Don’t Stand in Your Own Way: The Definitive Guide to Self-Confidence

By: Reesa Staten of Robert Half

“Go confidently in the direction of your dreams. Live the life you’ve imagined.” 
― Henry David Thoreau

April’s thought-provoking blog entry from Joi Gordon explored the relationship between gender and confidence in the workplace, noting that structural support of the unique needs of working women may play an even larger part than gender in determining whether someone reaches her full potential.

I’d like to stay on the subject of confidence because it’s an important one. In the business world, confidence can propel you to the top of the list of contenders for a job opening. The absence of it weakens your chances of being hired, no matter how qualified you are.

Whether you are looking for a new job, hoping to advance in your current one, or just want to be taken more seriously at work, a little self-assurance goes a long way.

In the course of a career, many things can chip away at our confidence, such as a job layoff, long period of unemployment or being passed over for a promotion. But confidence breeds confidence. If you can maintain your stride — and your positive attitude — in the face of these challenges, you’ll show others they can place their confidence in you.

Research has shown that women often have a more difficult time with this than men do.  An often-cited internal study by tech giant HP found that women applied for jobs at HP only if they were 100 percent qualified. Men, on the other hand, were likely to put their hat in the ring if they met just 60 percent of the hiring criteria. Maybe it’s the perfectionist in us, or the tendency to follow the rules to the letter. For many women, myself included, it doesn’t occur to us that some rules are actually guidelines. The confident person seizes the opportunity to ask for an exception to the rule if he or she can make a strong case for it. In other words, if the job fits, fight for it.

As a manager, I frequently make hiring decisions, and I regularly evaluate an individual’s readiness to take on new assignments or increased responsibilities.  Aptitude is always the first thing I look for, but self-assurance is a close second. Talent and confidence are a powerful combination.

Two books published in the last few years address the confidence equation head on: Lean In. Women, Work and the Will to Lead by Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg and The Confidence Code: The Science and Art of Self-Assurance — What Women Should Know by journalists Katty Kay and Claire Shipman. Both books discuss the unique challenges many women in the workplace face as they pursue leadership roles. And, in many cases, we are our own worst enemies.

How can you increase your self-confidence? Start by setting yourself up for success. Here are five suggestions:

  1. Don’t assume there is someone more qualified than you for the job. It’s easy to talk yourself out of applying for a promotion or a new job. You may tell yourself it’s not worth your effort because someone out there surely is more qualified. But what if you’re wrong? What if you are the right one for the job? You won’t know unless you put yourself out there.
  2. Work on your presentation skills. Make sure you are communicating with confidence, whether you are sharing your ideas in an informal setting or speaking before a group. Can you make your case articulately, concisely and with passion? Demonstrating self-assurance inspires others to want to follow you.
  3. Don’t assume others know how great you are. I have a friend who applied for a promotion at her company. She lamented that during the interview when she shared her many accomplishments with the hiring manager, he was surprised. He had not realized how hard she had been working and all she was contributing. Make sure you are getting credit for your good work so managers think of you first when new opportunities surface.
  4. Start small. Little victories are still victories. Volunteer for small projects at work and give 100 percent of your attention to them. By completing these tasks successfully, you’ll build up the confidence to take on more. And you’ll be showing others you can deliver exceptional results. Positive feedback from coworkers and customers is a proven confidence-builder.
  5. Walk the talk. Make sure your words are backed up by action. Being overly boastful or making false claims is just as damaging to your career as a lack of confidence. Always present the best version of you — and stay true to yourself in the process.

The next time you feel your confidence wavering, don’t let it get the best of you. You would be surprised at how even a little self-assurance will open doors for you at work and in your personal life. You have everything to gain from reaching for that next opportunity — and so much to lose if you let fear stand in your way.

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

 

An Impervious Guide to Networking

You go to school, learn a skill set, build a resume, intern, even consult a career coach, yet, 70% of all jobs today are found through networking.  Reflectively, 70% of those jobs are also never advertised.

It’s true, industries have become more competitive and companies more selective.  As we rebound from the recession, an influx of new talent is flooding the workforce. However, along with an increase in workers, we have also seen a rise in job creation. These are normal fluctuations in the economy that repeat over the years, but what has changed is how we view the job search.

Today, the rapid expansion of technology is responsible for a dramatic shift in the landscape of the job market. We are inundated with online job boards, search tools, and social networking sites, and it appears that networking has become more important than ever. Two of the most popular sites, LinkedIn and Facebook, boast their average users have 150 or more connections.

Despite being more “socially” active, we are generally less engaged with our contacts than ever before. The constant connectivity and number of different networking hosts can have an adverse effect that makes us less present in our face-to-face interactions with co-workers and even friends. Social media has the ability to create the appearance of bonds and fuels a competition that values quantity over quality. These social platforms have also placed our previously personal connections into an increasingly more public sphere and deeply convoluted our basic understanding of relationships. Still, if done correctly, the fundamentals of networking and their importance have not changed.

As companies are increasingly relying on employee referrals to bypass the headache of weeding through online applications, it’s important to know how to create a meaningful connection before you even start your job search.  A powerful tool, social networking requires some thoughtful reflection on the user’s part to yield any positive results. Sites like LinkedIn can make networking seem deceptively easy. You can “connect” with the CEO of your favorite company with one click, but it’s not as simple to turn those connections into actual relationships. It’s the steps in between, which cannot be achieved virtually, that make it possible to segue a connection into a recommendation and, from there, a lasting professional relationship.

In a hyper connected world, networking is like casting a fishing line into a sea of nets.  So how do we forge genuine connections amidst a multitude of cyber acquaintances?

• Treat the job hunt as a job

-Do your homework. Hiring managers look to their current employee’s networks to ensure that candidates are a proper fit and a secure investment for the company. As a potential employee, you need to vet companies just as carefully to ensure they align with your personal goals and aspirations.

• Networking doesn’t have to just mean building new relationships

-It can also be about learning from the relationships you already have. Don’t just look to colleagues or past employers, also pick the brains of your friends, family and neighbors. Even if they’re not in your field, they may have contacts that are helpful to you.

• Be genuine for you and your connections sake

-Have an elevator pitch, but be true to yourself. Learn about your skill set and your interests before you start the actual job hunt.  It’s important to do some research first to ensure the field you’re pursuing would be a good fit. This way you’re not only prepared to land the job but you save both you and your employer the burden of searching for a replacement if you decide the position is not a good fit.

You shouldn’t only be networking when you’re looking for a job

– It’s an ongoing process of relationship building that requires attention and care to cultivate. If you make a connection, you should make some form of contact every month whether it’s getting together for coffee, sending a holiday card or even a short email just to check in.

Use social networks as the follow-up tool not the initiator

-Social networks should serve as leverage not the groundwork for your connections.  First call or send a personal email to suggest a face-to-face meeting. Even if the person is too busy, they will appreciate your effort to make a genuine connection. After you have formed a relationship and established a rapport you can follow-up on LinkedIn to further the conversation and offer some tangible evidence of your skills and accomplishments.

Why Professional Motivation Matters So Much

By: Reesa Staten of Robert Half

Nike made the phrase “Just Do It” a part of the American lexicon. Nike’s goal was to inspire us to channel our inner athlete and embrace physical challenges. I would like to encourage you to push yourself in the same way — but this time, in the context of your work.

If you’re reading this, you’ve already displayed professional motivation and taken the first step toward your next career move. Dress for Success gives you the foundation wardrobe, moral support and confidence boost to shine brightly in job interviews and throughout your career. I hope you take advantage of the career resources available to you as a Dress for Success client.

Taking your first steps

It’s possible to change just about anything about your job or your career — if you take action. Your dream job or promotion doesn’t have to be just a dream. You can make it a reality. Your first steps don’t have to be big ones. Even small strides, like updating your resume and LinkedIn profile, or getting in touch with an old classmate or colleague in a field that interests you, can start the momentum. These actions require just a little effort and professional motivation — consider it the warm-up.

From there, you’re more likely to take further steps, like reviewing the job boards to see if an employer may already be advertising your dream job. Most major job search websites let you set up alerts to receive emails when a job matching your search criteria is posted.

Overcoming doubt

It’s at this point that you have to decide how serious you are about your pursuits because once you start looking, you will find jobs that appeal to you. This is often when the doubt kicks in and professional motivation stalls. All elite athletes will tell you they had to overcome the fear of failure at some point in their career. They succeeded by not letting these fears shake their confidence. Instead, they carefully prepared so that when the time came to compete, they were ready.

The same is true in your job search. Preparation will give you confidence. That means making sure you know enough about the position and the company to submit a targeted resume. It also means dressing the part, interviewing well and having good references who can attest to your abilities. If the job you want requires additional training or certification, preparation may involve gaining that added knowledge. Depending on the level of training or education, this may be the marathon portion of your journey and where your professional motivation is put to the test.

Applying professional motivation to your current job

If you’re not ready to look for a new job but instead want to advance with your current employer, ask your manager what steps you need to take to be considered for a promotion. Many people lack the confidence to talk to their boss about career growth, when, in fact, most good managers welcome these conversations. The conversation they don’t like having is the one in which a good employee resigns without ever having let on he or she longed for more responsibility. It can be a lost opportunity for both the employer and employee.

To paraphrase Isaac Newton, a body in motion tends to stay in motion. Likewise, a body at rest stays at rest. It’s easy to become complacent, either because you lack confidence or you don’t know where to begin. But even a few steps toward looking for a new job can give you the professional motivation you need to keep the search going. Small victories will empower you to take on even bigger challenges and, from there, it’s a sprint to the finish.


Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for
Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.

 

Tips on Hand Writing Your Thank You Notes!

Guest Post from Pilot Pen

You’ve created your resume, customized your cover letter, and had a successful interview. Now what? You write a personalized thank you note. Thank you notes are necessary to write because it is just one more way for you to stand out among all the other potential candidates your company of interest is considering; especially in a world dominated by follow up emails!

Legible, clear handwriting shows you pay attention to detail and it gives you the opportunity to thank your potential employer in your own words. Think about it this way, would you consider a handwritten holiday card more valuable than a holiday e-card? This serves as a tangible reminder that you go the extra mile. Here are several key elements to consider when writing a thank you note.

  1. Thank the interviewer for their time. This is a great way to start your note. It also serves as a great place to transition into the main points of what you want to say.
  2. Consider including details discussed during your interview. Take the opportunity to remind your potential employer about a skill you relayed or a project you are interested in.
  3. Keep it simple and sincere. Be clear and concise with your words. Wordier does not always mean better.
  4. Draft your message before writing the final version to ensure the card looks exactly the way you want it to.
  5. Finish the card with a special touch, a message stating that you would love to be a part of the team.
  6. Be selective with your writing instruments and stationary. Pilot recommends selecting a pen known for a smooth, skip-free writing experience like the Precise. Or use a modern take on the classic fountain pen, which delivers smooth, expressive writing, like the striking MR Animal Collection or pre-filled Varsity.

Defining Success in Your Career

Success is not a one-way street that let’s you coast on your bike while riding downhill. There are lots of pot holes, flat tires, some flowers on the way, but mostly, it’s up and down, and you just need to believe in yourself and keep on going. You will experience true success as you invest time and energy in actions and projects that make you feel satisfied and fulfilled.

Top 1% moments help us define what success means at different stages in our life.

These top 1% moments are available to all of us regardless of where we are in our life—married, single, lots of money, no money, fancy graduate degrees, no degrees, kids, no kids, love your job, despise your job, old, young, lots of challenges, or minimal challenges. These accomplishments are important to recognize and celebrate because when one of us reaches higher, we can all leverage the inspiration to take a step further ourselves.

A top 1% moment is when you accomplish something that you feel good about and is meaningful to you. They can be big or small—ordering business cards, swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida (thank you, Diana Nyad), going to sleep before midnight, changing careers, writing your first book, successfully leading a team project, buying your first home, re-connecting with a relative, running fifty-two marathons in fifty-two weeks to raise awareness and money for pancreatic cancer (thank you, Marathon Goddess), getting back into your photography hobby, earning your certification as a yoga teacher, making your first public speech, completing your first 5k walk/run, or simply making yourself a priority.

These moments expand your view of what’s possible and build confidence in yourself. Top 1% moments help us define our personal best. It’s not a competition; it’s about cooperating. We can all live in our top 1%.

Here are the recurring themes that emerge with my clients when they experience their top 1% moments:

Dream: The journey starts with an exciting dream. Your dream/goal may seem impossible and crazy to others, but it’s not about them; it’s about what adds meaning to YOUR life. For example, Diana Nyad recently fulfilled a lifelong dream of swimming 110 miles from Cuba to Florida. After four failed attempts to complete her goal, Diana, at the ripe age of sixty-four, became the first woman to complete this accomplishment while swimming without a shark cage to protect her. This was going to be her last attempt either way. And yes, swimming 110 miles and fifty-three hours is definitely beyond what most of us can comprehend. (If you are not a swimmer, substitute that word for something that does represent YOUR dream.) Diana’s journey showed us what it means to have a dream and pursue it.

Belief (a.k.a. mindset): All people who achieve top 1% moments have a deep belief in self. Even when others think your dream is crazy, YOU need to believe it. That’s key with every new invention or achievement. You may not know how you’re going to do it, but you believe you CAN. This is exactly what happened with Julie Weiss, known as the Marathon Goddess. She had a crazy idea to run fifty-two marathons in fifty-two weeks to raise awareness and funds to benefit pancreatic cancer (she lost her father to the disease). She had no idea how the journey would unfold. She started with one marathon, and for the next year, she did a marathon every week while working her full-time job. She’s raised over $200,000 and has decided to continue running marathons and raising awareness.

Challenges: Every top 1% achievement has challenges. There is no other way. The challenges may seem unique, but they are all just challenges—time, money, resources, health, knowledge, motivation, etc. Challenges test how much you want to complete your goal. Whether you are looking to take a photography class or complete your first 5k race, speed bumps will show up, but know they are not a valid reason to abandon your heartfelt goals.

Resilience: You may fail several times and feel discouraged many times before success. Diana failed four times and tried one more time—that alone is courageous and a top 1% effort. Part of living in your top 1% is knowing when to move on. Diana understood this and decided this would have been her last attempt. Even if she didn’t complete the swim, it would have been a top 1% effort. Often, when we are operating in the unknown territory, it’s scary, and you start to doubt yourself. Every top 1% moment has that brief period where you want to throw in the towel and call it quits. It’s part of the process, so don’t let the feeling push you off course.

Age: Often, you will be on the wrong side of the age factor—too old, too young, too much experience, or not enough experience. Perhaps you’re too young to start a business or too old to change careers. Forget this and keep moving forward. Disregard age as an excuse. As forty-one-year-old Olympic medalist Dara Torres said, “the water doesn’t know your age…[goals] may become harder to achieve, but your dreams can’t stop because you’ve hit a certain age.” Invest the time to figure out what you want to do and keep moving forward.

Stretch Zone: Every great dream and goal pushes you into your stretch zone—the zone where you need to draw on your strengths, face uncertainty, move past challenges, and achieve something beyond what many thought was possible. When you declare that you are writing a book or changing jobs, there will be lots of uncertainty and challenges. Top 1% moments do not happen in your comfort or stress zone. They happen in the stretch zone.

Top 1% Team: Although great journeys may start from an individual effort, they are more commonly team efforts. Diana Nyad had over thirty people on her team helping her navigate the waters, chart her course, and provide care during her swim. Epic efforts require resources from many different areas. Do you have the right team to help you share YOUR top 1%?

Everyone can enjoy top 1% moments from any starting place. You need to show up with the willingness to invest time and effort, face challenges, and make progress. You will find yourself completely committed to your vision when it’s meaningful and genuinely excites you. You may have some speed bumps or flat tires on your path, so stay on your course. Your top 1% moments can be big or small as long as they’re meaningful to you.

What dream speaks to your heart?

Alissa Finerman’s focus as an executive coach, author, and motivational speaker is to help you and your company or team make progress on key goals and redefine success. She is known for her clarity, energy, and ability to see the bigger picture to help you redefine what’s possible. She traded in a Wall Street career, so she could give back and inspire others to find fulfilling work and raise the bar in their life.

Alissa bridges her experiences as a former professional tennis player, Wall Street professional, and leadership coach to inspire others to think bigger and get results. Alissa holds an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She received her coaching credential from New York University. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit www.AlissaFinerman.com andwww.Facebook.com/AlissaFinermantop1.

Suite Success: Tips from the Top of Kimpton Hotels & Restuarants

 

During this year’s 10th anniversary celebration of our Success Summit, a few of the “who’s who” from Kimpton Hotels & Restaurants stopped by the Hotel Monaco in Alexandria to share some quick tips on how they achieved Suite Success– and how you can, too!  Take a look at what they had to say and let their advice empower you on your own success journey!

 

A Crossroads in Your Career Can Be a Good Thing!

Guest Post by Alissa Finerman

It feels like the biggest ordeal when we come to a CROSSROADS, almost as if you’re the only one this is happening to.

Which direction shall you take with your life? Is it time to change jobs, move to a new city, start a family, make a shift in your relationship or finally start your own company?

The feelings can be overwhelming at times. This is all normal for being at a crossroads – that time in your life when you need to figure out your next move in some area of your life, such as career or relationships or even when you feel bored working at the same company or are ready for something new.

This feeling will happen over and over again as long as you are creating and continuing to uncover your potential.

Yes, it’s normal.  It’s ok.  And you are on the right path.

You can find yourself at a crossroads regardless of your education, title, role, or how much money you have. It happens to all of us including CEO’s, managers, moms, athletes, musicians and entrepreneurs. It’s actually a good thing because it’s your internal watchdog telling you that something needs to change. This is where the problem rises — the dreaded change factor. On one hand you’re telling yourself that something needs to change, but on the other hand to honor this feeling you have to move outside your comfort zone and experience change!

Why would we want to do this when we know that change leads to feelings of uncertainty and with uncertainty there can be fear? Because it’s part of the process of growth and there can also be excitement, learning, success and fulfillment. Please note, you may experience some dips along the way – this is normal too!

I’m working with coaching clients and the theme of crossroads/transitions continues to emerge regardless of industry, background, specific role, money or age. Some are considering their next move such as starting their own company, redefining success and what the ideal environment looks like, launching a new product line, deciding between two jobs, moving to a new city, and starting or ending a relationship. It’s scary, but it’s also possible. It’s challenging to leave something that is known even if it’s not particularly fulfilling or the best role for you. It takes courage, listening to your truth, and stepping into the unknown to create something new.

To read more advice from Alissa on how to conquer your crossroads, please check out the full post on her website!

Have you successfully moved through a recent crossroads? We’d love to hear about it!

Alissa Finerman’s focus as an executive coach, author, and motivational speaker is to help you and your company or team make progress on key goals and redefine success. She is known for her clarity, energy, and ability to see the bigger picture to help you redefine what’s possible. She traded in a Wall Street career, so she could give back and inspire others to find fulfilling work and raise the bar in their life.

Alissa bridges her experiences as a former professional tennis player, Wall Street professional, and leadership coach to inspire others to think bigger and get results. Alissa holds an MBA from The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania and a BA from the University of California, Berkeley. She received her coaching credential from New York University. To learn more about coaching with Alissa, please visit www.AlissaFinerman.com and www.Facebook.com/AlissaFinermantop1.

Take a Mental Vacation with This Simple Trick!

The Power Walk for Dress for Success is taking place in more than 30 cities throughout five countries this month, so we’ve clearly had health & wellness on our minds!  But when most of us think about being healthy and about being well, we tend to focus solely on the body, when we should also be focusing on the mind.

So we tapped into the insight of  Alexa Fischer to see what she does when she feels like she might be getting a little overwhelmed– and finding a way to recharge might be easier than you think! Watch her video here to hear about the simple trick she found on how to take a mental vacation without totally checking out!

 
Alexa Fischer uses the skills she learned at The Yale School of Drama and on countless primetime television shows to help people speak with confidence and calm in any situation. Versatile and useful, her methods can be applied to boardroom pitches, public speaking, promotional videos,  even cocktail small talk. Alexa is honored to have worked with Fortune 500 companies like Trader Joe’s and SONY and smaller, philanthropic organizations like the Step Up Women’s Network and Dress for Success. She works with clients in group workshops, through online classes, and one-on-one, helping each person polish their speaking and presentation skills while tapping into their own greatness. Grab her free video course, Public Speaking 101 at alexafischer.com.

Are You an Office MVP?

By Reesa Staten, Robert Half

When it comes to your job, it’s easy to assume your employer holds all the cards. You depend on your boss for a paycheck, and he or she often has the final say when it comes to raises, promotions and plum assignments.

But you also are a valuable asset to your employer, and that gives you more power than you might think. No company can stay in business very long without a reliable workforce, which is why firms frequently go to great lengths to motivate and retain great employees.

Are you one of those great employees?

Here are five questions to ask yourself to find out if you are an office MVP (most valuable person):

  1. Are you checked in — or just phoning it in? Employee engagement is the Holy Grail for managers because an engaged workforce turns an average company into a great one. If you’re not showing your employer every day that you understand and are committed to the company’s mission, you may not be living up to your full potential in his or her eyes.
  2. Do you make customers your top priority? Yes, it’s true: With very few exceptions, the customer is always right. Without paying customers, a company has no revenue stream. Without revenue, the business can’t survive. And if the business disappears, so do its jobs. You can significantly increase your value to your employer simply by going out of your way to make customers happy. If your name appears frequently in Yelp reviews or customer satisfaction surveys, it’s hopefully because you provided outstanding service. Customer favorites are also employer favorites.
  3. If you see something that needs to be done, do you do it without being asked? Initiative is extremely attractive to employers. In fact, it’s one of the first qualities employers include in job postings when describing their ideal candidates. You can make yourself indispensible to a busy manager simply by being a problem-solver. When pointing out challenges or potential roadblocks to the boss, always come armed with ways to overcome them. Even the little things count. If you see a mess in the break room, do you ignore it or clean it up? I like a tidy workspace, so it’s not unusual to see me clearing off someone else’s kitchen mess. It’s not my job or my mess, but someone has to take the initiative, and it might as well be me. As for those inconsiderate coworkers who regularly leave behind spills, crumbs and dirty dishes, well, that’s a different column.
  4. Are you open to new ideas or ways of doing things? Businesses are constantly changing their processes and strategies to remain competitive and keep pace with rapid changes in technology. Being seen as someone who is flexible and can adapt to new systems without being overwhelmed can be a form of career insurance. If technology is your strong suit, for instance, try volunteering to train others on your company’s new software. If you have devised a better way to organize a project or task, share your ideas with coworkers and your boss. Above all, avoid being locked into outdated processes or ways of thinking: Business is moving too fast these days for anyone to be standing still.
  5. Does your boss trust you with key projects or responsibilities? Perhaps the biggest indicator of your value to your employer is your job description. Your boss needs people he or she can rely on. If you are regularly tasked with high-profile or highly complex assignments, it is because your employer feels you are up to the challenge. You have instilled confidence, and that greatly raises your value quotient.

It’s important to know your value to your employer because it affects your self-worth and your earnings potential. Hiring mistakes are costly to companies, and they will do whatever they can to retain their best people. This means that if you are an MVP, you have some bargaining power when it comes to your job duties and your salary. Confidence is appealing, so never sell yourself short.

Incidentally, Robert Half has a variety of salary resources that can help you determine what your skills are worth in today’s market. Our 2014 Salary Guides are available now.

Reesa Staten is senior vice president of Corporate Communications and director of workplace research for Robert Half, the world’s first and largest specialized staffing firm. Staten has been writing job search advice for more than 15 years and oversees Robert Half’s extensive workplace research program. Write to her at reesa@roberthalf.com.