good, solid information and suggestions.  The next day the job seeker calls back to clarify what they said and ask exactly how they should do one thing they suggested.  A couple days later they call again with the mind set that it isn’t working and what are they doing wrong, or is there anything else they should be doing.

 

People don’t mind helping; but when it becomes an expectation it crosses the line and they are no longer willing to provide assistance, information or expertise.

 

Many will say that they don’t know how to get help.

 

Ask.

 

It is as simple as that.

 

Reach out and ask for their time and advice.  Be respectful in knowing the boundaries, do not expect more than what is offered, do not use it as an opportunity to recruit them as your own personal head hunter or connector to anyone else.  Keep it simple and respectful.

 

The next important aspect in receiving someone’s help:

 

Thank them.

 

A simple follow up note stating your appreciation will go a long way.  Who doesn’t like to feel appreciated?  I know last weekend after I was home and settled for the night my friend called and simply said, “I just wanted to thank you for all you have done.  I really appreciate it.”

 

That one simple gesture was genuine.  It is one reason why I don’t mind giving up my time and putting work into his projects.  He appreciates it and tells me as much.

 

Don’t be afraid to ask for help or opinions.  Simply ask giving the parameters of what you are asking.

 

If you are looking to break into a new field you can contact someone already working in the industry and tell them that they are doing a job that you would love to do and would simply like to find out more about how they got there to determine your next steps.  Be clear that you are not asking for a job or leads, just simply would love some industry insight.

 

If they agree, keep your conversation within the allotted time period, stick to your questions and do not meander over to the dark side of asking them to do any more for you.

 

At the end of the conversation thank them for their time and value that they presented to you.  Immediately write a thank you note and pop it in the mail.  If you don’t do thank you notes, which I see no reason not to, the next day send them an email thanking them again.

 

These two things: asking and appreciation, will serve you well now and in the future.

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

 

An Important Key To Professional Success – Appreciate the Spiders

spider and webI’m not a big fan of spiders.  I’m not afraid of them, I couldn’t be because even with a house full of boys I was still the one called to kill the spider.  They just creep me out a little.

 

The way they move, they way they watch you (you know they do) and how they are like little ninjas – they show up unexpectedly and disappear before you come back with a shoe to squash them.

 

I’m just not a fan.  If one of those really big ones get in the house I squash it and leave it there as a reminder to his little spider friends as to what will happen if you come in my house.  I’m not kidding – you can ask my boys.

 

But I have made peace with one spider.

 

Outside my office window I have a night spider.  He works diligently in the evening repairing his web and I never see him during the day.  When I first saw him I wanted him gone, I didn’t really like him hanging out outside my window.  Then I realized, I was being a weenie.

 

He wasn’t hurting anything, he doesn’t come out during the day and try to creep in the house, he keeps the bugs from coming in my window and honestly his web is kind of fascinating.  The other day I had a wasp buzzing around the window and I was rooting for the spider to have built a solid enough net to catch him.  He almost got stuck a couple times and hasn’t been back since.

 

That spider is my wasp defense.  Way to go spider!  I may not be a fan of spiders but I don’t like wasps at all.

 

Sometimes in your career you have to work with people you just don’t like.  Period.  And yes, I did say “have to work” with them.  You have no choice, you can’t get them fired and it would be ridiculous to leave a great job just because you work with a spider.

 

The best way to deal with it to be successful in your job and continue to grow – play nice in the sandbox.

 

Instead of looking at this person for the reasons you don’t like about them, figure out your spider/wasp treaty.  There is a benefit for them being there – what is it?  How does it affect you and how can you benefit?  Is there something they can teach you?  Is there something that they are really good at that you can collaborate so you both benefit?

 

Where is the happy medium?

 

Sometimes it is a matter of being a grown up and looking at the professional side.  I have worked with people I don’t care for but mature enough to realize I could learn from them.  So I asked, I listened and I learned.

 

We didn’t become friends but we did develop respect because I was honest enough to admit they had strengths where I had weaknesses.  I also showed appreciation for their time.  Guess what – maybe they don’t like you either so it may have been quite the task to sit down with you and teach you something.

 

Once you build a level of respect that sandbox gets much easier.

 

 

Let’s face it – you are there to do a job, not to be the office homecoming queen or king.  Grow up and focus on the importance of what you do: for yourself, your company, your clients and your community.

 

If you do find yourself looking for another position do not be surprised if working with difficult people is a question during an interview.  Putting this thought into practice now gives you a solid response to that question.

 

The interviewer wants to know if you are a team player, if your priorities are in alignment with the organization and if you can get the job done.  If you throw a fit in the sandbox or just try to ignore them it is not helping your cause.

 

As I finish up this blog I looked out the window and noticed that it is raining –again.  Now that I have a little appreciation for it I feel a little bad for the spider.  Poor spider, he worked so hard on his web last night and now the rain has done some damage.

 

A little appreciation can go a long way….

 

 

Lisa K. McDonald, CPRW

www.CareerPolish.com

 

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