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Archive for the ‘strategies’ Category

I can safely say that public speaking is pretty far down on my list of favorite activities and definitely out of my comfort zone. For me, it’s been a matter of just getting through it and trying not to look foolish. In most (not all) cases, I’ve been successful given this low bar I set for myself. Even so, I’ve usually experienced to some degree the common physical symptoms of shaky voice, racing heart and cotton mouth.

But about seven years ago I had a breakthrough which seemed to be a turning point. I delivered one of the eulogies at my sister’s funeral, one of the most important speeches I would ever make, and in front of many people. But the nerves never kicked in. The words came out in a presenter_094calm, articulate and expressive manner. What accounted for this unexpected state of calm?  No idea. Can’t explain it. All I can say is that since then, whenever I have had to do any public speaking, there’s anxiety, but it sort of stays in the background without adversely affecting the task at hand. About a week ago, I co-presented a scholarship award in my sister’s honor with much of the same positive results: good eye contact, inflection in voice, steady and calm delivery, and recited from memory to boot (bonus!)

Interesting story, hopefully. Practical information, not so much. So here are some concrete ways to make our public speaking experiences more effective:

1. Be sure to move your eyes around the room and maintain consistent eye contact to keep people engaged.

2. Depending on the topic, telling a story whenever possible (vs. just reciting facts) is another way to draw in the audience.

3. Don’t forget to breathe (in through the nose, out through the mouth). Doing some quick breathing exercises just before speaking can make a big difference.

4. Keep in mind that many people have short attention spans, and some suffer from A.D.D., or may be incapable of sustaining eye contact . If your audience appears uninterested, it very well may have nothing to do with you or your topic.

5. Try to speak with inflection and don’t forget to smile or even inject humor if appropriate. This will help maintain interest from the audience, even those with short attention spans!

Different things work for different people. For example, I’ve heard that groups such as Toastmasters have been of help to some. What is probably universally true, however, is that good preparation is key. And if you can practice in front of others, even better!

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A few weeks ago, I presented my new webinar called “The Introvert’s Guide to Career Happiness & Productivity.” I was pretty sure it would generate interest, but it was still a little surprising to see just how many people attended.  The webinar discussed some of the challenges introverts face in the workplace, as well as strategies to make it a more positive experience.

One of these challenges deals with being talked over or drowned out by extroverts in a group meeting. Been there. I also tend to lose in “face-offs” with extroverts when we both begin speaking at the same time, allowing my colleague to have the floor. This challenge actually played out in my own job just a few days ago. We were having a small-group meeting to debrief on a recent work event and offer ideas on how to improve it for next year. Despite having several ideas to contribute, I found myself in the old familiar pattern of starting to talk, only to be talked over by one of my extroverted co-workers. I then fell into my usual stance that I would just remain quiet for the rest of the meeting. My colleagues are all lovely people, but I figured, what’s the point?

fishoutofwaterAs discussed in the webinar, introverts like to observe, take in information, maybe make some notes, think through a few ideas alone, and then present them to the group. This can often yield the same, or even better results in terms of viable ideas and solutions. But in this particular meeting, I knew that if I wanted to contribute ideas, it had to be right then and there. I also knew that saying nothing can be perceived as being a non-contributor. So I quickly changed my mindset and decided to keep trying, keep speaking up to get my ideas voiced. And by the end of the meeting, I did manage to get a couple thoughts out there to the group, which were well received, and I considered it a personal victory.

Introverts often have to walk a fine line. On the one hand, it’s important to stay true to who we are, recognize our strengths, and avoid putting on an extroverted facade just to fit in. On the other hand, it’s important to sometimes come out of our comfort zones despite feeling like a fish out of water, to see how far we can stretch ourselves! On this particular day, it paid off for me. But on any day, it’s a good strategy to follow for anyone!

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Many of us approach job interviews with trepidation and anxiety, and understandably so. But there are strategic things we can do to minimize the stress and help keep the interview a positive experience . Here are some of my top tips:

1. Less is more when it comes to caffeine. A little caffeine before an interview can help us stay alert, but too much will just add to any jitters we may already have.

2. Eat a pre-interview meal that helps increase brain power and lower stress levels. Some of these foods include brown rice, whole grain oats, leafy greens, brazil nuts, walnuts, dark chocolate, flaxseed, eggs, salmon and tuna.

3. Get the blood flowing. If possible, take a brisk walk, do some yoga or other light exercise before your interview. This will cause a release of endorphins and help get you in the right frame of mind. job-interview-tips-300x238

4. Turn an interrogation into a conversation. Interviews should be a 2-way conversation. Interjecting questions periodically throughout the interview can help create a more relaxed environment and equalize an otherwise unequal playing field.

5. Keep in mind that this isn’t the last job on earth. If the interview doesn’t turn out in our favor, it often means that there’s something better waiting for us around the corner.

Of course, one of the most important things we can do is be prepared by researching the organization in advance, thinking through how your qualifications and background would be a good fit for the position, and doing some mock interviewing to get practice time in before the actual interview.

Incorporate these tips into your next interview and chances are that you’ll improve your odds of landing the job!

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Many of us have been there, me included. We accept a job offer based on what we thought the job entailed, but ends up being something very different. And sometimes it may be a case of not fully understanding the responsibilities of the position. So what now? We’re now in a job that has turned out to be something other than what we expected, something we would probably have turned down if we knew what we were getting into.

Job_burnout_success_rocketsIn a case like this, the misunderstanding and resulting fallout rests jointly on the shoulders of both the employee and the employer. It’s the employer’s responsibility to clearly and accurately convey the responsibilities and scope of the job before we accept the position. It’s also our responsibility to ask as many clarifying questions as it takes to completely understand what the job really is. And if something doesn’t feel right about it, then we should trust our gut instincts. Of course, other factors may come into play – like an attractive salary, or a feeling of desperation (i.e.), “I’ll take the job just to get out my current situation.” But being unhappy in a job usually overrides anything else.

So several scenarios are possible here: 1. We didn’t fully understand the job in the first place; 2. The employer didn’t clearly communicate the job; or 3. There was full clarity and understanding in the beginning, but the job has suddenly turned into something else, something we didn’t or wouldn’t have signed up for.

So what now?

1. If the job is really intolerable, then the best thing would probably be to rev up the job search again. Look outside the organization, but also see what opportunities may exist within. (If however, you just started, it may be too early to make a move internally.)

2. If the job is tolerable, and you’re comfortable doing so, talk openly with your supervisor and see if your job description can be adjusted to allow for more of the things you really want to do.  If this isn’t possible, try to give the job more time to see what develops, and what twists and turns it might take. It may just turn in your favor. But in any event, it could never hurt to keep your eyes and ears open for other opportunities.

3. If you have the means to do so, then quitting outright may be a viable option. I see this more as a last resort, but if the job is causing undue stress and having an unhealthy impact on our lives, then sometimes we’re left with no other option than to remove ourselves from that situation and start over.

Clear communication and full understanding are key before accepting any job offer. But again, sometimes even with that, things don’t turn out the way we expect. But also know you have options if confronted with a bad situation. When it happened to me, I thankfully chose to look elsewhere and am now doing something I truly enjoy.

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I read an article the other day with the headline, “How to Overcome Being an Introvert”. Overcome?! This is exactly the kind of attitude that perpetuates misunderstanding and confusion. I don’t see it as something I need, or want to fix. And even if I wanted to, trying to reverse something hard-wired into my brian is most likely impossible anyway.

Hammer and Qubes4no textLet’s face it – we introverts face certain challenges. In Susan Cain’s article, The Rise of the New Groupthink, she discusses how introverts tend to be very creative thinkers, but face a serious challenge in a culture that constantly emphasizes group activity and teamwork in the workplace. She goes on to explain that introverts welcome collaboration, but need sufficient alone-time to gather our thoughts and formulate ideas to then bring to the group for discussion. Cain cites Apple Computer’s Steve Wozniak, an example of a famous introvert, as someone who fits this mold and whose greatest ideas were developed solo. And we all know how well that turned out!

In the end, both introverts and extroverts are capable of bringing value to the workplace, but that it’s critical we understand each other’s work style and accept the fact that one size does not fit all. And this is one time where there is (or ought to be) an “I” in “Team”.

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I thought I’d try some meditation tonight, the first I have in awhile. Since one of the main ideas behind meditation is to quiet the mind, I found this to be a challenging exercise to say the least! As an introvert, my mind is almost always going, always thinking – hard to just turn it off, or even to slow it down.  (I’m sure this is not uncommon, though, regardless of where people fall on the introvert/extrovert spectrum.) Those who meditate on a regular basis will tell you it’s perfectly natural, in the midst of it, for our brains to wander off and start thinking about day-to-day stuff, “to-do” lists, etc  when we’re supposed to be clearing the mind and focusing on just breathing. I found this happening to me tonight, but by the end being able to center myself.

meditationThe key is to be aware of when we go off track like that and to be able to bring ourselves back to a meditative state. It’s sort of a parallel for life if you think about it (no pun intended). It’s not as important the situation we’re in, but more so how we react to it and make the necessary adjustments that help determine success or failure.

And besides being a great mind-clearer, meditation is also a perfect stress-buster. For those interested in starting a mediation practice, search your local area for classes, pick up a dvd (like I did this week) and get started at home, or do a self-guided meditation wherever you are!

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The hectic pace of the holidays is over, and now we have the opportunity to reflect back on the year, the goals we set and the ones we ultimately met. In the past, some of the goals I set no longer were priorities, and crossed them off my list. It’s not a matter of having a lot of goals, but just ones that are meaningful and achievable. One of my goals that I set for myself in 2012 was to do more personal writing, which I started, and plan to keep on my list for 2013. I’m motivated to keep at it when I see the progress I’ve made and the results up to this point. What goals are you committing to for 2013?

holiday 2013Throughout the year, check in with that list to see the progress you’ve made, your level of motivation for continuing with a certain goal, any you want to remove, as well as new ones you want to add. The point is that goals are not set in stone and there’s no shame in letting go of certain ones. If you have an important and meaningful goal but lack the motivation to see it through, then find the support through friends, family, a coach, within yourself. Envision the end result and all the benefits associated with it. Take on a little at a time, not all of it at once. Do whatever works best for you, keep reassessing, and make 2013 a great one!

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