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The Competition – Surviving Competitive Workplaces, The Natural Way

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Sep 25, 2015 in Career Path, Self Improvement

CompetitiveCompetition in the workplace is nothing new and if you cannot make your mark in it, you are going to lose in the long run. There will always be someone looking to fill your position and will try all methods to get ahead of you. Doesn’t it sound a bit like the jungle? Yes, a competitive workplace is like a jungle, where everyone competes with each other for their survival.

You will find the strong cats in there sneaking upon its prey, bullish elephants pushing ahead of everyone and the sneaky reptiles slithering its way, biting anyone that challenges them. A competitive workplace is sometimes a good thing for an organization to get the employees motivated and productive. But as an individual you may feel that this is all too overwhelming.

As nature is the best teacher, we can learn a lot from nature about adapting in the cut-throat competition that is seen in some workplaces. Here are some of the acts that can be attributed to the likeness of surviving in a jungle, which will help you to get ahead of the competition:

Survival of the ‘skillest’

This is in analogy to the popular concept of “survival of the fittest” put forward by the great naturalist, Charles Darwin; which states that the fittest always survives and moves forward in the evolutionary ladder. In a competitive workplace, to be fit means to have the skills necessary to remain an important part of it. You will have to learn new skills whenever necessary in order to step up the corporate ladder, as skills are the only determining factor that will make you stand out of the rest. Take time out to learn new skills that you think are connected to your industry. There are various online courses nowadays that help one to gather new skills at your convenience.Just like squirrels hoarding nuts for the winter, you will understand that hoarding skills may help you in the future; if you ever have to face that allegorical ‘winter’ of your career.

Evolve to adapt

I will give you an example of the Darwin’s finches here. It is a group of finches which shows highly developed beaks to adapt to the different environments they live in. If you feel that remaining the same person in this competitive workplace is not going to help you, then you should know that it is time to evolve into something which no one is expecting. Be unpredictable and along with the new skills that you might have learned as mentioned above, you will become an eye-turner. Today’s world is dynamic and change can happen any moment. You will need to learn to evolve in accordance to the environment you work in.

Mimicry

You may not be aware of the fact that corporate culture is developed upon the theory of mimicry. What is meant by when one says we have a typical work culture? So where did this work culture actually start from? It all started one face at a time from emotional contagion. Emotions are highly contagious and before you realise anything, you are mimicking the posture of the person in front of you to receive his attention. Someone smiles, you smile back unconsciously; this is what mimicry is all about. You can use this mimicry in order to survive a competitive workplace. In nature, animals mimic their surrounding in order to not arouse any suspicion among the preys or attackers. Even though it is not highly recommendable, you can always mimic your way to be accepted in a working environment.

Pounce upon opportunities

In a competitive workplace there is no place for chivalry. This may come hard but it is true. Just like in the jungle where every moment is a struggle for existence, a competitive workplace is a continuous struggle for leapfrogging ahead of others. No big cat is chivalrous enough to give a deer a head start. If you are the deer in this environment, you will be wiped out of the workplace’s existence.

Remember to pounce upon any opportunity to show that you are superior and that your work is valued. Volunteer to do things that no one else does and gets noticed by the right people in your organisation. If you let others do it, you might have well lost one great opportunity to show your competence.

Territory master

What happens when a dog enters into the territory of another dog? All hells get loose and the second dog viciously protects his territory. No, I am not asking you to bite or kick anyone; just learn to protect your territory (aka position). If anyone tries to give a challenge to your position, use your experience and the skills to know who the alpha-professional is.

You can no wonder learn a lot from nature and if you use the lessons provided by nature to get the most out your professional life, you can cruise smoothly through all the competition. Instead of going through job sites to get out of the competition, try following the tips mentioned above.

This Guest Post was contributed by Hasib. Hasib is a professional writer working with the job portal –naukri.com and often writes articles related to career and education. He is an avid reader and lives for two things – football and food. If he is not involved in any of those, you can find him contemplating existential issues. Follow him @ twitter, Google+, LinkedIn

If you have a great idea for a jungle-themed post, let us know! Guest writers or requests are always welcome!

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The Alpha – Projecting Confidence In The Jungle

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Oct 4, 2012 in Building Confidence, Self Improvement

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Zoosemiotics is the study of animal communication; any intentional behavior on the part of one animal that has an effect on the current or future behavior of another animal. Examples can include sounds such as bird calls or tail-wagging in dogs.

When competition is fierce in the jungle, you have to project confidence using effective communication techniques. In the job search or workplace jungle, this doesn’t mean marking your territory or baring your teeth. It can be as simple as being conscious of how you would like others to perceive you when you speak. Combine refined speech with confident body language in your communication to give you the alpha edge.

Cara Hale Alter, author of The Credibility Code: How to Project Confidence and Competence When It Matters Most (www.thecredibilitycode.com), offers these tips (taken from the Costco Connection):

Keep your head level

Speak with optimal volume

Hold eye contact for three to five seconds

Keep your hands in the gesture box

Avoid using fillers or uptalk

Visit the original article (link above) or www.thecredibilitycode.com for more tips on how to project confidence!

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The Busy Bees – Creating A Sustainable Internship Program For Small To Midsized Businesses

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 21, 2011 in Career Path

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So many flowers and so little time! Your small to midsized hive needs an extra set of honey bee hands for a couple of months and to cover for staff while they are out on summer vacations. There is a lot of honey needing to be made!

Students are a great resource for quick minds eager to learn. They are often up to date on the latest technology, are up and comers in the industry, and are a terrific way to screen potential employees once they are ready to start their careers.

Many colleges and universities require their students to graduate with at least one completed internship under their belts. This gives the students hands-on and practical work experience directly related to their career goals or field of interest. Employers who wish to take advantage of this pool of young talent should create a program which emphasizes professional development as well as provides constructive evaluation of the student’s performance including feedback on the program itself.

Internships are most often considered during the summer months when students will have more time to devote to their internship schedule, but internships can be offered throughout the year. School credit or pay can be offered at the company’s discretion. If the company wishes to offer school credit, they must meet the school’s requirements and submit an application to the school. This summer is a great time to think about starting a 4 to 8 week program for next summer depending on your business’ needs.

To create a sustainable internship program, you must first identify:
• Learning objectives.
• The tasks and responsibilities of the intern(s).
• Total compensation (paid, school credit, stipend, etc.).
• Supervisors/mentors who will guide the intern(s).
• People and concepts the intern(s) will encounter during their internship.
• Schedule of events not directly related to the tasks required of the intern(s) such as attending meetings, conferences, training, etc.
• Qualifications to perform certain tasks (must have(s)) which can be included in the job description
• Training and evaluation.
• Duration of internship (may be determined by whether it is paid or unpaid)
• How you will solicit interns (through the school website, various online internship databases, on the company website, word of mouth, etc.)

A successful internship program requires time and effort on the part of the supervisors. Drafting basic job descriptions as well as a tight, but flexible, schedule for the interns to follow is essential preparation as well as making sure that workspaces and necessary supplies have been arranged for.

5 steps to a successful program:
1. Prepare answers and materials for all of the above points so the internship period runs smoothly.
2. Orient and train the interns in your company’s business and include them in meetings with exposure to all levels of the company.
3. Utilize their skills by having them perform tasks that will challenge and educate with hands on experience.
4. Mentor– with opportunities for them to network and ask questions to benefit from others’ experience as well as shadow employees performing tasks that interns would not be permitted to complete. Research-based tasks are beneficial as well.
5. Evaluate their performance and success with required activities in the program and have them evaluate the program during and after with open communication. Follow up with the school if applicable.

Research your local colleges and universities and reach out to the deans about their internship requirements. No business is too small to have a formalized internship program. The University of Michigan’s Samuel Zell & Robert H. Lurie Institute is an entrepreneurial studies program that could benefit from an internship at your startup company. Even if you are a small company you may find someone that ends up being a great long term hire. No company is too small!

Build it and they will come…and don’t forget to have fun! Interns can breathe new life into an organization with their enthusiasm. Go make some honey!

Special thanks to the recruiting department at Dixon Hughes Goodman for being a model program and the Michigan State University’s excellent website for tips on how to create a great internship program at your business. http://careernetwork.msu.edu/career-events-recruiting-schedule/hiring-interns.

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The Tectonic Plates – The Shifting Fault Lines Of Age Discrimination

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Dec 6, 2010 in Building Confidence, Career Path, Job Search, Thinking Positive

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The plates of the earth may be shifting as they do before an earthquake.

I had a conversation this week with a client that started out,
“Honestly, Carolyn, we’re looking for a little gray hair.”
When I asked them to tell me more, he replied,
“We want someone experienced to lead us out of this recession in order to emerge a stronger organization in the next three years.”
I found this completely refreshing since I hear from so many executives that find themselves between jobs with more than 20 years experience, that they feel they are being passed over for up and comers with less experience.

If you’re an employer looking for leaders, here are a few reasons you might want to join my client in their pursuit of people with more experience rather than less:

MYTH: Older workers can’t or won’t learn new skills.
REALITY: Those over 50 are proving their ability to learn new skills by becoming the fastest growing group of Internet users. Career-changers in their 40s and 50s are taking courses to enhance their skills.

MYTH: Older workers aren’t flexible or adaptable.
REALITY: Because they’ve seen many approaches fail in the workplace, they are more likely to question change. But they can accept new approaches as well as younger workers can as long as the rationale is explained.

MYTH: Older workers are more expensive.
REALITY: The costs of more vacation time and pensions are often outweighed by low turnover among older workers and the fact that higher turnover among other groups translates into recruiting, hiring, and training expenses.

MYTH: Older workers take more sick days than younger workers.
REALITY: Attendance records are actually better for older workers than for younger ones.

MYTH: Older workers don’t stay on the job long.
REALITY: Workers between 45 and 54 stayed on the job twice as long as those 25 to 34, according to the Bureau of labor Statistics in 1998.

MYTH: Most older workers are too “overqualified”:
REALITY: YOU GET MUCH MORE THAN YOU PAY FOR. It’s like getting a Ferrari for the price of a Miata. Forget the foolish business about “overqualified.” Many older workers are ready to throttle back but not ready to stop working. They will step into a non-management job after years of running the whole show and be content with that. A retired Army colonel and high-end management consultant, is happy as a clam driving a bus for the local transit authority. Would a twenty-something with no experience dealing with difficult people do as well? And if they ARE willing to manage for you, the value of their experience is exponential.

MYTH: Older workers can’t keep up with the younger generations in work habits.
REALITY: OLDER WORKERS HAVE BETTER WORK HABITS: Inaccurate stereotypes lead hiring supervisors to assume that older workers can’t perform the way younger workers do. That they will miss work or not get as much done. Deciding a candidate who’s a standout on paper isn’t worth an interview because of unsupported assumptions about age means you miss terrific talent you could have brought on board. She may have missed two days in 30 years. Don’t rely on unfounded assumptions to rule out older workers.
In a study of work habits in 39 separate organizations that included 3000 non-management workers, those younger than 26 years of age were found to be substandard in all six work habits: work standards, safety awareness, reliability/follow-through, attendance, punctuality, and avoidance of disciplinary actions. Workers in the 26 to 45 age range were average on all six. Workers age 46 to 55 were above average on four of the six categories. Workers over 56 were above average on five of the six and twice as far above average as the 46 to 55 year-olds on four of the five. If your hiring needs lean heavily on work habits, you should be looking for people with gray hair.

REALITY: THIS IS THE AGE GROUP WITH THE MONEY
The biggest irony in all this is that the over 50 crowd is the population that actually has money to spend. They own upwards of 70 percent of the financial assets. Their per capita discretionary spending is two and a half times the average of younger households. They hold almost half of all the credit cards in the United States.
You need people who think like them on your team so you can capture that business. Leave your competitors to duke it out over the twenty-somethings whose credit has just dried up.

To curry this market, you need to have a connection to it. Your marketing, strategic planning, and customer service functions need people who can relate because they are over 50 themselves.

REALITY: YOU BROADEN YOUR DEMOGRAPHIC APPEAL.
Unless you’re selling youth-exclusive products, having someone on staff who does NOT answer “Thank you” with “No problem” is a plus. If you want to appeal to the full range of customers, you need a full range of ages to serve them.

Now, for all you job seekers out there that fit this bill, here are the caveats:

  • You must be comfortable with your computer skills. You can’t rely on having as large a staff of direct reports as you may have had in the past so make sure you can function self sufficiently.
  • Don’t try to negotiate every job opportunity that comes your way into something that’s perfect for you before you even start. There are four or five more of you that can do the job if you seem too demanding before you even start. Instead, take the time to make yourself an exact fit for what they want. If it’s a mutually beneficial situation you’ll be able to make changes and adjustments to your schedule or personnel roster AFTER you’ve proven yourself first.
  • Be flexible. Companies need adaptable, creative, amiable people at all levels. Just because you’re used to doing something a certain way in the past doesn’t mean you can’t learn a new trick or two that can create efficiency.
  • Express a high energy level. If you’re carrying around a few extra pounds, get some extra exercise. The loss of just a few pounds does miracles for your confidence not to mention your appearance.
  • Be prepared to commute longer than you might want or even move should the job demand. No one wants to move or commute and while the economy is improving, executive jobs don’t grow on trees.
  • Network. Regularly interact with people at levels above and below your job title as well as within related areas of expertise. Going to an event filled with IT professionals when you’re a CFO makes you the big fish in a small pond. You’ll learn about companies you’ve never even heard of, and who knows if they don’t have just the perfect opening for you!

Certain myths about older workers (50+) may allow potential employers to hesitate in hiring them, but most employers realize the true value in hiring employees who have been around for a while. The tectonic plates in the earth are responsible for much of the shaking and rumbling that major cities on a large fault feel every year. You don’t have to be young to be a shaker and a mover in a company and employers know that a truly experienced and wizened worker with “a little bit of gray hair” can lead their companies back into a “boom.”

From Four BIG Reasons to Hire Older Workers by Mary Lloyd.
And The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers-USA
Download this fun handout!

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The Adaptation – Interviewing Skills

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jul 9, 2010 in Building Confidence, Career Path, Executive Coaching, Interviewing Skills, Job Search

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Last month, I had occasion to work with Walter Bond on a project where we were working with unemployed people from all walks of life. With over 20 years of experience in executive search and coaching, I was amazed by Walter’s ability to read people. As a former NBA player and entrepreneur, Walter meets a lot of people in his world and he can spot a poser from a mile away.

Many Americans are unemployed. Our goal that day was to work with a few people who were really struggling to hone their resumes, interview skills, personal appearance, and approach to their job search. Let’s face it; the world doesn’t owe us a living. Some of the people had advanced degrees; some were taking on line coursework towards a degree. As I worked one on one with each person, listening to their stories of getting laid off or fired, it was those people that were open to change that struck me as the ones that will really succeed after being given assistance.

I was amazed at how many people had such poor interviewing skills. One lovely woman had a strong background in bookkeeping and told us she loved it, but when asked what kind of job she was looking for answered, one that works with children. Another woman, with an advanced degree who really wanted to work in program management, had chosen to pursue work as an executive assistant in the hopes that she would land a job with an executive that would see her talents and ultimately chaperone her move her into a similar role.

Those that are willing to adapt and change will find new jobs. Finding new ways to attack a chronic problem is the only way out of a rut. If you’re one of these people, consider how you are answering interview questions. Over the next few weeks we will dissect basic interview questions a few at a time so the next time you are faced with the tough challenge, you will have the basic training to give the appropriate answers and succeed in getting the offer!

Carolyn Thompson

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The Bear – Hibernating In Hard Times?

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Mar 9, 2009 in Career Path, Thinking Positive

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Where have all the hardworking professionals gone?  Have they retreated to their caves (or Florida) for a long winter’s hibernation?  Are they snuggled in, hoping to emerge their sleepy heads in a few months when the promise of the new administration finally starts to pay off?   Are they waiting to complete that resume re-write until they can send it to 100 positions like they could a year or so ago instead of just one or two?  Are they waiting for the abundance of the good old days?

Well, in some professions, the good old days are still around.  Professionals looking for work should pay astute attention to what jobs are being advertised.  There are large pockets of professional areas that are still lacking talented people. 

Take the tax profession as example.  Not a generally exciting topic, but it’s a lucrative field.  Right now, if you were a Senior Tax Accountant in our area, there are over 100 positions available within 50 miles of DC. 

So, unemployed professionals take note…if you’re looking for a new career path, there are jobs out there!   Some training or re-training might be necessary, in some cases, the bill for that might be picked up by an employer.  Do your homework, it never hurts to ask! Don’t hibernate your days away! Wake up, get out there, and find your niche!

Carolyn Thompson

Author of TEN EASY STEPS TO A PERFECT RESUME…available on Amazon.com!
and TEN STEPS TO FINDING THE PERFECT JOB…available on Amazon.com!

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The Tiger – Stripes Run Deep

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Feb 11, 2009 in Building Confidence, Job Search, Self Improvement

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Tiger stripes are as individual and unique as human finger prints. They also act as the perfect camouflage in tall weeds and grasses. But, did you know that if you were to shave the fur from a tiger it would still have stripes? 

To be a true tiger, an elite top member of the food chain, your stripes have to run deep beneath the surface. So, as you prepare yourself and your resume, to embark on a new job search because you’ve been laid off or fear that you’ll be laid off in the near future, remember, in the Job Search Jungle you can’t hide behind the stripes on your resume. You have to deliver. 

Are you presenting factual information that faithfully represents your skills and work experience? In our current competitive job market with so many talented folks unemployed, employers are being extra particular with their next hire. The successful new hires must possess all the skill requirements of the job and be ready to hit the ground running! If you’ve already been laid off, now maybe the perfect time to update your skills and education by taking a computer class, attending a workshop, or finally enrolling in school to obtain your AA, BS, MS or MBA.

Make some inner stripes that will shine out on the surface and make you a true tiger in the Job Search Jungle!

Courtnie Cho
Partner, CMCS

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The Crocodile – Survivor, Adaptable

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Jan 8, 2009 in Self Improvement

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Crocodiles have been around for over 250 million years. They have outlived the dinosaurs. In contrast, you have been around for a much shorter period of time and your career probably took shape within the last decade or two. Right now, our economy is in a state of flux and things are uncertain. What can we learn from these amazing survivors, crocodiles?

Be opportunistic. Crocs see a fish and they eat it. They see a bird land on the water in the pond, they eat it. A zebra comes down to the river to drink, and the crocodile attacks. Crocs eat whatever they can, whenever they can. This helps them to survive. You should be opportunistic at the office too. Pick up responsibilities at work that no one else seems to want to do and do them well. Be the first to volunteer to help the new employee with a project.  Offer to do that spreadsheet that no one else wants to put together. Come in on a Saturday to help out. Be productive, opportunistic and you will shine in your manager’s eyes.

Get plenty of rest. Take a hint from crocodiles. Picture a river delta in Africa where the crocodiles rest away the heat of the day so that they can be alert and ready to hunt in the evening or early morning. This is true for you too. Go to bed at a decent hour every night. Save parties and late nights for weekends. Work out, maybe get a massage. Take a break. If you take time to rest, then you will be ready to work hard when you need to and will get more done.

Protect yourself. Crocodiles have teeth and scales to protect themselves. Your career should have some armor too. What type? Education, skill set and work ethic all help armor you from layoffs. If you have a solid skill set, better education, and stronger work ethic than those around you, chances are that you will not be the next person downsized. Utilize your company’s education reimbursement benefit if they offer one, or invest in yourself if they do not in order to keep your skills and education current. Learn how to do something that others in your office are not good at or are weak in such as learn Macros and Pivot tables in excel if no one else knows how to do them well. Work ethic will help to protect you too. Be sure to put in a few extra hours at the office, follow up on projects and with clients. Be an asset to your organization. 

Adapt, survive. That is the name of the game. Do not get stuck in workplace mud of laziness, exhaustion and an old, outdated skill set or you may find that you have become the next fossil.    

Jake Hanson
Senior Associate, CMCS

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The Zebra – To Blend In Or Stand Out

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Nov 5, 2008 in Building Confidence

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Wondering if you should blend in with the herd, or take a risk and stand out? In today’s predatory job market sticking to current skills and familiar jobs might seem the best way to stay safe, but life in the herd isn’t easy when resources get scarce. By taking a chance on a different kind of job, or playing up your more unusual assets, you might discover a different oasis where you’re the alpha beast. Who knows, the herd might follow, so keep reinventing those stripes!

Don’t know what makes you different? Consider your past experiences: Which ones give you the edge and perspective that’s unique to you? Remember the contributions you’ve made to former employers and managers; how did you set yourself apart from your colleagues? What particular strengths got you those jobs? Does your resume show off your experiences? Do you have specific examples of how and when you were able to save your previous boss time and money? Don’t be afraid to show your stripes – they’re what makes you unique!

Mario Valdez
Associate, CMCS

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The Giraffe – Sticking Your Neck Out

Posted by Carolyn Thompson on Nov 5, 2008 in Executive Coaching

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No one seems to want to train anyone anymore. Time, resources, and often patience, are scarce with managers in any type of job. Turnover ends up costing even more in lost time and knowledge transfer of intellectual property.

When hiring new people, managers should think of the giraffe. The giraffe moves gracefully through the jungle, observing their surroundings, often stopping to snack on tree leaves around them, only running when in the face of danger.

Like the giraffe, a good manager will think strategically about their team so they won’t have to rush to find people in crisis mode. They will stick their neck out looking for candidates that have 75-80% of the skill sets they seek. People who have the ability to pick up the remaining 20-25% as they grow and evolve in the job are more likely to stay longer, ultimately leading to a higher sense of job satisfaction and overall increased performance.

Looking for and hiring people that have the exact job title, skill set, and experience you want can lead to boredom sooner rather than later. Try to select employees that you have something to offer. They will want to stick around and nibble on the leaves with you for awhile. You just might build a better team getting to know them along the way as well as being able to build upon their interests and skills.

Carolyn Thompson
Author of TEN EASY STEPS TO A PERFECT RESUME…now available on Amazon.com!

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