What I Learned in My First Year as an Independent Consultant

What I Learned in My First Year as an Independent Consultant

As 2018 comes to a close, I’m also celebrating another milestone: nearly a year of running my own consulting practice. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some amazing clients, all of whom are tirelessly dedicated to disrupting the status quo in their respective industries. I’ve also had the chance to partner with other top-notch independent marketing, content and design professionals.

My Dreamforce Presentation: ABM for SMB Businesses

dreamforce (1).jpg

This past November, I had the opportunity to speak twice on a topic that's taken the B2B world by storm: Account-based Marketing or ABM. While ABM has been relatively easy for larger enterprises to adopt, it can be overwhelming for growing businesses to transition from traditional demand generation. In the presentation I gave twice at Salesforce's annual conference, Dreamforce, I offer practical tips for SMB companies to test/pilot ABM so they can make smart use of time and financial resources. 

Why Women Should Demand Professional Development

Professional development is a buzzword we hear often and lots of companies say they provide it. But there’s a major difference between one-size-fits-all training and the meaningful development that helps women grow—and advocates for their success.

According to an in-depth survey by Catalyst (2008), a group of “high potential” women who graduated from top MBA programs worldwide were still paid $4,600 less in their first post-MBA jobs, occupied lower-level management positions, and had significantly less career satisfaction than their male counterparts with the same education. That was still the case when industry, prior work experience, aspirations, and children were factored in.

So what was the issue? Why did these women struggle to attain career equality, even when all things are equal?  

In analyzing the results, Harvard Business School indicated that one key differentiator between high performing women and men is the type of on-the-job development they received. 

While men get institutional support and highly relevant guidance that help them get to the next level, women can get caught in a cycle of training for training’s sake.

Whereas male employees tended to experience more of a “sponsored” role, where higher-ups identified growth opportunities on their behalf and then connected them with senior-level people who could both train them and facilitate their promotions, females received more traditional “mentorship” advice, meaning supervisors typically advised them on common workplace issues. 

The impact of this difference in treatment? While men get institutional support and highly relevant guidance that help them get to the next level, women can get caught in a cycle of training for training’s sake. And it only makes matters worse when companies implement broad-scale professional development programs that help them check the box on a list of benefits that “millennials want.” 

With this type of impersonal approach, it’s no wonder employees forget  after large corporate training initiatives—and no surprise that women are getting left behind. 

To truly reap the benefits of professional development offered by your company, you should take matters into your own hands, with the help of this simple 3-step approach. 

1. START BY IDENTIFYING WHAT’S NEXT FOR YOU

One of the biggest lessons from the Catalyst survey is that for men, professional development never takes place in a vacuum. In fact, their training and mentorship opportunities are specifically designed to help them reach the next level. So, before requesting any additional training from your company, it’s crucial that you clearly understand what you’re hoping to achieve. 

Ultimately, it’s about answering this question: 

If there were nothing standing in my way, what would I want to do next in this company? 

The best place to start is by developing your career plan for the coming year. Ideally, you’d do this in partnership with your supervisor or HR department, but don’t wait for them to take the lead. Figure out what role you’d want next and define it by using the S.M.A.R.T. (Smart, Measurable, Accountable, Realistic and Timely) method. 

Of course, this doesn’t mean that you can’t take advantage of broader professional development opportunities your company offers—whether seminars or lunch-and-learns—but to truly get ahead, it is crucial for you to think about development through the lens of what’s most relevant for you. 

2. REQUEST ACCESS TO PEOPLE, NOT JUST COURSES

Another key takeaway from the Catalyst survey is that professional development should involve actual interaction with relevant higher-ups, and not just computer- or seminar-based learning. In fact, men are getting ahead because their professional development involves interfacing with more senior employees who can specifically train them for growth opportunities—and advocate for their advancement. 

So, as you are building out a request for your company to provide you professional development, think beyond “book learning” and instead research, identify and detail employees across the organization who can help you achieve your specific career goals—by skills training, advocacy with hiring managers, or both. 

3. FOCUS ON CLOSING SKILL OR EXPERIENCE GAPS

Once you’ve identified both your career goals and the list of influential people within your organization, make sure you focus your professional development on closing the gaps between you and the skills or experiences you need to advance to the next level. 

Think about each of your skillsets as a numerical scale—you need to be at a 9 or 10 to get that promotion or raise, and professional development is a focused way to get you to the right number. In this sense, it’s not a one-time activity, but an ongoing process. 

In fact, in order to be successful at this approach, you will need to be flexible and dynamic, as you never know when an opportunity for development might arise. One day it might be getting a chance to mock present a big pitch to a senior executive who is considered the expert in client relations, and the next, it might be getting introduced to the hiring manager of another department, who has input on a role you’re trying to get. 

At the end of the day, you need to remember that the goal of professional development is not learning in the abstract. It’s to equip you with the skills and experiences that will help you grow within your organization—and beyond. It’s not the only solution for closing the pervasive pay gap, or the loss of women’s career ambition, but it’s an important part. 

Do you have any experience redefining professional development for maximum personal growth? What are your strategies for getting your employer’s support? Comment below.


Article originally published on Career Contessa.

5 Surefire Ways to Get Promoted

career-contessa-promotion-techniques.jpeg

A LOT HAS BEEN WRITTEN ABOUT HOW TO ASK FOR A RAISE. BUT WHAT'S THE BEST WAY TO LAND A PROMOTION? HERE ARE SOME KEY WAYS TO MOVE UP THE LADDER.  

You already know how important it is to set clear salary expectations with your employer, and to ask for a formal raise without fear. Given that unequal pay is still a major issue across industries, part of being an empowered professional woman is proactively protecting your financial integrity.

But an increased salary isn’t the only measure of growth. In fact, to be as marketable as possible to future employers, you should be able to demonstrate a history of consistent promotion to higher titles with increased responsibility, including management (whether of people, profits, or both). This was a lesson I learned early on in my career from an inspirational mentor, and in the course of ten years, I have moved from an entry-level marketing coordinator at a small media company to a director at a major New York agency.

Are you also seeking upward mobility? Try these 5 techniques to ensure that you will have the confidence—and the credentials—to get the promotion you’re looking for.

1. NEVER ASSUME YOUR WORK IS SELLING ITSELF   

It’s no surprise that professional women sometimes hesitate to self-promote. In fact, with institutionalized bias, our careers can actually cause us to become demotivated and shy away from actively marketing our worth. Sometimes, we even mistakenly assume that others will notice (and reward) our hard work without prompting.

The problem with this? Without speaking about what we’ve achieved and accomplished to help our companies grow, our contributions aren’t visible. And without visibility, we can miss key opportunities to have others acknowledge all we have to offer (one of the keys to being promoted based your current role).  

After all, even if we assume the best from the leaders of our organizations, we have to remember that they are busy people, being pulled in countless directions. In that kind of noise, you have to stand out—and that means you have to speak up. Don't be afraid to tout your abilities, particularly when you have gone above and beyond the requirements and expectations of your role.

2. KEEP TRACK OF ALL OF YOUR ACCOMPLISHMENTS  

When we do something that has a positive impact on our coworkers or our company, we tend to assume that we'll remember to mention that achievement “when the time comes.” But how many times have you sat down to write a self-assessment or detail reasons why you deserve recognition only to find yourself struggling to create a comprehensive list?

In order to be consistently promoted, you need to be proactive about documenting what you achieve, when and how it happened, and why it mattered. Here are some ways you can do that:

  • Start a “job well done” journal (electronic or paper)
  • Save any complimentary emails from your coworkers, boss, or clients in a "bragging" folder in your email account
  • Create fake LinkedIn-style recommendations that you think a colleague or supervisor might write about you after you did something exceptional at work
  • Insist on an ongoing review process that isn’t just annual so you can not only get feedback in real time, but have a regular opportunity to provide your supervisor with documentation of your success

3. MENTOR & EMPOWER JUNIOR STAFF

A lot of younger professionals make the mistake of focusing too much on “managing up” (supporting more senior colleagues and/or supervisors). While this is an important part of demonstrating your accountability, it’s actually only one way to prove you deserve a promotion. Remember that your supervisor is looking for evidence that you will not only be able to handle management responsibilities but that you have also mastered the requirements of your role.

To really prove you're fit for a new role, it’s crucial that you pay attention to the needs of colleagues who are more junior than you, whether that’s taking a few extra minutes to walk them through a complex task or asking them if they’d like training on an aspect of your job. Be careful not to use this as an excuse to delegate work, though—after all, a true manager wants to help others grow, which means being willing to handle any and all tasks, no matter how glamorous. 

4. BE READY TO TAKE ON VACATED ROLES

We are all familiar with the concept of “wearing many hats.” In fact, as millennials who joined the workforce in a recession, doing several jobs or playing multiple roles was how we got our professional start. While this was bad news for work-life balance, it did give us the chance to learn a lot very quickly, and even take on roles that were historically reserved for more experienced colleagues.

As the economy has improved, though, companies are back to hiring people into clearly defined roles and keeping positions filled. But when someone above you leaves for another company or position, you're left with a great opportunity. Her exit creates a gap, and it's one you should be prepared to fill. Even though HR can bring on a new person, they save time and money by promoting internally, giving the role to someone who’s already trained for it.

Without stepping on the toes of your supervisor or other senior colleagues, observe them closely, offer lots of support, and embrace training opportunities. That way, when they move on, you can make a strong case that you are fully prepared to fill their shoes.

5. ALWAYS BELIEVE YOU DESERVE IT

While it may sound cheesy or cliché, a confident attitude is crucial to convincing management that you can live up to the increased expectations of a promotion. This doesn’t mean you can’t have doubts; in fact, the anxious anticipation of what the “next level” will bring is a normal response to professional change.

But be on the lookout for “imposter syndrome,” an overwhelming fear that you are somehow faking your success (and therefore don’t deserve it). It affects women quite frequently, and is an unfair way of keeping yourself from the success you deserve. Plus, it signals to external audiences (like your supervisors or human resources) that you have doubts, which can be easily misinterpreted for you not being a good fit.

Work hard on trusting yourself. It’s really ok to “fake it until you make it.” Eventually, your beliefs will catch up with your actions.

* * *

What is your experience with promotions and title changes? Do you have any suggestions for how to approach “the ask” with confidence?


Article originally published on Career Contessa.

8 Ways To Know You Work at a Really Great Company

career-contessa-make-5K-this-year.jpeg

WE SPEND A LARGE PERCENTAGE OF OUR WAKING HOURS AT WORK, SO WE NATURALLY WANT TO KNOW THAT WE'RE INVESTING OUR TIME IN A WORTHWHILE COMPANY. BUT HOW DO WE DETERMINE WHAT DEFINES “WORTHWHILE”? 

Much has been said about what our generation wants from an employer. Some arguments are rooted in stereotypes (“all millennials want lots of perks!” or “this generation just wants to move up quickly”), while other research-based reports tend to prove it’s really all about great company culture. 

But when we talk about a rewarding, meaningful workplace, what do we really mean? How do we account for what different companies, in different industries, with different priorities, can realistically provide their employees? 

A lot of it comes down to an organization that fosters growth, opportunity, and reward for everyone within its four walls. Here are eights ways to determine if your company measures up:  

1. REWARDS, FEEDBACK, AND PRAISE AREN’T JUST ANNUAL EVENTS   

The vast majority of companies have some sort of annual review process, where employees can set and/or be reviewed against team goals or other criteria. The problem with this status quo? Employees end up in the dark about how they're actually performing for most of the year, meaning they don’t get constructive feedback or praise at the pace of today’s workplace.

Companies that foster great work find everyday ways to reward and motivate employees. Here are some signs that your current or potential company fits the bill: 

  • “Kudos” systems where employees are encouraged to praise co-workers for a job well done or excellent collaboration 
  • Weekly check-ins between management and direct reports that use a “Stop, Start, Continue” framework to provide ongoing feedback 
  • Small, unexpected rewards for meeting individual or group goals 

2. LEADERSHIP IS TRANSPARENT—AND ACCOUNTABLE  

With all of the social, economic and political crises in recent years, people are starting to expect those in charge to be more human. That means your boss should be able to make (and admit) mistakes. 

We want the leaders of our organizations to not only share their vision for growth with us, but also to course correct when things don’t go as planned. In great companies, transparency and accountability are contagious—because the higher-ups embrace them, so does everyone else. 

3. ALL EMPLOYEES HAVE A CLEAR GROWTH PATH  

Whether you’ve been in the workforce for less than a year or a decade, you've heard coworkers complain that they don’t know “what’s next” for them within a company.

To retain and grow talent, it’s crucial for employers to clearly outline what the next steps will be for great performers, whether that’s taking on additional responsibility or a formal promotion. In addition, individual departments should maintain an org chart, as well as current job descriptions for every role.

4. IT’S ALL ABOUT QUALITY, NOT QUANTITY 

Great companies know that productivity isn’t just about how much you work—it’s about the strength and value of the work you do produce. We can begin to resent our jobs if the focus is on sheer volume, especially if there’s no clear objective. 

It’s important that management at all levels of the company creates an environment where employees don’t feel pressure to put in unnecessary “face time” or do busy work. This includes expecting people to stay late every day, even when the day’s tasks are complete. Look for a company that values work-life balance and time off as an essential part of keeping its team inspired and productive. 

5. HIRING GREAT TALENT IS AN ONGOING EFFORT    

We’ve all been in a situation where a coworker quits or gets promoted, and suddenly there is a position to be filled (and extra work for everyone involved). 

To avoid this kind of “all hands on deck” situation, company management and/or HR should continually maintain a pipeline of qualified talent in different disciplines and departments. In fact, some experts even suggest a continual stream of interviewing regardless of openings to ensure that the company is ready to bring great people onboard as soon as the need arises. 

6. IT’S NOT ALL ABOUT “GROUP THINK”    

Some of the world’s most admired companies, from Zappos to Google, have an uncanny ability to inspire employees to represent and embody their brand. 

However, it’s important that leadership doesn’t conflate genuine excitement for being part of a company with the expectation that everyone thinks the same way or speaks the same language. All too often, company culture becomes “group think,” where a shared way of looking at things actually ends up discouraging creativity or discovering new ways of looking at problems. 

Innovation is key. The best organizations are the ones that set clear expectations about the company’s mission and values, but leave plenty of room for ideas and opinions that don’t immediately fit with “the way things are done.” 

7. THERE ARE OPPORTUNITIES FOR EDUCATION AND TRAINING    

A recent Accenture study reported that while 75% of recent graduates expect to receive formal training on the job, less than 50% actually do. While not all companies can financially support sending employees to pricey seminars or conferences, great organizations understand that training comes in many forms, including: 

  • Lunch and learns where guest speakers, clients or employees share best practices 
  • Access to online training portals such as Lynda or General Assembly 
  • Weekly email digests of news, industry trends or creative inspiration 

8. MANAGEMENT RESPECTS AND VALUES DIVERSITY  

Stellar companies know that different perspectives and ideas are not only welcome, but make the work, and environment, better. In fact, when employees bring their unique backgrounds, skills, and experiences to work, it is easier to solve complex problems and to move the business forward. 

But it’s not as easy as just talking about diversity—the most rewarding companies make an authentic, tangible commitment to it. This includes a holistic approach to hiring that looks beyond keywords to identify unique talent, and creating an equal work environment for women at all career levels. 

* * *

What other qualities do great companies share? Do you have any ideas for making your workplace even better? 


Article originally published on Career Contessa.

8 Investments You Should Make in Yourself Before You're 30

career-contessa-investments-in-yourself-before-30.jpeg

Your 20s are exciting, but your 30s are your chance to come into your own. Take advantage of these tips for maximizing your potential in a new decade.

While your 20s are a time for personal and professional exploration, it’s also important to set yourself up for future success. One key area to focus on is your finances, and there are definitely some milestones you should aim to meet before you hit 30. 

But while it’s very important to invest in your financial future, you should also make a point of investing in yourself. After all, you are your most valuable asset. Try these 8 you-first suggestions to ensure that you will be ready to take advantage of all the opportunities your 30s will bring.

1. FIGURE OUT YOUR PERSONAL BRAND

As a professional woman, you already know how important your employer’s or client’s brand is. But what about understanding and articulating what makes you unique? 

Knowing who you are, and how you want others to perceive you, is not only a good idea for your professional growth, but it’s also crucial to navigating hard decisions. When you can define yourself, it will be easier to listen to your gut—and trust your instincts.

So, while you are still in your 20s, spend some time honing your personal brand. Here are some simple steps to get started:

  • List out your emotional (e.g. “fun” or “thoughtful”) and practical (e.g. “organized” or “athletic”) personality features and then pick one from each set that’s the truest
  • Determine a word that encapsulates your primary role within work or your broader life (e.g., organizer, communicator, or builder)
  • Combine all three words into one clear statement—you could be anything from “authentic, disciplined researcher” to “creative and savvy relationship builder”

2. GET FINANCIALLY LITERATE

When it comes to your money, knowledge is power. While it can be tempting to wait until your 30s to get smart about your personal finances, it’s best to get started now. While there are all sorts of checklists of items you “need” to have—from 401Ks to stock portfolios—without financial literacy, you may not be fully prepared, or confident, to make smart use of them. 

The good news? There are a growing number of free, unbiased online resources. We especially like Broke Millennial and the free downloadable e-guide with Clever Girl Finance.

3. KNOW HOW TO GET TO YOUR HAPPY PLACE, STAT 

Life will never stop being stressful. In fact, as you take on additional responsibilities in your 30s, busy will be a way of life. That’s all the more reason why you should figure out the one simple thing that always makes you happy and commit it to memory.

Maybe it’s the one meal that always reminds you of home. Or maybe it’s the movie you’ve seen 10 times but still always find hilarious. You can also experiment with different types of stress relief—meditation, walks, or yoga—until you find the option that works best for you.

4. LEARN ANOTHER LANGUAGE 

A lot of 20-year-olds feel that they missed the boat by not learning a foreign or second language when they were young. After all, common wisdom dictates that children’s brains are more absorbent.

But research now shows that adults can absolutely learn a new language as long as they have a method that works for their more developed brains. And, in an increasingly globalized culture, being fluent in another language is a highly marketable skill.  

So, enroll in a language course designed for adult learning. (We are big fans of Duolingo and LiveMocha). It’s definitely not too late! 

5. GET A GREAT CAREER BAG

Whether you work in a corporate environment or freelance, having a stylish and comfortable career bag is an investment that’s absolutely worth making.

Not sure where to look for a great carry-all? Check out this list of laptop bags that don’t sacrifice style

6. FIND, AND KEEP, 1-2 CLOSE FRIENDS

One of the best parts of your 20s is how many different friends you meet. From co-workers to activity partners in a new city, you end up making memories with countless other people.

But as you head towards the second decade of adulthood, you may find that people come and go easily. After all, everyone else is figuring out where they want to end up, too.

Ask yourself who you will want in your life 5-10 years from now, and invest in growing and maintaining those friendships. Your future self will thank you for keeping those people around!

7. FIND YOUR TIMELESS STYLE   

Your 20s are an awesome time to experiment with the latest beauty or fashion styles, and our culture definitely gives you license to do that when you’re young.

But it’s also a good idea to figure out, and invest in, a look that always makes you feel your best, no matter which trends come and go. 
 

  • An eyebrow shaping that highlights your unique face shape
  • A haircut that looks good no matter what mood your hair is in
  • A pair of jeans or a dress that you can rock year after year

8. GET PROFESSIONAL ADVICE ON YOUR CAREER   

You may already know a woman that you admire and whose brain you wish you could pick. Why not ask her if she will consider being a professional mentor to you?

If you're interested in connecting with a woman in your field but don't know anyone personally, you can also try Career Contessa's Hire a Mentor platform where you will get structured opportunities to interact with professional women who have been through similar challenges.

Tell us, have you begun planning for your 30s? Are you excited to embrace these lifestyle changes?


Article originally published on Career Contessa.

Office Etiquette: What Do I Do When a Coworker (or Boss) Takes Credit for My Idea?

career-contessa-office-etiquette-coworker-takes-credit-my-idea.jpeg

IN TODAY’S FAST-PACED WORKPLACE, THE LINE BETWEEN COLLABORATION AND PLAGIARISM CAN BLUR. HOW DO YOU ENSURE THAT YOU GET ACKNOWLEDGED FOR YOUR WORK?

The professional culture of today places a lot of emphasis on teamwork, and that’s generally a really good thing. After all, great ideas can come from anywhere! But what happens when someone you work with takes credit for your thoughts?

WHEN IT’S YOUR COWORKER 

First and foremost, remember that this behavior isn’t always intentional or malicious. Creativity is contagious, and sometimes people don’t even realize they’re taking undue credit. 

That said, when it’s your hard work that yielded a great idea, you have every right to stake your ownership. Start by clearly documenting the incident. Then approach your coworker and firmly but politely let them know that you noticed it happened, and want to ensure there isn’t any confusion about where the idea came from. 

Most often, they’ll appreciate your honesty and take steps to correct their mistake. 

WHEN IT’S YOUR BOSS 

Sometimes your manager or department head is the one taking credit for your work. This could be overt (say, presenting the idea to leadership with a statement like “I was thinking we could do this”) or subtle.  

Either way, though, it’s important to remember that good leaders credit their employees for hard work in order to encourage and foster individual growth, as well as innovation across the organization. 

If you have a manager who consistently takes credit for your work, it’s a good idea for you to take a few key steps to curb the problem. First, be sure to specifically document the times this has happened. Then, have a conversation with them to explain your point of view. State calmly and clearly that you are concerned that your idea has not been credited to your name within the organization. 

More than likely, your boss wasn’t aware of this behavior and will appreciate your honesty. However, if they have an aggressive or unpleasant reaction, you may consider speaking to someone in senior management or HR about the pattern of behavior. 

KEEP IT FROM HAPPENING AGAIN

While you can never completely prevent coworkers and bosses from taking credit for your work, there are a few simple steps you can take to minimize it in the future.

  • Discuss and document expectations for roles and responsibilities before starting a project. 
  • When appropriate, share your ideas with a larger team (not just to one individual). 
  • Ask for the opportunity to present your work, so that you retain control of how it’s shared.

Article originally published on Career Contessa.

Transform Your Career In Less Time Than An Episode Of Game Of Thrones

episode-24-1024.jpeg

A LOT CAN HAPPEN IN AN HOUR. BELOVED CHARACTERS MAY FALL IN LOVE, RUN UP AGAINST AN UNEXPECTED PLOT TWIST, OR MEET A GRISLY END. IT ALSO HAPPENS TO BE ENOUGH TIME FOR YOU TO SHIFT THE DIRECTION OF YOUR CAREER.

No busy woman should ever feel badly about escaping from the frenzy with a little TV time—Career Contessa has even suggested a few such guilt-free pleasures.  

But what if you could make meaningful progress towards your professional goals in the time it takes to enjoy one episode of your favorite TV drama?

It might sound like fiction, but research shows that 52 minutes (just under the average length of a Game of Thrones episode) is the optimal amount of time to work continuously on a project. In fact, the top 10% of high-performing employees spend almost exactly that amount of time on a specific task or objective before they opt to take a break.

Here are four things that you can tackle in 52 minutes that will add real value to your career. Next time you’re thinking about turning on the DVR, make time for one of these first. Don’t worry, you can still reward yourself with an episode (or two) afterward.

DRESS UP YOUR LINKEDIN PROFILE 

Not on LinkedIn? You’re missing out on a tried-and-true networking opportunity to market yourself and make priceless connections with other professionals. Hear Career Contessa’s own Samantha Tollin explain why this online tool is so useful then spend an hour setting one up. 

While you may have your basic LinkedIn profile in place, there are a lot of ways that you can elevate the quality and appeal.

Already have a LinkedIn profile? Excellent. But while you may have your basic profile in place, there are a lot of ways that you can elevate its quality and appeal. In fact, LinkedIn rewards people with more robust profiles with an “all star” designation. The benefit of this virtual gold star? You will appear in search results more often and get more views from prospective employers or clients.

What’s LinkedIn looking for, anyway? While the formula is not exact, here are some tips to help get you on your way:

  • Add a professional and industry-appropriate headshot. If you work in a legal profession, your headshot may be more traditional, but for those in tech industries a more informal/environmental look works well.
  • Ensure that your current position is updated with a description that is specific to your role.
  • Add full information for at least two past positions.
  • Complete your education section.
  • If you have fewer than 50 connections, request to connect with past colleagues, classmates or clients.
  • Add certifications, areas of expertise and competencies to the Skills section.

DO A PERSONAL AUDIT

We see it so often in the news—aspiring and established professionals having faced severe consequences (including termination or rescinded job offers) for their behavior online. We're not trying to scare you, but consider this a helpful reminder that how you behave on social media and other websites can dramatically impact your professional goals.

Take an hour to do a thorough check of your online presence. This should include:

  • Checking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn to ensure that your privacy settings are up-to-date. These sites change their privacy policies and settings often, so it’s important to check this periodically.
  • Confirming that all of your publicly visible profile pictures are appropriate and professional. You may even consider using a similar headshot for all sites.
  • Googling yourself. If you find content that you control, take steps to remove it or modify its privacy settings. If you find content that you don’t control (i.e. tagged photos), contact the content’s owner (usually the site’s webmaster) to politely ask for its removal.
  • Reviewing (or re-reviewing) your company or school’s internet use and social networking policies, so you are up-to-date on their expectations.

While checking your work isn't always fun, managing your online reputation is a crucial element of your professional success. Exercising control over it demonstrates maturity and competence.

ENROLL IN A COURSE OR SEMINAR

There's a famous quote that goes: learning only stops when you’re dead. A bit morbid, perhaps, but it's a truism when it comes to your career. Adding some supplemental training to your resume benefits you on a couple levels. First, it increases your confidence as you become more competent in a specific area, and second, it makes you an even more attractive employee or candidate.

If you're able to work with your employer to include job-related learning as part of your benefits package, you should definitely take a little time to research conferences that fit your career objectives. Many trade organizations (like the American Advertising Federation or the National Restaurant Association) will list industry-specific events on their websites. Looking for something more general? There are quite a few emerging conferences that will inspire you—and empower you to take on new challenges.

Don’t have the financial means or time to attend a larger-scale conference? Here are some low-cost and free options to get your juices flowing:

  • Lynda.com – offers thousands of video tutorials for as low as $19.99/month.
  • Toastmasters – a tried-and-true organization with very low annual membership fees that helps individuals improve their public speaking and presentation skills.
  • U.S. Small Business Administration offers free online courses in key topics.

MAKE A NEW CONNECTION

While the previous three tasks involved individual improvement, as women, we know that interpersonal, human connections can make the difference between a job and a career. Take the time to reach out to someone in your network who you’ve never really gotten to know or use LinkedIn to locate a new contact.

Keep in mind that not every connection you make needs to be in service of your immediate objectives. While it’s crucial that you proactively seek professional references and connections to job opportunities, it’s also important that you help other women in your circle. Lending that support will spread confidence and strength, in turn empowering the broader community.

While it’s crucial that you proactively seek professional references and connections to job opportunities, it’s also important that you help other women in your circle. 

If you’re not sure how to get started, here are a few ideas to inspire you:

  • Reach out to a past intern or junior employee and offer to write a letter of recommendation.
  • Chat with a former colleague who you know is job hunting and ask if you can help connect them to an opportunity.
  • Offer to have coffee with an employee of a local non-profit.
  • Locate a recent graduate from your college or high school and send them a nice note of support.

What are your secrets to transforming your career in under an hour?

* * *

Photo courtesy HBO


Article originally published on Career Contessa.

Didn't Get the Salary You Were Hoping For? Here's How to Learn From the Experience

Career-Contessa-salary-learn-experience.jpeg

THE FINAL ANSWER DOESN'T HAVE TO BE "NO!" LEARN HOW TO RECOVER FROM AN UNSUCCESSFUL SALARY NEGOTIATION WITH DIGNITY AND GAIN CONFIDENCE FROM THE EXPERIENCE. 

As women, we are acutely aware of the professional challenges we face. One of these challenges is pay inequity. Of course, some of the salary gap between men and women can be contributed to systemic or institutionalized causes, but research also shows that women are less likely to negotiate salary increases or raises, further deepening the issue. 

The causes of this unwillingness to negotiate are complex, but a lot of it does come down to the stigma surrounding a woman asking for more. In fact, research from Harvard Business Review shows that women who negotiate are often seen as “greedy or demanding.”  

Despite that negative perception, though, there is a growing movement encouraging women across professions and levels of experience to take matters into their own hands. A quick search on Google uncovers numerous articles with pragmatic and actionable tips for salary negotiation, and Career Contessa has a great post detailing how to confidently ask for what you deserve.

But what happens when you do take a stand and a company does not reciprocate with a higher offer or total compensation package? It’s a less-talked-about scenario, but it’s important to discuss and know how to handle. Here are three key tips for navigating that complex situation. 

STEP ONE: DROP THE WORD "FAILED"

It’s easy—and totally understandable—to feel like you somehow dropped the ball if you stand up for yourself in negotiations with an employer and then don’t see what you asked for materialize. Even worse, you may decide that you must not actually be worth that higher pay.

This feeling is even more pronounced if you’re like my friend Rachel, who was assertive in asking for a higher starting pay, had the company stay firm with their initial offer, and then accepted the offer anyway. After deciding to pursue the opportunity despite this “rejection,” Rachel felt like she had compromised her self-worth—and allowed the company to somehow “get away with something." 

However, as hard as it may be, it’s crucial to realize that when you ask for what you want, you have already been successful—simply by asking for recognition for your skills, accomplishments, and experience. Just as in many other areas of life and business, receiving a “no” or “not at this time” is not an indication of failure, but simply that the answering party will not or cannot give you what you deserve.

Despite the answer you may receive, you should hold your head up high knowing that you have done what has been historically difficult for women to do. Asserting your personal value may seem like a small act, especially if it doesn’t result in immediate impact, but over time, that can have a collective impact on the dynamic of your workplace—and the broader professional world.

STEP TWO: LOOK FOR OTHER OPPORTUNITIES TO NEGOTIATE

Many articles on salary negotiation, for women and men, remind job applicants or those seeking raises, that take-home pay isn’t the only bargaining chip. This is an important thing to keep in mind, as other employer-provided benefits—from paid time off, work-from-home time, 401K match, and performance-based bonuses—can also be subject to discussion and re-evaluation with your employer. 

So, if you did attempt to negotiate your initial salary offer from an employer and didn’t secure an initially positive response, remember that you can—and should—recommend substitute concessions outside of pure pay. And, in some cases, those other “perks” or benefits can add up to a total compensation package that is equal to, or more than, the salary increase you would have received.

Or, if you’re like my friend Rachel, who accepted her original offer without requesting additional benefits or concessions, remember that the door for negotiation is not closed once you start a job. You can still sit down with your supervisor after starting, perhaps during the initial 90-day review, and suggest a performance- or time-based plan for incentives. In fact, after a little time at your job, you may actually be in a more advantageous spot to analyze what your department or company needs most, develop relevant milestones, and then convince your boss to tie additional compensation to your meeting those outlined and agreed-upon goals.

And even if you wait until your annual review, you are well within your right to discuss the initial salary negotiation as part of your next year’s compensation package. After all, even if a company is unwilling or unable to raise the starting pay for a new hire, they may be open to and flexible about rewarding and retaining current employees, especially if they are high-performing.

STEP THREE: DO NOT TAKE "NO" AS A PERMANENT ANSWER

It can be difficult to remember that one circumstance that does not turn out as expected does not automatically mean that we shouldn’t try again. In fact, as humans, we have a tendency to see patterns where they don’t exist—sociologists call this the Baader-Meinhof phenomenon.

But, as professional women, we have to look past isolated, individual incidents and continue to negotiate for each subsequent opportunity, whether with the same employer or the next.

In fact, in all of the studies that have been done about how men negotiate, one thing that consistently bubbles to the surface is that men are less likely to take no for an answer. What’s crucial is that this doesn’t necessarily only apply to individual salary negotiations; in fact, it’s a repeated practice of assessing one’s value and asking employers to reciprocate that over the course of a career that creates higher pay overall.

In other words, if we as women can continue to strive for more, even when we face some “no’s” along the way, we are sending a clear message: obstacles may be disappointing, but they won’t set us back, and they won’t keep us from trying again the next time.  


Article originally published on Career Contessa.

First-Time Manager? Here's How to Give a Performance Review that Motivates and Retains

Career-Contessa-first-time-manager-motivate-retain_1.jpeg

ACE YOUR FIRST ROUND OF EMPLOYEE REVIEWS, LEAVING YOUR TEAM FEELING MOTIVATED AND EMPOWERED.

Over the course of my career, I have received many performance reviews. While some have been productive, many have been formulaic and demotivating. Often, I would look forward to affirmation about my achievements and ideas for future improvement, but instead just received a series of “scores” accompanied by little supporting detail or generic comments.

When I became a manager, I made a commitment to giving better annual reviews. I wanted to leave my employees feeling positive—about their contributions, their relationship with their supervisor, and their opportunities for growth. And, most importantly, I wanted to empower them to be active participants in evaluating their own performance.

If you’re also a first-time (or a long-time) manager looking to give reviews that empower and inspire, here are some best practices that you can apply when giving your annual reviews:

DON’T LET IT BE A SURPRISE

In order to make the most of the annual review for you and your employee, it’s crucial that you have consistent communication about their performance throughout the year. That way, their review is not the first time you’ve discussed their goals and performance. 

First, be sure that you are setting—and documenting—clear and measurable expectations on an ongoing basis, based on individual growth objectives, team responsibilities, and company values. And don’t forget to tell them what your own personal goals are—this will give them a sense that you are in it together!

Of course, expectations and goals don’t mean much if they don’t serve as a guiding light for the team throughout the year, so be sure to reference them in your regular meetings with your direct reports, when new tasks or projects are assigned, and when there are ad hoc opportunities for praise or feedback.

This year-long review approach will also ensure you avoid the common pitfall of basing the review around one event that has recently occurred.

GO BEYOND THE RUBRIC

Many companies have formal processes for annual reviews that include mandatory rubrics for the employer and employee to both complete. These appraisal forms often require managers to “score” their employee on a variety of criteria.

In my experience, this way of conducting an evaluation can be limiting, as it prevents mutual discussion and problem-solving. It can also cause employees to feel reduced to numbers or statistics.

If it’s not an option for you to abandon the required rubric, push yourself to supplement the form with other, more personalized feedback. Try a cover sheet that captures the year in review from your perspective or that outlines specific examples to discuss. 

GATHER FEEDBACK FROM OTHERS

Don’t just limit the feedback you provide to your own. If a “360 review” is not part of your company’s process, make it one by soliciting input and thoughts from others within the organization who are very familiar with your employee’s performance.

Be sure to be representative across roles—a good rule of thumb is to include another individual at a supervisory level, a peer from another department, and a peer from the same department. 

Also, be sure to structure the feedback request so that answers are useful and consistent. This is a format that’s worked well for me in the past:

  • What should [employee name] continue to do?
  • What should [employee name] stop doing?
  • What should [employee name] start doing?

MAKE FEEDBACK CONCRETE & HOLISTIC

You wouldn’t present to a board member or client without providing clear examples that support your “ask” or idea, so be sure not to deliver an annual review without providing clear, specific examples.

I once had a boss who said that I could “be more effective in meetings”—with feedback that vague, clear examples of when and how I had been less successful would have been very useful.

It’s also key to balance your feedback by highlighting how certain areas for improvement can also be great strengths. You can do this by trying to understand root causes. When I had an employee who had difficulty seeing the big picture, I reminded her that it was her exceptional organizational skills that sometimes caused her to focus too much on the details.

BE EMPATHETIC & HUMBLE

One of the biggest mistakes you can make in an annual review is to forget that it is a conversation between two human beings. 

When it comes to your employee, remember to be empathetic about the challenges they have faced over the review period. Often, there are external circumstances or business issues that can hinder an employee’s ability to perform at the highest ability, and it will be refreshing for you to proactively address that in the review.

Also, if you share or own any responsibility for any of your employee’s struggles, acknowledge that. They will respect you for your honesty and humility.

PREPARE FOR THE MEETING

You need to treat each annual review like any other important meeting and set aside some prep time. If you throw things together last minute, you’ll end up having a much less productive discussion. Plus, obviously rushed answers, or even content copied over from a previous review, send a message that that person’s professional growth is unimportant to you.

To make the meeting as useful as possible, I recommend giving yourself enough time—probably a few weeks—to write and rewrite the documentation so that what you provide is polished. It is also important to create an outline of the main topics and points you’d like to address.

MAKE IT A DISCUSSION

Make your employee’s annual review motivating and meaningful by using it as an opportunity to have an open, collaborative dialogue with your direct report.

The best way to do this is to avoid reading through the evaluation documentation line by line, especially since employees will have this to read on their own. Instead, try coming prepared with discussion questions that can drive the conversation forward:

  • What was the hardest thing you faced this year?
  • Which accomplishments are you the most proud of?
  • Which areas would you like to improve in? How will you know if you’re successful? 
  • What keeps you up at night when you think about your job?
  • What can I do better to support or guide you?

By shifting the agency to your employee, you are giving them the chance to have ownership over the process and leave the review with a clear understanding of next steps.

FOLLOW THROUGH

The best reviews I’ve had didn’t end when we both left the room. Instead, after the meeting, my supervisors would follow up, summarize the discussion, and immediately provide a few ideas or next steps for incorporating the feedback into my day-to-day role.

Whether it’s before, during or after the review, there is a lot you can do to proactively set your employee up for success! And, in turn, ensure the successful growth of your team.

***

Photos Joanne Pio


Article originally published on Career Contessa.