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Interview Question

Most of us know it’s coming. It’s that question interviewers love to ask, just to keep you on your toes: “What are your greatest weaknesses?”

Are your palms sweating yet? Is your brain spinning in circles, trying to figure out how to answer this question? Or, do you have some kind of canned answer you found from a website?

It’s a tricky question, and infamously difficult to get right. On the one hand, you don’t want to reveal anything too terrible that will potentially cost you your interview. Then again, you don’t want to be dishonest or gloss over the answer with something like, “People say I work too much and am too dedicated to the company!”

No interviewer is going to be impressed with an answer like that. It’s disingenuous and doesn’t tell them anything about you, except that you’re good at studying stock answers for interview questions. So how to approach this question?

First of all, be aware that sharing your challenges and flaws—the very things that make you human—can actually help you come off as a more authentic, relatable candidate.

Joe Grimm of the Poynter Institute, an organization dedicated to integrity in journalism, suggests that interviewees faced with this question should always be honest and avoid mentioning character flaws because these are traits that are difficult to change. Instead, mention areas where you’re determined to improve. Consider saying something like, “I’m not as adept with Excel as I’d like to be, but I’m currently improving my skills through internet tutorials.”

Be sure to never talk about strengths as weaknesses. Your “over-commitment” to work is just another way of saying, “I’m a dedicated employee” and interviewers can see right through your wordplay.

Remember: Don’t overthink your response to the point that you panic and don’t have one. As Washington Post journalist Lily Whiteman reminds us, “the worst responses are ‘I don’t know’ and the comical ‘I have no weaknesses.’”

You should also try to cater your response to the position and organization to which you are applying. Anticipate the motivation and interests of the interviewer when selecting your response and personal story. For example, if you are applying for a position as a financial adviser, you might talk about one of the specific areas in which you lack experience—say estate planning for people with over $1 Million in assets. And then (as mentioned earlier), demonstrate how you will familiarize yourself or how you are already working to improve in this area.

Keep in mind, this question mainly exists because it reveals whether you, the applicant, possess key qualities such as self-awareness, authenticity, sincerity, adaptability, and foresightedness.  Reveal that yes, you have weaknesses, but you will not let them stop you from doing the best job you can do for their organization.

Happy interviewing! Please contact UXL today to find out how we can help you 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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Earning thanks

In past posts, I’ve written about how to live in gratitude and express your thankfulness to others. Gratitude can make an enormous difference in your outlook on life, your motivation, and even your health…but what if others are not returning the favor? What if you feel that your co-workers, boss, or family members are constantly failing to recognize your contributions?

That lack of appreciation can get downright frustrating. It can make you feel unmotivated and uninspired. It can also make you wonder if you really are doing good work, since no one seems to notice.

Although we shouldn’t fuel our days entirely on other people’s thankfulness, it’s good to feel appreciated and valued—a worthwhile contribution to the team. If you’re fed up with your lack of recognition, try these four tips:

1. Know when to say NO

If you’re feeling like others are taking advantage of your generosity, it may be time to draw a firm line in the sand. Know your limits and be brave enough to say no when you’re feeling overworked, or when an assignment does not fall within your area of expertise. Although it can be difficult to do at first, saying no can help establish healthy boundaries and earn you respect (if you’re tactful about it! For more, read 10 Diplomatic Ways to Say NO)

2. Make yourself visible

It’s possible others are not expressing their gratitude to you because they are not aware of the work you are doing. Make an effort to check in regularly with your boss or your work team and give a brief update about your current projects. BUT, be sure to reciprocate and ask others about their projects and progress. Demonstrate that you care about others’ work and they will likely return the favor.

3. Express your feelings

Don’t just keep your frustration to yourself; tell others if you’re feeling underappreciated or ignored. How do you do that without exploding your emotions onto others and causing a rift? Try using the D4 model: Data, Depth of Feeling, Dramatic Interpretation, and Do. First, state the facts of the situation—what happened and why? Then, express how you felt about it and what meaning (interpretation) you give to the situation. Finally, suggest an action plan.

The D4 model could play out like this: “Susan, I put in ten extra hours last week to assist with your project and I’m frustrated that you didn’t acknowledge my help. I believe this is part of a larger problem in the office: we do not appreciate each other’s contributions. Going forward, I would like to change that by recognizing outstanding team members at meetings or awarding bonus gift cards to employees who put in extra effort. What do you think?”

4. Continue to show gratitude

If you take the time to recognize others’ achievements—whether in a company meeting, a private comment, or a written note—others are likely to reciprocate. You’re contributing to a culture of gratitude and when you lift up others, you’ll be lifted with them.

 

You deserve recognition for your hard work. If you’re frustrated by your office’s lack of appreciation, get cracking on one (or more!) of these four steps. Remember: don’t be accusatory or snide. Approach your situation with a level head and the understanding that most people are not giving you short shrift on purpose—they’re likely so wrapped up in their work and lives that they’ve simply forgotten the power of a simple “thank you.”

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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I’ve been reflecting about my time on the Camino de Santiago. Last week I wrote a post about community on the trail, but this week, I want to focus on something a little different: Steps.

When we go through life, not every step forward is easy. Sometimes, we have to make hard choices, delve into difficult projects, or have tough conversations. Sometimes we’re so tired, brain dead, or feeling so darn defeated that we can’t imagine plunging ahead.

While hiking the trail, I didn’t always feel strong. At times, I was sore, achy, thirsty, or just plain burnt out. But I got up every morning and kept going. I didn’t have a choice. And, you know what? It got easier.

With every step I took throughout the day, my legs loosened up. With every encounter with a fellow hiker, my spirits lifted.

It all started with that first step in the morning—the one that shakes off the cobwebs and starts everything going.

In life, it’s easy to look at the big, scary future and stay rooted to the spot, not daring to move forward. Maybe you’re anticipating looking for a new job, moving to a new city, or starting a brand new relationship (personal or professional). Or maybe it’s as simple as looking at your to-do list and completely shutting down since there’s SO MUCH on that darn list.

In these cases, start with a single step. What’s ONE thing you can do today—right now—that will take you one step closer to your goals? If you’re gearing up for a job search, spend five minutes right now reading over your old resume and taking a few notes. If you’re moving into a new position at work, take a couple minutes to jot down a list of questions you have about your new role. If you’re staring down a gigantic to-do list, pick one easy thing and get it done right NOW.

Any step you take is valuable and, once you start with step one, you might just feel some momentum and continue on. This is how progress is made and journeys are completed: one step at a time.

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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As a career coach, I am well aware of the rigors of the modern workplace. Many businesses are understaffed or have ultra-high expectations for their employees, demanding sixty or eighty-hour work weeks. There’s a lot of rushing around, and forging ahead on projects…even if the plan or objective isn’t crystal clear. And that can cause a lot of trouble in the long run.

If there’s no room for question-asking, a work team could end up missing a crucial deadline, misinterpreting a client’s needs, or taking a project in the completely wrong direction. The team will then have to back-pedal and try to correct their errors, costing the company time and money.

The simple way to prevent such mishaps is by simply asking questions.

Good leaders not only ask questions, but encourage others to ask questions. This creates a culture of openness and candid interactions. Questions also can open up a dialogue about the best course of action, rather than limiting future actions to one set of ideas.

Utilize questions to…

Clarify

When a client or manager is introducing a new initiative or project, be sure to ask questions to make sure you understand everything correctly. If you are the one explaining a new concept to others, be sure to ask if they have any specific questions about the actions and objectives.

Learn more about asking great clarifying questions in my video on clarity.

Put Forth New Ideas

There is usually more than one path to a solution. When you ask questions that challenge the current way of doing things, you open up new ways of thinking and acting. These are the “What if…?” questions. They are the questions that encourage your team to think outside the box and become more innovative and creative.

Challenge

There’s a tactful way to challenge an idea, project, or statement. Use questions to uncover any holes in a plan, and gently offer a solution. A tactful challenging question may sound like this:

“I know your team has extensively tested the product on U.S. audiences, but have you considered our international market?”

OR: “I know we’ve been using the same financial tracking equipment for years, but have we thought about exploring XYZ Equipment?”

Dig Deeper

Use questions to really sink your teeth into a project and learn about the thinking behind it. “Digging questions” help to unearth any potential flaws in a plan and open up a dialogue to explore other possibilities.

These questions might ask, “How did we conclude that this is the best course of action?” or “What are some alternative ways we could market to X?” or “How does the data back this decision?” These kinds of questions will challenge your team to be more reflective and thoughtful about their current course of action (and potential future actions) and how they arrived at certain decisions.

 

Creating an open atmosphere that encourages asking questions can tremendously strengthen an organization. When people feel comfortable enough to ask clarifying questions or explore alternative routes, that opens the floor to increased creativity, candidness, and a sense of collaborative decision-making.

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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It’s important to like what you do, but is it important to love what you do? As in, this is your passion or calling?

While it would be nice if everyone worked in a job that sparked their passion, not everyone is quite so lucky. You might find yourself veering off from your original plan. Or, your interests may change over time and you might begin to rethink what matters to you in a career.

Whatever the case, you can find happiness, whether or not your career is helping to save the world! Try these five tactics:

1. Think about your role from a new perspective.

According to Harvard Business Review, “The four most common occupations in America are retail salesperson, cashier, food preparer/server, and office clerk.” Even though those jobs don’t necessarily sound fulfilling, they absolutely can be. It’s all in your frame of mind. If you think of yourself as serving others, or as a vital component in other peoples’ day, that can throw the job in an entirely new light.

Additionally, if you think of your work as a service to your family—and your lifestyle—that can help you reframe your job’s role in your life. It becomes just one component of a balanced existence.

2. Integrate your passion into your work.

Even if your career isn’t at the center of your passion, you can still integrate the things you love into your work. For instance, if you love to write, see if you can take charge of the company newsletter or typing up correspondence to clients or re-imagining your company’s website copy. Or, if you’re passionate about helping children, offer to spearhead a company competition to raise money to support children in need. Look for little ways to fit in the things you love at work and you just might enjoy heading to the office again!

3. Look for fulfillment outside of work.

Even if your current career isn’t quite in line with your life’s calling, you can still make an effort to pursue your interests outside the workplace. Take community education classes, volunteer, start a side business on Etsy, join a hiking club—whatever you need to keep your passion alive! If you make a true effort to place your interests at the center of your life, you might be surprised by how much time you actually have to pursue them.

4. Consider another career path

Although this is a last resort option, it’s worth mentioning. If things are so bad—if your job is so soul-sucking—that you have difficulty getting out of bed in the morning and getting ready for work, it may be time to consider a major change. It’s a good idea to exhaust your other options before reevaluating your entire career path, but if you’ve tried everything and are still utterly unhappy, that’s probably a sign it’s time for something new. Be sure to consult a career coach before making such a major leap.

 

If you’d like to work with me to create a custom path to career happiness, please feel free to contact me today. Your career is a huge part of your life and, frankly, you desire to be happy.

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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Do anything in 90 days

What are some of your big goals? Do you want to earn a promotion? Write a book? Climb a mountain?

No matter how lofty your dreams, you can accomplish them—or make significant strides—in 90 days. It’s all about your mindset. If you put a certain goal at the center of your priorities, you can achieve great things in just three months.

Speaker and author, David Horsager, calls this your 90-Day Quick Plan.

The idea behind creating a 90-Day Quick Plan is this: accomplish one concrete goal in 90 days, using a step-by-step strategy. Horsager claims that 90 days is the “sweet spot” for achieving your goals. It’s a meaningful amount of time, yet not so long that the goal will slip away from you. So, how do you start making significant changes in 90 days?

The first step is to create a tangible goal (or up to three). Horsager advises against focusing on more than three priorities. Otherwise, you’ll be spreading yourself too thin. Ask yourself, “Where am I right now?” and “Where do I want to be in 90 days?”

Then, ask yourself the most important question of all: “Why do I want to make this change or reach this goal?” If you have a clear why, then you’ll have the motivation to accomplish your goal(s) in 90 days. For instance, why do you want to lose weight and live a healthier lifestyle? Is it so you can be around for your children or grandchildren in 25 years? Is it so you can feel more confident about yourself?

Another example: Why do you want to learn how to create a website? Is it so your business can grow and blossom? Is it because you want to keep your mind fresh and young?

Whatever reason you choose for your “why” is, of course, a personal one and it should be at the very core of your motivation.

After you’ve figured out your goals and why you’d like to achieve them, ask yourself how you are going to get there. Horsager says to be very specific; make a detailed plan and ask yourself how you’re going to stick to it. He advises people to get extremely detailed with their plan by continuously asking themselves, “How, how, how?”

For instance, let’s say you would like to write the first 50 pages of your memoir within the next 90 days. How are you going to do that?

Maybe you’ll decide to write every day. (That’s great, but how?)

You’ll wake up at 5 a.m. every day and write for an hour. (Ok, excellent plan, but how are you going to hold yourself accountable?)

You will let your friends and family in on your plan so that you’ll be held accountable. (Great, now we’re getting somewhere!)

See the importance of how?

Once you have your plan in place (and you have a clear understanding of the why and the how), get started! You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish in 90 days.

Need help formulating your 90 day plan? Contact me for guidance.

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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You wake up…and check your work email. You come home…and keep your phone handy just in case. You get ready for bed…and shoot off a few emails before the clock strikes midnight.

Your constant connection to your work might be more damaging than you think.

Here are 10 ways working after (or before!) normal office hours can harm both your team and YOU:

1. It pressures people to be “always on”

Even if you’re sending a casual email about a thought you had about work, think again before hitting SEND. Your email sends the underlying message that you’re working and others should be too. And that’s not great.

We all need downtime to recharge. It’s important to have designated “away from work” time in which ideas are allowed to naturally percolate. If we don’t have this down time, we begin to feel worn down and turn to auto pilot mode, in which we simply keep busy instead of pausing, evaluating, and allowing for outside-of-the-box thinking. As Ferris Jabr, writer for Scientific American says, “Downtime is an opportunity for the brain to make sense of what it has recently learned, to surface fundamental unresolved tensions in our lives and to swivel its powers of reflection away from the external world toward itself.”

2. It creates unhealthy competition

Just mentioning a late night conversation between yourself and a co-worker is enough to spark unhealthy “who can outwork who?” competition. When there are no limits in place, after-hours work can spiral out of control.

Some companies are beginning to place strict limitations on when colleagues are allowed to contact each other regarding work. Such limitations give employees breathing room in which they can round out their lives with other activities besides work.

3. It prevents you from being present

You can’t enjoy a baseball game, dinner with a friend, or a family game night if you’re constantly checking your work email or waiting for a work-related phone call. The constant presence of work means that you can’t give your full attention to anything else, including yourself. This distractedness is not great for building and maintaining healthy relationships…and it’s also not great for your mental wellbeing.

4. It can lead to quicker burnout

That feeling that you’re always being watched—that you must constantly check in or suffer the consequences (or at least some shaming from your peers)—can quickly wear you down. Today, Americans are working harder than ever for fewer rewards. Hard work has simply become the norm and, according to a study conducted by Quartz and Kronos, burnout is responsible for “up to half of all employee attrition.”

5. It throws off your life balance

Remember those things you used to think were important? Like hanging out with friends, eating a nice meal out, curling up with a book, or practicing a hobby? Well, those things are probably still important to you…they’ve just been shuffled off to the side.

A healthy life is a life with balance. If you’re overworked, you are denied the chance to explore outside interests, build strong relationships, and truly become a part of your community. It’s great to find meaning in your work, but that’s not all there is to life. Find the right blend of family, hobbies, relaxation, and community involvement that works for you.

6. It stifles creativity

Everyone needs a little space and downtime for ideas to surface and creativity to flow. Not to mention, it helps to actually be immersed in the world outside the office to create new life experiences that could, potentially, be linked to your work.

Time away from the office can lend a fresh, new perspective. As Maura Thomas, writer for Harvard Business Review says, “Experiments have shown that to deliver our best at work, we require downtime. Time away produces new ideas and fresh insights. But your employees can never disconnect when they’re always reaching for their devices to see if you’ve emailed. Creativity, inspiration, and motivation are your competitive advantage, but they are also depletable resources that need to be recharged.

 

The next time you are tempted to send out an email after-hours, pause. Think about the potential consequences to both yourself and your work team. It’s time we all start respecting and appreciating our time away from the office.

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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