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Whether we’re talking about an individual or a large corporation, branding is important. As an individual, your personal brand is what others see—the qualities (whether good or bad!) and the characteristics that comprise your reputation. As a company, branding is similar. It’s the reputation that people associate with the company when they hear its name or see its logo.

When many people hear the word “brand,” they think of a logo or tagline. They might see the McDonalds arches, the Nike swoosh, or the green and yellow of a John Deere tractor. But there’s more to it than that. Much more.

On an individual level, how you look and what you say make a difference. Of course they do. BUT, your appearance and your words pale in comparison to what you DO. You might be the sharpest dresser in the office, but if you fail to turn in your work on time, you’ll be perceived in a negative light.

Your appearance and your words pale in comparison to what you DO.

Similarly, a company may have a knock-out logo and a great tagline…but those elements mean nothing if they can’t deliver a quality product or service.

So what does make a quality brand? What are some of the factors you can put into place to elevate your personal brand in the eyes of others? (The same guidelines apply to both individuals and businesses!) Consider these four…

1. Put others first

Make other people the center of everything you do. Whether co-workers or clients, consider their needs and how best to serve them. In order to do this, it’s essential to get to know others on a deep level. Listen carefully to any concerns and frustrations, as well as positive experiences. Constantly ask questions and begin to develop an understanding of those with whom you work (be they your customers, team members, or boss).

2. Be authentic

Others can see right through a faux personality. Let your best self shine!

3. Check your ego

As much as you’d like to take credit for the success of an entire project, be sure to give credit where credit is due. Acknowledge the achievements of your team members and be sure to tell them you appreciate their contributions.

Additionally, keep in mind that your ideas are not the only ideas. Build a positive personal brand by being inclusive of others and open to their thoughts and opinions.

4. Be bold with your ideas

Much like a company, individuals are more likely to be successful if they are innovators. If you have a bold new idea, talk about it! Create action. Present your idea to your boss and ask permission to pursue it. This kind of bold, self-starter behavior is what many bosses look for when considering who to promote. Just make sure to present your ideas in a respectful way that opens the door to a discourse…not a “my way or the highway” speech.

5. Focus on the day-to-day

How you act, what you say, and what you do every day can either build or detract from your personal brand. Don’t underestimate the importance of your daily interactions. Your consistent, positive presence is important for building and maintaining your brand.

Make sure your daily actions are, in general, supporting your big-picture goals. If you’d like to, for example, rise to a leadership position, think about how your typical to-do list offers opportunities to achieve that goal. What can you do to put your big-picture goals in the center of your day?

 

As you work on building your personal brand, remember: success doesn’t usually come over night. Focus on small actions and interactions. Everything matters.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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build a good reputation

Your reputation may sound like something that’s out of your control. It’s the way others perceive you, right? It’s the culmination of every interaction, victory, failure, good deed, and (criticism?) harsh word, all rolled into one. How can you contain this many-armed monster and make it your own? Start with these six steps:

1. Pay attention

Although this may seem like a basic concept, it’s an absolutely crucial one. Pay close attention to how you treat others, from your co-workers to your boss to the custodian staff to your barista at Starbucks. Every interaction has the potential to either build-up or tear down your personal brand. Start seeing yourself through the eyes of others and work on a vital little skill called empathy.

2. Be consistent

When you consistently put your best foot forward, you will find that your reputation will fall under your control. If, for example, you show one side of yourself to certain co-workers and another side to others, you’re bound to run into problems somewhere down the line. Be your best, authentic self, no matter if you’re having a conversation with a potential new client, chatting with a co-worker, or posting on social media (yes, that matters too!).

3. Be on time

Whether for meetings, projects, or the start of the work day, BE ON TIME. Punctuality matters and your timeliness can boost your credibility in a big way.

4. Stop making excuses

No one likes an excuse-maker. If you make a mistake or fail to deliver on a project, own up to your error and ask how you can set things right. If you vow to be excuse-free (more on that in a past blog post), you’ll also tend to be a better planner so that you won’t feel the need to make excuses in the first place.

5. Don’t gossip

Nothing kills a good reputation faster than gossip. People will quickly begin to distrust you and may be hesitant to confide in you or entrust you with a team project. And if you find yourself surrounded by gossiping co-workers, do your best to change the subject or simply remove yourself from the conversation. You are above that.

6. Extend small kindnesses

Whenever you see an opportunity for a kind gesture, make it. Say thank you, offer to help, or ask about someone’s day. Make sure your gestures are authentic and heart-felt. You should actually want to help and uplift your co-workers and clients.

 

Are you in control of your reputation? Although credibility takes a long time to build, you can start taking steps immediately to build a healthy, promotion-worthy reputation. Feel free to contact me for more ways to build a stellar reputation.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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magnifying-glass-106803_640

Our society greatly emphasizes perfection, or striving toward perfection, so it’s very common for people to feel that they need to do everything without flaw. This way of thinking is taught to us right away as children when we are told things like:

“Color inside the lines.”

“Don’t wear your pants inside out.”

“Ride your bike in a straight line.”

From there, we go to school where we are not only expected to strive for perfection in academics, but also keep up with our peer group in music, sports, and the latest trends. So much pressure to appear perfect, according to others’ measurements!

Many people rebel against the pressure to be perfect, but some of us never shake it. Not that it’s inherently bad to strive for perfection—it’s just that, you have to know when to let go and let the little things slide.

The true perfectionist thinks in all-or-nothings. If something they do doesn’t live up to perfect standards (which translates to impossible standards), then they believe they are a failure and their efforts were a complete waste. This becomes a vicious cycle: the perfectionist sets unrealistic goals, fails to achieve them, feels that they failed utterly, and becomes discouraged and less confident in their ability to succeed in future endeavors.

Even when a perfectionist does great work, they have trouble seeing it as success, because their work will always appear subpar alongside the unrealistic expectations they set for themselves.

In fact, perfectionism hinders productivity as a result of this mental cycle. Those who set realistic goals are better able to perform because their goals are strategic, manageable, incremental. On the flip side, perfectionists are often so overwhelmed with their need to get everything perfect that they have trouble getting started. Perfectionist paralysis.

A few ways to get past this paralysis are to:

  1. Break down your task into bite-size chunks. Even breaking it up into one component per day works well. If you make a list to coincide with your breakdown, you’ll also have the pleasure of being able to check off accomplishments as you go.
  2. Give yourself some space from your work. This helps you keep the task in perspective. It is only a task, whatever it may be, however important, and you are not the task. Your value as a person is not tied to how well you perform.
  3. Provide ample time to nitpick. If you know that you fuss over the details, break your work into two general categories: the “just getting it done and not thinking” work, and the “going back over and obsessively getting it right” work. This way, you’ll be able to move forward without worrying about how perfect it is, since you know you’ll have time to get it great after it’s all thrown together.
  4. Know when to let it go. At some point, you’re going to need to stop your task and turn it in if it’s an assignment, deliver it if it’s a speech or presentation, or finish it in whichever other way you finish it. It will never be perfect, since nothing is perfect. You must learn to let go and trust you’ve done your best.

If perfectionist traits apply to you, remember: you simply cannot be good at everything. Some people will always be better-suited for particular skills than you. And this is okay! This is okay because your value is not determined by doing things perfectly, and if you tend to think this way, you’ll only continue to disappoint yourself. This is also okay because once you accept your weaknesses, you’ll be able to know your limits, set more reasonable goals, and hone in on the areas in which you thrive.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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depression-get unstuck from life's ruts

When you’re in a rut–be it in a job, in between jobs, or just in general–becoming “unstuck” can be very difficult. While in this position, you may feel trapped, unmotivated or defeated. You may be tempted to settle. Don’t!

We all get in ruts, at times feeling trapped by our circumstances, and that is okay. However, the worst thing to do in this situation is to remain engaged in whatever it is that is making you feel unsatisfied. Something needs to change and change requires action. Today, I’ll give you five tried and true ways to free yourself from the funk so you can get back to living a rewarding life.

Get out of the comfort zone! 

Often the real cause of feeling stuck comes from the very habits we’ve created to be more comfortable. Our comfort zone feels good, but also has the potential to keep us from experiencing life. When we see too much of the same thing day after day, it’s easy to fall into the doldrums. Do something new! Try painting or photography or learn video editing. Attend a networking event or retreat. Work through your reservations and put yourself out there. In doing so, you’ll prove to yourself that you’re adaptable and resilient to setbacks. And, who knows, maybe you’ll find a talent or passion you were not even aware of.

Exercise, exercise, exercise 

We often forget that the brain is part of the body, and the body was made to move. Research continues to confirm that the brain performs better, and the body feels better, when we exercise.1 Whether it’s yoga, jogging, taking a walk or lifting weights, daily physical activity will motivate you to get out of the funk by stimulating your brain.

Travel somewhere new

Like exercise, travel stimulates the brain as well (probably due to the fact that we humans were nomadic creatures not too long ago). It’s in our nature to crave a change of scenery. It doesn’t need to be an expensive, extravagant trip. It can be something as simple as a weekend trek to a neighboring state, a train ride across the country, or a camping adventure with the family.

Make a point to be kind to those around you 

This obvious step is easily ignored when we get trapped in ruts. We become so wrapped up in ourselves, we forget to reach out and engage with others. Taking time at work, at home, and with friends to connect and share is one of the best ways to enrich your life. Kindness is reciprocal, after all.

Try reading for pleasure (every day!) 

Reading for pleasure forces your brain to create entire worlds out of thin air, and books offer differing perspectives on life that you may have never considered. What’s more, reading gives you time to recover from life’s little struggles and have a moment to yourself. It also works as a great sleeping aid if you get into the habit of reading right before bed.

These suggestions promote positive change, but the key to each of these is your attitude. You must eliminate the words “wish, hope, maybe, and should” from your vocabulary and replace them with “can, will, and do.” In most cases, feeling stuck is temporary and common.* You have the power to get yourself out of it. Trust that you will!

1 “The Human Brain,” The Franklin Institute, accessed October 22, 2012, http://www.fi.edu/learn/brain/exercise.html

2 “Staying on Top of Your Game,” Psychology Foundation of Canada, accessed October 22, 2012, http://www.psychologyfoundation.org/pdf/TopOfYourGame/3.pdf

*It should be noted that a “rut” is much different than dealing with depression or other mental disorders that cause a permanent “low” feeling. When in doubt, consult a physician.

 

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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business-lunch-meeting-1238188_640

When organized and executed well, the power lunch can be a perfect mixture of work, play, and hunger-quenching. To improve your power lunch performance, read the easy list of business lunch basics below.

The Basic Rules of the Business Lunch

  1. Place the Focus on Lunch: Consider calling it something besides a “power lunch” to avoid making your lunch partner feel like they’re about to endure another interview or staff meeting.
  2. Don’t Be Late: If you’re the host, show up early to double-check your reservation and make sure that your table is appropriate.
  3. Select the Perfect Restaurant: Choose somewhere convenient for your lunch partner and, preferably, somewhere with which you’re already familiar. Aim for a restaurant that’s not noisy or overcrowded. Inquiring about your lunch partner’s dietary preferences or limitations is also a great move.
  4. Don’t Jump Straight into Business: Let your lunch guest be the first to breech work subjects. This keeps things comfortable and sincere.
  5. Know Who Pays: Simply put, if you’ve made the reservation, you should pay. Consider leaving card information with your server ahead of time to avoid snafus or confusion.
  6. Show Some Respect: Show wait staff (including your hostess, server, food runner, manager, etc.) the utmost respect. How you treat these people says leagues about how you do business.
  7. Avoid Online Reservations: Always make and confirm your reservation over the phone or in person to ensure that your table doesn’t fall through the cracks. Make any requests concerning your seating preferences during this conversation.

Do you have questions about developing your career, business, or landing the job of your dreams? Would your career benefit from informed advice about finding more customers and building a network that gives back? Contact UXL Today to transform the future of your business or career through guided professional coaching.

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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give-a-better-champagne-toast

We’ve all been there. Someone stands up or leans over the table to give a toast and it falls absolutely FLAT. Maybe there are too many inside jokes in the toast, or maybe the speaker crosses the line between funny and just plain raunchy. Or, maybe the speaker forgets their lines, fumbles their words, or loses their concentration. Or the microphone cuts out. Or the speaker mumbles. Or no one laughs at the jokes…

The list goes on and on! It makes you wonder why anyone in their right mind would agree to give a toast.

But, fear not. There are just as many ways to give a good toast as to give a horrendous one! The trick is to put a little thought into the occasion and look at it as an honor instead of a burden.

Because I’m a career and life coach, I often help people to deal with difficult or touchy situations with as much finesse, sensitivity, and effectiveness as possible. Being the “Toast-Giver” at your next special event is a perfect time to make an impression and send a message to a group.

How can you ensure that the toast you give during the summer wedding season (or any other season, for that matter) stays the impressive course and avoids turning into a train wreck? Start with these 7 handy tips:

The Toast-Giver’s Survival Guide

What’s Your Subject?

Every toast should have a subject. This should not be difficult to discern—for what reason have you all gathered today? Whether for a holiday party, wedding, graduation, or birthday, the major message of your toast should reflect the event’s specific occasion.

Practice Makes Perfect

If you’re anticipating being called on to make a speech, prepare one ahead of time and practice. Say your speech out loud (you’ll find that the pacing is much different than when you read to yourself) and practice in front of a mirror or with a friend.

Know Your Audience

Always assess the formality of the group and event. Take a cue from others who made toasts or speeches before you and, when in doubt, always keep your comments as respectful and professional as possible.

Don’t Burn the Toast!

When giving a toast, brevity is always key. Avoid causing waves of rolling eyes by sticking to your main message to avoid rambling.

Be Sober

I don’t think I need to paint a picture for you here—it’s pretty obvious what happens when someone misjudges their level of inebriation and subjects a room to their long, blush-inducing speech. If you hope to make a toast, abstain from the sauce until you’re finished.

Ditch the Inside Jokes

If only one or two people understand a reference you make during your toast, you’re alienating everyone else. If you decide to refer to a certain story or event, be sure you frame it properly so that everyone feels included.

Speak From the Heart

Avoid canned quotes or cliché phrases. Instead, be genuine, focus on the positive, and speak from the heart.

 

Follow these rules and make sure that your toast is remembered for the right reasons!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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5 Minutes to a Better Cover Letter2If you’re on the hunt for a new job, you’re probably well-aware of the importance of a compelling cover letter. It’s how you can stand out from the crowd, how you can demonstrate a slice of your personality that you really can’t convey in your résumé. It’s also a great way to take a deeper dive into some of your past experiences and really highlight your accomplishments.

How do you write a cover letter that gets noticed? Seems like a daunting task, right?

It doesn’t have to be. I’ve laid out several simple pointers below that will guide you through the cover letter writing process and help you create something that is polished and memorable.

Remember: Cover letters are not just a repeat of your resume—viewing them as such will put you at a serious disadvantage.

Cover Letter Basics:

  • Name, address, and date at the top of the letter
  • Cover letter addressed to a specific person if possible. If individual unknown, send letter to the title of recipient (Production Manager, Technical Director, Human Resources, etc.)
  • State your interest in the position
  • Make note of special skills that qualify you for the job
  • Provide contact info and a time you can be reached
  • Thank the contact and close with “Sincerely”
  • Always ask someone else to proofread your letter and resume—don’t miss simple grammatical errors!
  • Sign your letter with either blue or black ink, NO EXCEPTIONS
  • Be concise and to the point (no cutesy statements or overbearing comments)
  • Use the same paper as your resume
  • Avoid using “I” too often or repeating the same words

Beyond the Basics:

  • Focus on two (or, at the max, three) major accomplishments in your career and really dive into them
  • Use concrete facts whenever possible. For example:
    • I saved XYZ Company $3.5 million dollars in their annual budget by…
    • During my time at ABC Inc., I trained over 200 people in…
    • I helped Company X grow by 4% through my….
    • I was the top salesperson at ABC, Inc., selling $$ annually
  • Let your authentic voice come through, but don’t sound too casual. It’s a fine line to ride and you may need a friend to weigh in.
  • Do your homework. Understand the company’s values and what they’re looking for in a new employee and make sure you highlight those parts of your experience.

Interested in learning more about creating an effective cover letter or interested in consulting a professional to ensure that you land that next job opening? Contact Me Today to learn about career coaching and UXL’s public workshops!

MARGARET SMITH IS A CAREER COACH, AUTHOR, INSIGHTS®DISCOVERY LICENSED PRACTITIONER, FOUNDER OF UXL, AND CO-FOUNDER OF THE TAG TEAM. SHE HOSTS WORKSHOPS FOR PEOPLE WHO NEED CAREER OR PERSONAL GUIDANCE. YOU CAN VISIT HER WEBSITE AT WWW.YOUEXCELNOW.COM

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