How to Take Initiative Without Being Stuck Doing It All

initiativeAuthor: Kat Boogaard
Source: The Muse

Remember when you were in high school and you were assigned those obnoxious group projects? Well, I was the girl who you crossed your fingers and hoped would be assigned to your team.

I’d come swooping in with my detailed timeline, my color-coded binder, and my already thorough background research and ensure that you had to do almost no work of your own. I’d rather have total control and do most of the project myself—which meant the rest of my team could sit back and soak in the glory of an easily-earned good grade.

That attitude followed me well into adulthood, and I’d often excuse that tendency as a positive trait. I’m being a team player, I’d think to myself. This just proves that I’m a real go-getter. I’m a “get things done” kind of girl and people appreciate it.

But, it didn’t take me long to realize something: There’s a pencil-thin line between taking initiative and simply being taken advantage of. Your desire to knock things out of the park makes it easy for your colleagues to not pull their own weight.

Are you currently stuck in this situation yourself? Well, my fellow doormat, allow me to elaborate on some hard-won do’s and don’ts that have helped me position myself as someone with initiative—without being a total pushover.

Do Offer Your Help

Your co-worker is stuck on their portion of a project and wants your guidance in getting over that hurdle. They know that you have the expertise to help them get that figured out.

You can absolutely be a team player and offer your advice. There’s no need to turn that person away with a curt, “Do your own job” type of response (unless you’re really aiming to make some new enemies in the office).

But Don’t Just Take Over

Remember, there’s a big difference between helping someone figure out the best way forward and taking charge and just doing the entire thing for them.

It all goes back to the classic “teach a man to fish” proverb. Make sure you show your team member your process, so that they’re empowered to do that on their own in the future.

Would it be faster for you to just handle it yourself? Probably. But, that also means you’re putting yourself in a position to always be the one to have to handle that task.

Do Your Best Work for Your Team

You pride yourself on your top-notch work—and that’s a great thing.

Not wanting to be taken advantage of shouldn’t mean having to lower your own standards and churn out lower-quality results, just so you don’t make yourself look like an easy target to the rest of your group.

But Don’t Repeatedly Cover for Others

While it’s fine (and even encouraged!) to help your colleagues improve upon their own work from time to time, that doesn’t mean you should repeatedly step in to cover for other people’s shortcomings.

If your co-workers are starting to get a little lax about a shared project and are only doing half of what was expected from them or are turning things in late, get your portion done to the very best of your ability—and then resist the urge to charge in and clean up their messes.

When your boss or another department is wondering why a certain piece is missing or totally lackluster? Well, you held up your end of the bargain. It’s up to your team member to explain why his own portion isn’t completed.

READ MORE

Advertisements

How to Highlight Volunteer Experience in an Interview

Multiethnic Group Of VolunteersAuthor: Lauren Graham
Source: Idealist Careers

Volunteering can help to boost your skills and expand your network while you are transitioning between sectors, rejoining the workforce after a career break, or trying to figure out how to utilize a degree. And highlighting your volunteer experience in an interview is a great way to show that you’re committed to a cause and that it’s a priority for you on both a personal and professional level.

Read on to find out how to lift up your volunteer experience the next time you’re interviewing for a social-impact opportunity.

Continue reading

The Power of Yet: Keeping a Growth Mindset

booksAuthor: Stav Ziv
Source: The Muse

Carol Dweck preaches “the power of yet.”

If students don’t pass a test, it’s not because they’re inherently stupid, but because they don’t understand the material well enough—yet. If employees didn’t negotiate the best deal, it doesn’t mean all future deals are doomed. It means they haven’t honed their negotiating skills enough—yet.

Dweck, a psychology professor now at Stanford University, is known for decades of work on “mindsets,” or people’s beliefs about human qualities such as intelligence and talent, both their own and others’. She developed terms you might’ve heard before: the “fixed mindset” and “growth mindset.”

“My research has shown that the view you adopt for yourself profoundly affects the way you lead your life,” Dweck writes in Mindset: The New Psychology of Success, the 2006 book that pulls together years of psychology research for the general reader. “It can determine whether you become the person you want to be and whether you accomplish the things you value.”

Well, that sounds serious. Here’s what you need to know. Well, at least the basics. Continue reading

How to Know if You’re Ready to Be a Manager

managerAuthor: Kat Boogaard
Source: The Muse

You’re interested in stepping up into a management role with your current company, but there’s just one question that keeps nagging at you: Are you ready?

Sure, you’ve produced consistently great results in your existing position and have forged some solid bonds with many of your colleagues. You’re proud of that—but, you’re also unsure of whether or not that truly means you’re cut out for a step up the proverbial ladder.

Fortunately, there are a few other telltale signs you can keep your eye out for that will help you figure out whether or not you’re actually management material.

Continue reading

How to Translate Your Skills from One Industry to Another

resumeAuthor: Kat Boogaard
Source: The Muse

You’ve decided you want to make a career change, and you know that you’re going to need a polished resume to do so.

You sit down to make the updates, and it isn’t long before you feel stuck. The blinking cursor on that blank page has been taunting you for at least a half hour now. You have no idea how to translate your existing experience and skills in a way that will grab the attention of a hiring manager in this entirely new industry.

The job search is always a little intimidating, especially so when you’re aiming to make a switch. But rest assured, you absolutely can transfer your existing expertise and competencies to a brand new field—whether it feels that way or not.

Here’s what you need to know to prove you’re the perfect fit.

1. Identify Your Qualifications

The best place to start is reading the description for the position that you want and asking yourself: What boxes do I already check?

We’re assuming that you aren’t a former software developer applying for a role as a neurosurgeon or an airline pilot. So, even if this career change feels like a bit of a stretch, chances are good that you already possess at least a couple of straightforward qualifications that this role requires.

Pull out the requirements that you meet without a doubt—the ones where there’s no need for you to draw any parallels or offer any explanations for the hiring manager, because you satisfy those qualifications without any questions asked.

Maybe you have those 10 years of leadership experience under your belt. Or, maybe you’re a skilled public speaker as the job description requests. Put those things on your list.

This step is important, as it will arm you with the things that you want to draw the most attention to within your resume. Zoning in on those qualities that make you an obvious fit will help you present yourself as a seamless hire—even with your less traditional experience.

2. Emphasize Results

Employers everywhere—regardless of specific industry—appreciate an employee who’s able to get things done and produce results. That’s universal.

For that reason, it’s smart to highlight the results you achieved in your past positions—rather than simply listing the duties that you were responsible for. Particularly when you’re changing industries, prospective employers will care more about what you actually accomplished, and less about how you specifically did it.

Let’s look at an example for some added clarity. Kate previously worked in administration for a regional hospital, and is now aiming to make a change by applying for a sales position with a healthcare software company. She knows that her experience in the medical field will benefit her. But considering she’s never worked in sales before, she’s nervous about her perceived lack of qualifications.

Here’s a bullet point from Kate’s existing resume:

Responsible for planning, organizing, and executing the annual hospital black tie gala.

To emphasize results, Kate should quantify that point with some numbers while also tying it back to a larger, company-wide objective. In doing so, that bullet point could look like this:

Strengthened the hospital’s relationship with 500+ donors, board members, and other external stakeholders by coordinating and executing the annual black tie gala.

Not only is that second option far more impressive, it also touches on some qualities that would also be important in a sales career—including relationship-building and organization.

3. Connect the Dots

When applying for a role in a different industry, your duty as the job seeker is to make your previous experience appear as relevant as possible. Often, this means that you need to quite literally connect the dots for the hiring manager and bridge the gap between what you possess and what that position requires.

In some cases, this means cutting out things that won’t be applicable in your new industry—such as highly technical skills or specific pieces of software.

Then, challenge yourself to relate your existing experiences to this other field. Let’s look back again at Kate. Based on her research, she knows that meeting quotas are a key part of success in sales. While she didn’t need to meet specific sales goals in her previous role, she does have experience hitting fundraising goals. She could emphasize that in a bullet point like this one:

Consistently achieved the hospital’s yearly fundraising goal of $100,000 through successful relationship building, grant requests, and community events.

This statement proves a few important things about Kate that make her a fit for a sales role: She’s inspired by difficult-to-reach objectives, she recognizes the importance of relationships, and she’s comfortable making requests.

READ MORE

18 Ways to “De-Stress” Your Workplace

destressAuthor: Grace Madlinger
Source: When I Work

April kicks off the start of National Stress Awareness Month. In today’s workforce, more than a third of Americans experience chronic work stress, while only 36% report that they are provided the resources to help them manage their stress at work.

Employee stress isn’t just a personal issue. How your team feels at work can have a big impact on productivity, engagement, and even your bottom line—to the tune of over $300 billion a year in absenteeism and lost productivity for U.S. business owners. In contrast, taking steps to reduce employee stress can bring business up: happy employees are 20% more productive, and employee happiness has been shown to improve sales by 37%.

Continue reading

4 Words That Could Be Holding You Back

talkAuthor: Deborah Swerdlow
Source: Idealist Careers

Communication is one of the most important skills to have in your professional tool belt. Tone, the ability to be concise, and good listening skills are all important, but ultimately, words matter most. That’s why it’s important to recognize how your word choice can help you, and when it’s holding you back.

The words you use convey your experience, expertise, and confidence, all of which can greatly influence how you are treated and perceived at work.

Here are four words that may be holding you back by conveying a lack of confidence (whether you realize it or not). If you regularly use any of these words in your written or verbal communication, we offer suggestions of what to say instead.

Hint: Sometimes, the best option is to drop the word completely!

Continue reading