How to Improve Communication Skills at Work

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How to Improve Communication SkillsCommunication is without the doubt one of the most important business skills, no matter what industry you are in.

As a Sr. Recruiter and Interview Coach, I have seen many candidates, often strong technically, fail interviews as their communication skills weren’t strong enough.

Most of us process huge numbers of messages every day. However, effective communication is also about understanding the emotion behind the information. Effective communication can improve relationships by deepening your connections to others and it enables you to communicate even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict or destroying trust.

Here are some tips to improve your communication skills at work:

Most of us are terrible listeners. Instead of truly listening to what the person is saying, we interrupt, think of our response, or think we already know what the speaker is going to say next. To become a better listener, practice fully focusing on the other person. If you are checking text messages or doodling, you’re almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation.

Avoid interrupting and seeming judgmental. In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don’t have to like them or agree with their ideas or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand a person. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can lead to the most unlikely and profound connection with someone.

Lastly, show your interest in what’s being said. Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting.

Pay attention to non-verbal communication.

Body language can tell you just as much as what a person says, if not more. The way you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about how you’re feeling than words alone ever can.

You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you’re talking to.

Find out preferred way of communicating.

Everyone has a different communication preference.  I love email, but others would rather pick up the phone and talk, text, or even use social media or instant messaging to relay something. Respect the person you’re trying to contact and use the method they seem to prefer. If you’ve called someone several times and always get their voicemail, but the person is always quick to respond to email, switch to email instead.

Consider your tone.

The problem with email and social media is that it can be difficult to determine the tone. It is easy to come across as angry or pushy, so avoid using many exclamation marks in your emails and if you’re angry or upset, take a few minutes to cool down before responding. If possible, meet in person, so nothing is misconstrued.

Check your grammar.

Always proofread anything you type. If you’re not great at catching errors, use Spell Check or ask someone to proofread your emails/letters.

Rephrase what you hear.

Restating what your co-worker or boss says to you by repeating the important points shows you are listening and understand what you were told. It gives both parties a chance to clarify if there is any confusion.

And finally, never stop improving. Effective communication is a skill you must practice. Observe how others respond to your communication to clue you in on areas for improvement.

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The 20-Point Job Search Game Plan

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Job Search Game PlanAutumn is football season and as I listen to the TV analysts handicapping each game two words are ubiquitous in their conversation when they discuss what it takes for each of the two teams to win. These words are ‘Game Plan’.

In football, more than in any other sport, regardless of the disparity of talent, a game can be won or lost based on a coaching staff’s game plan designed around their teams’ strengths and the perceived weaknesses of the opposition, with the deciding factor lying in the execution and the coach’s ability to assess and adapt midstream as needed.

This is also true about conducting a job search; however we substitute the phrase Job Search Action Plan for Job Search Game Plan.

For a successful job search you need to define your goals, create a step-by-step Action Plan with defined benchmark and results, and you must commit yourself to execute and adapt the Action Plan to the best of your ability. For executives and professionals at a senior level it is helpful to have coaches and advisors help you throughout the job search process.

Here are 20 basic steps I recommend incorporating into a job search game plan.

1: Define the job/s you’re seeking and the Hire Profile of the ideal candidate employers are seeking to interview and hire.

2: Define, qualify and quantify your qualifications, strengths and weakness based upon the Hire Profile.

3: Identify your relevant achievements and accomplishments based upon the Hire Profile.

4: Investigate how employers for these positions recruit and prefer to receive and process resumes and referrals.

5: Craft a resume(s) with a unique personal brand in the favored style and format based on points 1-4.

6: If you have a DIY resume and LinkedIn profile have it critiqued before (not after) you begin to use it.

7; Prepare all addendum documents you will need for your document portfolio.

8: Craft a generic cover letter that is also adaptable for specific positions.

9: Create a LinkedIn profile with a unique personal brand based on factors 1-4 listed above.

10: Identify existing LinkedIn connections and other people you know who you can reach out to for networking.

11: Set a reconnect and follow up plan for all the existing people you want to network with.

12: Set a goal of acquiring 5-25 new connections each week and define how you will approach them.

13: Identify people who will recommend and endorse you on LinkedIn and how to approach them.

14: Vet your references or have them vetted for you by a trustworthy 3rd party.

15: Identify interview questions you are likely to be asked and prepare brief on point responses.

16: Have people conduct mock Interviews with you as part of the prep process.

17: Research potential employers and how you can get on their radar screens.

18: Make a list of company websites you will check constantly for new postings.

19: Create an Action Plan tracking booklet.

20: Keep focused on working the Action Plan a minimum of 25 to 40 hours each and every week.

These are some of the essentials of a successful Job Search Game Plan, and as in football the desired results are dependent on commitment and the quality of the execution.

As always I am happy to critique resumes and LinkedIn pages and they can be sent to [email protected].

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Where to Start When You Don’t Know How

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Online Personal BrandingLaunching a personal website, launching a brand, launching a business. These were some of the key search terms on Google when people wanted to begin building a brand. Many of the personal branding articles share ambiguous advice without real actionable steps to act upon. Launching your brand does not need to take months and months of preparation. What it does require is countless hours sitting in front of a computer and a determined mind to get things done. Here is the secret formula to launching your brand in a nutshell: Vision + Plan + Action= Brand. Decide what you want to do. Decide how you are going to do it. Do it. That’s basically it, but don’t worry. I’ll elaborate.

Design your vision.
Launching your personal brand is easy when you can visualize exactly what it is you want to create. You can design your vision in a variety of ways by thinking through various aspects. You must uncover your unique purpose that drives your passion. With purpose fueled by passion, you are able to imagine all the possibilities available to you and paint a clear picture in your mind of what your brand looks like, who it touches and what it communicates.

Here are some questions to ask yourself:

  • Who is my audience?
  • What do I want to share?
  • What collateral materials must I create?
  • How do I want to be seen by others?
  • What is in my personal inventory?

Having a clear picture of what you want the final product to look like will guide you in the creation process. If you are not crystal clear on what you want, it will become very easy to get distracted because you are not sure of where you are going. Make sure that you are committed to your vision and ready to begin designing your blueprint to success.

Create a plan.
Once you have a picture in your head of what you want to create, you can begin to put together a plan of execution. Think of your brand as a puzzle comprised of many pieces that need to fit together. You have your design, communications, marketing, messaging, aesthetics, etc. Create a spreadsheet and give yourself tasks to complete each day. Below is an example.

Week 1 – Website Design

  1. Monday: Design simple wordmark, pick colors and fonts
  2. Tuesday: Write professional bio
  3. Wednesday: Write contact page
  4. Thursday: Write blog post
  5. Friday: Design website homepage

The most important part of the plan is setting and meeting deadlines. If you do not hold yourself accountable, you will not be successful in creating or maintaining your brand. By breaking up projects into small manageable tasks, you can begin to see progress as you cross each item off your to-do list. Have something or someone to hold you accountable.

Take action!
The last step is to launch. Don’t get so caught up in the planning that no action is taken. Remember that it will not be perfect and doesn’t have to be perfect. If you wait until you are 100% satisfied, you will never launch. You are your own worst critic. Publish the website, start the blog, get on Twitter and figure it all out as you go along. It is a learning process and adjustments and improvements will constantly be made.

Guest Expert:

Emmelie De La Cruz is speaker, trainer and consultant in the areas of social media and personal branding. Through her courses and workshops, she teaches millennials how to use social media strategically and develop a digital identity that will help them succeed professionally. When she’s not working with students, she’s training higher education administrators on social media and managing John Jay College’s student life channels. Meet Emmelie on Twitter (@EmmelieDeLaCruz) or learn more at

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Career Direction: From Storyteller To Storydoer

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Career DirectionDo you wish you had a crystal ball to see your future career direction? Do you wish someone will tell you what path to take? It really won’t help you. The past can help you to understand and articulate your story to date, and having excellent eyesight and insight can help you to see clearly right now. The future is unknowable, que sera sera.

Since I graduated from university with a Law degree, my career has zig-zagged in many different directions and being a lawyer has not been one of them (through choice). I’ve been a cameraman for a small media company, a pizza restaurant manager, a sales assistant in a department store, an administrator for a professional institution, a researcher for a start-up in professional services, a manager in a public service, a consultant in a small organisational development consultancy, and now an independent coach, facilitator, author, blogger and Associate for several consultancies in developing people for job, career and improved performance.

I’ve lost my job three times, once because I was ill-suited to the role and twice because the companies folded. This is the third recession I’ve experienced.

What conclusions do you draw about my working life and career? Did I end up where I thought I’d be? No way.

It’s been a non-linear, varied journey of exploration that has been characterised by regular change. It’s helped me to survive and thrive in a VUCA world – volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous. It has required agility, flexibility and being open-minded. I’ve been hard to label, being generalist and specialist at different times.

On the face of it, my career history seems really random. But it hasn’t been. There have been consistent threads drawn from a commitment to lifelong learning and personal growth. It has enabled me to be a storydoer, creating my own narrative as I’ve gone along. The ability to reflect and understand myself has allowed me to also be a storyteller – about who I am, what I can do, my strengths and the talents I have honed. I’ve pointed them at the thing I feel most passionate about – helping people “learn to leap” in their jobs and careers.

If you are setting out at the beginning of your working life, or making a shift in career direction, you are about to write a chapter in your own story.

Develop your narrative or story consciously through investing in your self-awareness – from regular personal reflection on what you are doing and how you do it, as well as seeking feedback from other people… so your story makes sense to you and helps guide your direction.

Are you career gazing, using hindsight or your 20/20 vision?

Guest Expert:

David Shindler is one of Career Rocketeer’s top 150 career bloggers for 2014. He is also the author of Learning to Leap, a Guide to Being More Employable and co-author of 21st Century Internships: how to get a job before graduation. An experienced personal and professional development coach and consultant, David helps students, graduates, educators, professionals and organizations develop the people skills and mindsets they need now and for the future. He runs the Employability Hub (free resources for Millennials).

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How to Leverage Alumni Networking on LinkedIn to Find a Job

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Alumni NetworkingIf you are frustrated searching job boards, sending resumes into black holes, and not getting responses from prospective employees, what I call “The Alumni Networking Solution” will help you.

Research from Jobvite found that “Employees hired through referral are hired 55% faster than those who come from a career site.”

I have personally used The Alumni Networking Solution to find leads and get interviews that lead to job offers.

What exactly is The Alumni Networking Solution?

The Alumni Networking Solution is a 5-step networking system designed to introduce yourself to college alumni and develop relationships that lead to referrals. This means actually getting to know the person- and asking for his or her advice, instead of a job like everyone else.

I used these five simple steps – in about 10 minutes per connection – to find a job in the worst job market in the last eighty years.

Step 1: Update Your Career Materials

Make sure you have your resume and LinkedIn profile updated. Those are the two major career materials your alumni are going to want to see before they agree help you. The top three issues you want to avoid are:

  • An unprofessional LinkedIn profile picture: This will hurt your chances of having people even view your Linked profile
  • Having the usual generic headline: Every college grad has “Recent Major Looking For Entry Level Position”
  • A resume that has typos: Typos make you look sloppy and unpolished

If you need further guidance, read these networking event tips.

Step 2: Join Your Alumni Group on LinkedIn

Alumni are always willing to lend a helping because you have a lot in common: you stayed in the same dorms, had the same professors, and drank at the same local bar. Most importantly they remember how hard it was to get their career started.

  • Change the search setting found in the upper right hand corner of your home page to Groups
  • Enter the name of the college you attended and your alumni group should show up in the search results
  • Select the group
  • Click “Join Group”

An email confirmation will be sent to you confirming your membership to the group; once you receive that message you will be ready to network!

Step 3: Create an Introduction Letter

An engaging message is your first – and perhaps only – first impression! For consistency and simplicity reasons, consider customizing the message below:

Subject: Hello! A quick question from fellow alumni

Dear <First Name>,

I graduated from <Your College> in <Year Graduated> with a degree in <Your Degree/Major>. I see that you work in <Industry> and was wondering if you would be willing chat on the phone, at your convenience of course.

I would love to hear more about what you do and any insights or advice you might have on breaking into the industry.

Any help would be extremely appreciated!


Cell Number

Important: the purpose of this letter is NOT to ask for a job. “Hi! It’s nice to meet you. Want to hire me?” is not effective networking. Be discrete. Be patient!

Step 4: Send!

After carefully customizing, send your pitch email to members in your alumni group who are working in an industry of interest to you.

  • In the LinkedIn group, click the members tab
  • Find alumni who work in the industry in which you want to get a job as well as alumni in the city where you would like to work
  • When you find a good fit, send

It’s important to be flexible and consider reaching out to alumni who work for companies you would like to work at. Even if they don’t work in the same field that you are looking to get into they will probably know someone at the company they can introduce you to.

Step 5: Set up Informational Interviews

As replies begin to roll in, set up phone meetings, Skype calls and face-to-face meetings. These informational interviews will enable you to connect with the alumni – and allow you to demonstrate your passion to an influencer in your industry of choice.

Through the relationships you develop, you should soon start receiving leads for open positions… many of which aren’t even advertised!

Remember that networking IS NOT asking someone for a job. Networking is about building your professional network that could lead to referrals.

Now Take Action

Use the LinkedIn Alumni Solution and send 5-10 customized LinkedIn message to your alumni. I guarantee you at least 2-3 people will respond willing to help you with your job search.

Share this with any friends/young professionals you know who are struggling to find a job or internship.  It will take you less then a minute and could really make a difference to their career success.

Guest Expert:

John Muscarello is the founder of Endless Job Offers. He provides actionable networking and career advice for young professionals in their 20’s and 30’s. Download his free guide “Four Free Tools You Can Use To Connect With Top Performers.”

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How to Overcome Job Search Depression During the Holidays

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Job Search DepressionIn a few short weeks we will celebrate Thanksgiving followed immediately by the festive Christmas/Chanukah/Kwanza season, and before you turn around, it is 2015.

Throughout my career as a recruiter and resume writer, I’ve noticed two prevalent occurrences at this time of year. One is that way too many job seekers convince themselves that this is the absolute worst time of year to look for a job because they’re all under the misconception that companies do not hire in November and December. Therefore, it is acceptable to decelerate their efforts or even take a long hiatus and put their job search on hold until the new year arrives. The other is that too many out of work executives and professionals drift into a state of job search depression as the upcoming year approaches and they have yet to accomplish their job search goals and now they begin to doubt themselves and they lose the motivation to keep plugging away at their job search.

So here are 3 suggestions for overcoming job search depression in November and December.

Suggestion #1 is that you adjust your thinking. Contrary to misguided beliefs, the end of the fourth quarter is an excellent time of the year to be aggressive in your networking, job search and interviews. Many decision makers do put off hiring as long as possible but at this time of year they must pull the plug and hire someone before their budget expires. They also prefer to have the new hire signed, sealed, delivered and onboard before January 1, and if the new hire is currently employed by the middle of January.

Also consider this. As the holidays draw near, decision makers are more likely to be in a jovial mood; and you can further contribute to this by being upbeat and offering novel solutions to pressing existing problems. You can help them enjoy the upcoming holiday season knowing that if they hire you their plate will be emptier and they can now concentrate on new and more pressing challenges with your able assistance.

Suggestion #2 is to reevaluate your Job Search Action Plan and your resume and make changes accordingly based on the results they generated up until now.

I find two essential reasons for doing this. One is that to change your resume you must first rethink your accomplishments, and reevaluate what you have to offer and I suggest doing this exercise along with someone else. As you do this you’ll begin to see the problem is not you. You may find it wise to alter your expectations based on the current market, but you will definitely regain some lost confidence by restating your intrinsic value to a new employer.

Also if you are smart you will come up with a new and more charismatic way to present yourself in a new resume. And just like the confidence you gain when you buy and don a new designer outfit (an elegant and coordinated suit, shirt, tie, shoes and briefcase) that fits you to a tee and exudes an image that says WINNER!!!, you will get the same emotional lift and reinvigorate your job search with a stylish new professional marketing portfolio.

Suggestion #3 is Network, Network and Network some more.

An inordinate number of people I come in contact with are uncomfortable networking with people from their past because they think they’ll be perceived as being insincere and self-serving. I consider this foolish, but it is understandable.

What’s great is that even if you have not spoken with someone who can help you since the beginning of last year, or even for one two or ten years, this time of year is nostalgic; and getting a shout out from an old friend or business acquaintance will be looked at as a sincere effort. So reach out and extend best wishes and catch up on old times with everyone you know since you began your career.

If you show a genuine interest in the other person, and begin the conversation by sincerely inquiring as to how their life has progressed since you last spoke, and ask them if there is anything you can do to help their career, such as a linked-in recommendation or an introduction to someone in your network who can further their career or social life, you will be able to ask them to help you without feeling guilty and get a positive response. And who knows, you may discover that you should both now keep in touch with each other on a regular rather than an occasional basis.

Take these suggestions seriously and you will improve your chances of 2015 being a year to remember.

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The Advantages of Managing Yourself

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The business environment is challenging, with demands placed on you each and every day, presenting themselves in myriad forms. Whether it’s negotiating with clients, trying to meet hectic deadlines, managing the work-life balance, or handling conflict with colleagues, there will always be something that will test your patience and your resolve. Most importantly, though, there will always be opportunity for growth – professionally and personally. However, in order for this growth to transpire out of these challenges, a change of your inner narrative is required.

Tips on managing yourself (and growing yourself)

Identify your role in creating or contributing towards the ‘problem’

What can you do to improve the situation, or how can you approach it the next time it occurs to ensure a better outcome?

Don’t resist development opportunities

If there is one thing that human beings fear, it’s change. We seem to have an aversion to anything that pulls us out of our comfort zone. However, for self-growth, an ability to adapt to, and welcome, change is absolutely vital. So, when it comes to a new way of doing things, whether it be new business processes or a change in team structure, focus on the positives. Think about the ways that the situation can benefit you, and uncover the ways that you can contribute to your own self growth by welcoming a shift in perspective.

Self-awareness is critical

This can be achieved by encouraging feedback from colleagues/managers so that you can gauge how others view you in the professional environment. Combining this with an accurate assessment of yourself is key to developing self-awareness. Being conscious of your own self biases and striving for more objectivity towards how you view yourself are fundamental aspects in paving the way to true self-awareness and fundamentally, growth.

Put yourself to the test

Whether you are a professional who is happily employed, are looking to branch out, or have just started the job search, making use of self-management tools is key to ensuring your career growth and success. Online job search engines like Zigo open up a portal of impressive job opportunities, where you can find a position in an industry that inspires you, and where you can identify the environment that will facilitate and encourage your development and ultimately, contribute to the set of mental skills required for you to be at the top of your game, in everything you do.

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Best Career Plan So That You Don’t Quit

Best Career Plan so that you don’t quit

American specialists are stressed about their job prospects, and they are ready to stop if necessary. 

This is in line with the findings of a study by the American Psychological Association Center for Organizational Excellence in October 2017, which found that nearly 50% of US specialists are stressed about the development of their careers. Without support for improving the profession, not half of them are spurred to do their best work. 

“Preparing for professional qualifications is a shared commitment among pioneers and agents,” said David Ballard, Ph.D., the senior officer of the APA Center for Organizational Excellence. “If you need a powerful work environment and if you have to assert yourself as a business, you need to do that.” 

If you are not, chances are your representatives will escape. An overview by Gallup in 2015 showed that 93% of Americans progressed in their occupations by working in another organization. Only 7% accepted new open doors within their existing associations. As they left the lobby, they broke with institutional learning and a blow to the lifestyle of their former managers and the safety of the workers. 

But whether it’s procurement, plans to improve spending, or reasonable progress, in essence, many organizations have engaged in their efforts to create Best Career Plans. The APA study found that 61% of workers say their boss offers open door improvements for occupations and sensitive skills they will need later. In general, 50% of respondents say they do not have adequate time for career advancement exercises. Your supervisor does not give any progression activities appropriate to the progress. 

However, there is no need for a formal program to give representatives the opportunity to give free rein to their skills and advance their careers. Business pioneers can coordinate advances in regular exercises to improve representation performance and maintenance while fully exploiting their capabilities. Here is the secret to Best Career Plan so that you don’t quit. 

Start with your goals 

The first phase, creating a functional work progress design, is to get answers to the professional goals of the representative and align them with the needs of your association, says Julie Winkler Giuliani, Project Leader of Help Them Grow or Watch Them Go. These discussions should revolve around three areas, she says: 

  1. Review: The experience of the employee and what they have accomplished in their occupations up to that point. “This is the pattern data you need if you keep an eye on the ultimate goal of having a progress discussion with everyone,” she says. 
  1. Perspective: This includes looking for the needs of the association externally and forward, as well as inquiries on Best Career Plan such as: where is our industry going? What happens in the master plan of the world? 

3rd insight: At this point, you examine where the first two discussions converge. Where do the skills and interests of the worker match the organization and the industry? Where does it make sense to center improvement efforts to ensure that the two are adjusted? This is where the best fulfillment for both will be in the long run, she says. 

Find everyday opportunities 

Their association is likely to have many open doors to a common reason for agents to evolve in their current parts, says Diane Belcher, Senior Chief, Article Management at Harvard Business Publishing in Boston. In her daily work in dealing with her group, she is always looking for learning openings. For example, when she and her group leave a meeting, she asks them what they have realized, how they can be associated with their parts, or how they can apply how to serve customers better. 

Take Career Calisthenics 

Is there someone higher up that you can connect with representatives to work off a tiring job or work as a trainer? Are there any open doors for them to accept new skills from their partner meeting? Are there any open doors for caring for people who are up-to-date with the association? Kaye says that this kind of association across the club maintains data and learning to stream, creating a culture where progress is not only made possible but anticipated. 

Make room for growth 

Of course, while these stretch tasks and extra work can be grand learning openings, it’s essential to ensure that agents do not feel like they’re just doing extra work the instincts associated with progressions, such as new titles, increases, and rewards.

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