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.

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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%.

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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!

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Your Resume Only Has 5 Seconds To Make an Impression. Here’s What you Should Do.

resumeAuthor: Jack Kelly
Source: Forbes

I’d like to offer you some counterintuitive advice: don’t spend too much time worrying or stressing out over your résumé. Yes, I know everyone else tells you to spend an inordinate amount of time writing, rewriting, correcting, asking people to proofread it and offer their comments and advice to absolutely seek out a professional résumé writer. They’re all wrong and misleading you. I’ll make this part of your job search really easy.

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A Cover Letter Written from the Perspective of a Dog!

doggoAuthor: Alyse Kalish
Source: The Muse

We talk about including personality in your cover letter all the time—and the benefits of doing so. It makes you stand out against hundreds of qualified candidates. It shows you’re a good fit for the company. It proves you’re more than just a list of accomplishments on a piece of paper.

But, to be honest, it’s tough to know what that looks like in action.

So when I came across the following cover letter by Sarah Levy—written from the perspective of her dog, Cooper—that led her to become the Communications Manager at The Farmer’s Dog, I knew I had to share it.

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5 Traits to Develop for Success

successAuthor: Heather Huhman
Source: Workology

Intelligence is no longer the main predictor of success. While IQ still carries a lot of weight, personality traits play a much bigger role.

According to a 2016 research paper from the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, grades and achievement tests capture personality traits that are generally more predictive than IQ for several important life outcomes, like income and self-reported life satisfaction.

Personality is also considered by employers. They use behavioral assessments and personality tests to prioritize candidates and predict if their behavior is a good fit.

Even college admissions professionals are looking at a candidate’s personality. In fact, KudosWall conducted a survey of 500 academic admissions professionals between November 13 and November 28, 2017. The research found that 86 percent say an applicant’s personality and character skills assessments play a big role in the admissions process.

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The Best Career Advice from Top Professionals

ladderAuthor: Kate Antoniades
Source: Corporette

We recently contacted several top career coaches (many recommended by Corporette® readers!) to ask them to share their best career advice for professional women in BigLaw, BigFour, and other Big jobs. They shared their thoughts on growing your network and building your reputation, communicating with colleagues and making your expectations clear, keeping an open mind regarding your future career path, and deciding whether or not it’s time to leave a job. Readers, have you ever used a career coach? What’s your best career advice to share with young lawyers, accountants, or other professionals?

Psst: we’ve talked about how to find career coaches before, as well as offered other tips on how to succeed in your career.

Here’s what they shared with Corporette® readers as far as their best career advice:

 Elizabeth H. Munnell, J.D.EHMunnell: 

Some baseline advice for young women starting practice in large law firms: Do not listen to anyone who, in your first few years as a lawyer, warns against spending otherwise billable hours building your network and reputation in the community. Time spent developing a broad and coherent business network, and learning the basics of client development and business generation, is a direct investment in your future and a path to a self-sustaining practice. That it may be non-billable is irrelevant.

Your friends and classmates in the business community are already on message — and they are already ahead. MBAs receive sophisticated training in network building and business generation, and are not at all embarrassed, nor prohibitively intimidated, by the task. Keep in mind, also, that many of the men with whom you are competing start out with broader networks, and a better shot (yes — because they are men) of attracting the partner sponsors essential to advancement.

Rachael Bosch, Managing Director, Fringe Professional Development: 

My biggest piece of advice is to avoid the expectation void! Try your best not to make assumptions about other people and be as clear as possible with your own expectations. That may mean outlining your plans for a big vacation within your first year when you start or clearly outlining what behaviors you want to see from folks you manage. We live in a culture where the common reaction to tough conversations is “it’s just not worth it to say anything,” [and] my advice is that the price is too high to not clearly articulate your expectations. After all, if you set expectations that people don’t achieve, that’s on them. But, if you never set the expectation in the first place, that’s on you!

Kate Neville, President & Executive Coach, Neville Consulting Services: 

Before [leaving your employer], it can be worth the effort to think about how you might improve your daily experience within the organization. In conducting that cost-benefit analysis for any position, it’s important to:

1. Recognize that any job is going to have its pros and cons
2. Understand that the grass often looks greener from the other side
3. Prioritize what factors are most important to you
4. Make a distinction between what you can control and what you can’t
5. Identify which trade-offs you’re willing to accept, and
6. Develop strategies to effectively exert influence in areas that work to your advantage.

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