Opposing Office Politics

Hi, Anita:

Two groups of my co-workers have been at odds with each other for the past month. There was a disagreement over the way a project was handled and now it feels like the office is a war zone. I have tried my hardest to mind my own business but I can feel everyone involved trying to pull me in their direction. How do I stay out of the game of office politics?

Dear, Caught in the Middle:

Office politics is present in almost every work environment. Whether you are a forklift driver in a warehouse or an assistant in the executive suite, these games have been known to crash even the best office parties.

Office_GossipI have a few tips for you that will help you steer clear of political mumbo jumbo and center your focus on what matters most: your job!

  1. Do not engage in gossip. Avoid involving yourself in rumors and off-work topic discussions. Seriously, do not touch it with a 10-foot pole. All it will do is get you caught up in the games even more. You will be no better than your coworkers who are in the midst of this spat.
  2. Be a great listener. Not all gossip can be avoided, especially when it is shoved right into your lap. To not be rude or disinterested, practice your listening skills. The other person may need to vent about their opponent, but that doesn’t mean you have to give your opinion. Be a sounding board for their feelings and then politely carry on with your day.
  3. Keep your personal life private. Keep your personal information just how it should be: personal. To avoid conflict, do not discuss politics or religion while you are in the office. Your opinions and preferences that do not relate to work are on a need-to-know basis. As for your coworkers, they fall under the “do not need to know” category.
  4. Be positive and complimentary. Like your mother and I will always tell you, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say it at all.” The same rings true in the workplace. You don’t want to start building a reputation of being a Debbie Downer.
  5.  Keep your interactions on an even keel. Be aware of how your interactions with your coworkers, superiors and subordinates are being perceived by others. Unequal treatment will be recognized immediately and could form a breeding ground for even more office politics.
  6.  Stay focused. Nothing can be better for you and your career than staying focused on doing your job well. If you keep your goals and tasks top of mind, you will not only be a more productive employee, but you will set a higher standard for your peers. The troublemakers will begin to see that you do not have time to engage in their quarrels or drama.

Readers, what tactics do you employ to avoid office politics?

Check out this video to see how to best avoid bad office politics:

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Smoking: A Career Killer?

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

My co-workers and I were having a discussion over lunch about whether or not smoking can have an effect on your career potential. As a non-smoker, I think smoking not only affects your health but also how people perceive you as an employee. I would love to hear your thoughts on the topic. Thanks!

SmokingHi, Concerned Co-workers:

In my opinion, smoking can definitely have a negative effect on your career. According to a New York Times article, one in every five Americans smoke on a regular basis and, on average, employees who smoke cost employers $3,391 more a year for health care and lost productivity. If your company has 500 employees, this alone can cost almost $1.7 million a year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that cigarette smoking costs companies more than $193 billion (i.e., $97 billion in lost productivity plus $96 billion in health care expenditures).

Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking at the effects of smoking on your career or business.

  • The smell of cigarette smoke lingers on your clothing. People who do not smoke may be annoyed, repulsed, or dismissive of those who come in to the office smelling of stogies.
  • Smoking breaks can take a huge chunk of time out of the day. On average, it takes 3-5 minutes to smoke a cigarette. If you look at my post Time Theft: Is It Really a Crime? you can see how much in lost profits just two smoke breaks a day can amount to over the course of the year.
  • Smoking comes with its own set of negative connotations. Hiring employers or managers may view this habit as a red flag and think that the person is negligent or lazy.
  • Studies estimate that smokers are two to three times more often absent from work.
  • Smoking2Smoking may be deal breakers in a company’s hiring policy. More companies are adopting policies that stipulate that smokers will not be hired in states where it is legal to do so. If you are a smoker, you could be limiting your opportunities for hire or advancement. The Towers Watson survey found that 4% of companies have adopted such a policy and 2% more are expected to each year. In the same survey, 52% of companies banned smoking on office property, a number that’s expected to increase to 60% next year. Meanwhile, 42% of companies use surcharges for tobacco users at approximately $50/month to cover health care costs.

Smoking is not only bad for your health; it has the potential to kill your career.

See below for a great video on both sides of the issue:

Readers, what are your thoughts on this issue? Should employers be able to ban smoking at the workplace and be allowed to not hire someone because of their habit?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Thank You for the Interview

A reader writes…

Hi, Anita:

I was fortunate enough to land an interview at a manufacturing plant close to where I live. I am very excited about the possible opportunity to gain employment with this company and want to leave them with a lasting impression. What can I do post-interview to continue to spark their interest?

Dear, Eager to Please:

Congratulations on your interview. Getting your foot in the door and meeting face-to-face with the hiring manager is a huge leap toward gaining employment. Now that you have aced the interview, it is time to seal the deal with a little something extra: a great “thank you” note.

Thank you notes are a great way to show how much you value the interviewer’s time and appreciate their interest in you. It also lets them know that you are serious about wanting to be their next stellar employee. In my personal opinion, thank you notes are a requirement after every interview. Follow these simple steps, and take five minutes out of your day to help land the job you desire!Thank you

  • Ask for a business card from the hiring manager before you leave the interview. You should always do this at the end of the interview to make sure you have the correct contact information and address.
  • Select a professional stationery or card on which to write your “thank you” message. Avoid unprofessional imagery or loudly designed cards. Some hiring managers may prefer email communication. In this instance, it may be appropriate to send an email. If you are unsure on which method is best, do both. Send an email and mail a hand-written letter.
  • Address the interviewer using Mr., Mrs., or Ms. For example, if you are interviewed by John Employer you would write Mr. Employer. It is best to be too formal than too familiar.
  • If you are sending a card, address the envelope and write the card by hand. This makes the card more personal and shows that you took extra time to write it just for them (not mass-produced).
  • Choose a message that resonates with the hiring manager and include some information from your interview. Below are two examples that you can use as a guide.
    • Dear, Mr. Employer: Thank you for taking the time to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity with me on (Date). I believe my previous experience and skill set make me an excellent candidate to join your team, especially since you mentioned that (Issue) was a challenge you wanted to tackle. It was truly a pleasure to meet with you, and I look forward to hearing from you. Best regards,
      (Your Name)
    • Dear, Mr. Employer: Thank you for meeting with me to discuss the (Job Title) opportunity at (Company Name). Your insights and additional information about (Job Responsibilities) were very helpful and helped solidify my belief that I am the perfect candidate for the position. I look forward to hearing from you soon, and thank you again for this opportunity. Sincerely,
      (Your Name)
  • Send the thank you card as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours of the interview. You can either send the card in the mail or hand-deliver it to the reception desk where you interviewed.

To bring these tips together, take a few moments to view this video:

This small acknowledgement will take you very far in the interview process. It will help the hiring manager remember you and serve as a reminder to your professionalism.

Readers: What have you done in the past to make an impression on a potential employer?

Best of luck,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Obamacare and Employees

For the past two weeks, I have written about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare, and how it affects large and small businesses. (Click here to view last week’s post.) I have also heard from several employees who are concerned about how this legislation will impact their lives. In truth, the law already has been in effect for over 3 years, but January 1, 2014 marks a new milestone in the way businesses and their employees are impacted. American workers are wondering if the cost of their health care premiums and coverage will go up as a result of this game-changing legislation.

Doctor_PatientWill your paycheck be affected?

Funding for all of the new expenses resulting from the ACA has to come from somewhere. Instead of increasing the deficit to fund the program, President Obama has introduced 21 new taxes; it’s estimated those taxes will negatively impact the incomes of only 2% of Americans, whereas 98% won’t see any change in their take-home pay. Click here for a full list of Affordable Care Act tax provisions.

However, on average, employers are expected to see a 6.5% rise in their rates from insurance companies, and that could create additional premiums for their employees. Obamacare forces insurance providers to offer coverage to all Americans, even those with pre-existing conditions, and those insurance companies may pass that increased expense onto employers. According to Mercer’s 2012 National Survey of Employer-Sponsored Health Plans, 58% of employers plan to pass a portion of their increases to their employees. It is at your employer’s discretion whether they will pass along that burden in some form or fashion; however, the Obama administration anticipates that benefits from the ACA will offset any reduction of income employees might see.

Will your coverage change?

The American Action Forum estimates that, under Obamacare, 35 million Americans will lose employer-sponsored health care coverage. Those employees will be forced into government-run exchanges, which the government is working to make affordable. The good news from just last week is that the exchanges may be even more affordable than previously thought. The Washington Post noted that the heavy competition among providers in California and Oregon is driving down costs to lower than what the Congressional Budget Office had anticipated. What plan you choose dictates what coverage you will have, which may or may not be different than what you were receiving previously.

Some Americans and their families will receive a tax break when purchasing their insurance plans through the exchange. The price for plans is capped at no less at 1.5% and no more than 12% of their income for health insurance premiums under the new law. The amount you will pay is determined using a sliding scale.

Health careIf your employer does not offer health insurance and you choose not to get an individual plan, you will be subject to a penalty of $95 or 1% of your income (whichever is greater) for noncompliance in 2014. Readers, you should expect this to rise in 2016 to $625 or 2.5% of income.

How should you prepare?

With all of the new laws, taxes, and regulations, it is important to plan ahead and prepare for the changes that are certain to take place. Your situation is likely to change in one way or another. You should start budgeting for an increase now, and be pleasantly surprised if it doesn’t come. If you have concerns over what will happen to your health care plan at your workplace, now is the time to have a conversation with your benefits administrator or human resources manager.

Readers, what are your employers doing to prepare for Obamacare in 2014? Have you developed a strategy of your own?

Best wishes,

Anita

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

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Be Happy – All Day, Every Day

Hi Anita,

I have started to notice that when I am in a fantastic mood I tend to have a much better day at work and get so much done. My positive attitude even has an effect on the rest of the team. From now on, I want to set a positive and proactive tone throughout my office. How can I send my staff and myself down the happy path from the start of the day to the end?

Happy People

Hello, Happiness Helper,

Thanks for the great question. Nothing makes your day go by faster and better than a good mood. I think it is the number one determining factor of how we act, feel, and present ourselves. Even if we do not verbalize how happy or upset we are during the day, it is easily communicated through our reactions to stress, body language, and overall demeanor. I have seen my share of up and down days during my long life but have come up with a strategy of my own to overcome almost anything in my way.

Every night, I set my morning alarm to go off 15 minutes ahead of schedule. I use this extra time for what I call “positive reinforcement.” It is the time when I can do something positive for myself without any interference. I will usually read some selected positive affirmations, look at the nature outside of my window, or spend some time playing with my cat, Clew-cifer, before any outside nuisance can sour my mood. Choose an activity that takes little effort and gives you something to smile about as the day progresses. Coffee or your favorite breakfast meal can be added in here as well. Doesn’t breakfast in bed sound good to anyone else?

Many people view their commute to and from work as a daunting and unpleasant task. Being behind the wheel, navigating through traffic, and steering clear of worldly hazards sounds stressful. What I have done is switch my mentality on the commuting conundrum. Instead of dreading it, I look at the drive as 30 minutes of ME time! I put on my favorite mix tape (created by yours truly) and get myself excited for the day ahead.  It is where I only focus on myself and the things I look forward to accomplishing today.

When you get to the office, be sure to get your work day started with a big smile. Smiling is contagious and will spread like wildfire. Even if you don’t feel happy or in a great mood, research has shown that even fake smiles have a positive effect on how you feel. When someone asks “How are you doing this morning?” or “How is your day treating you?” Happy!respond with something positive. I try to stick with responses like “I am great! How about yourself?” or “Today is going great so far!” Be sure to add in that smile! Refrain from telling others all about your troubles or how awful you feel. I’ll bet that 9 times out of 10, a positive response is better received.

Most employers allow their staff two 10-minute breaks throughout the day on top of a lunch break. Get your blood moving and the endorphins pumping by taking a short walk outside. This is and has been a great stress reliever for me for some time now. I find that I am much more productive and more alert, which contributes to my overall sense of happiness and well-being. It gives your brain a break and lets you refocus your energy on the positive.

As the closing bell rings, be sure to leave your work at the office. The evening hours are there for you to partake in non-work activities and do something you enjoy. If that is reading a book on your couch, grabbing dinner with a friend, or catching up on the latest football game, be sure you allow yourself time to indulge in simple pleasures.  Before calling it quits for the day, try your best to remove all negative thoughts from your mind and think of what was positive during the day. What were you able to accomplish? Remember a few things that made you smile. It can be as small as enjoying a candy bar after lunch or seeing an improvement in your productivity. Just end your day on a positive note!

A friend of mine shared this great video that I can’t help but smile at. We should all try to be this happy and cheery in the morning.

What do you do to make your days pleasant and positive? I would love to hear them!

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Warm Wishes,

Anita

Customer Service Tips and Tricks

A reader writes:

Dear Anita,

I am so excited to report that after a long and exhausting job search, I have finally landed a great customer service job through my local temporary agency. Now that I am employed, I want to make sure I have the skills and know-how to perform my job to the best of my ability. What are some pointers you can give me about being successful in customer service?

Hi, Customer Service King!

Congratulations on your new job placement! I always love hearing success stories from my readers. You are proof that you can accomplish whatever you put your mind to.

Now for your question, customer service is a great job to have if you enjoy working with people, are a great problem-solver, and have the ability to diffuse seemingly unpleasant situation. Companies spend millions of dollars a year to provide and improve the service they present to their customers. Client and potential customers base their opinions of an establishment heavily on the service and attention they receive. To be the best that you can be, here are the MUST know actions that I got from my friends at Select Staffing.

These are surefire ways to be top-rated in customer service:

Smile, no matter what! A smile or the bright sound of a representative’s voice can change the entire direction of a call. When working with a customer, try to smile. Even though your customer won’t see it, it will have a positive effect on the messages you are trying to communicate to the caller or customer.

Know your goals. It is important that you are aware of the company’s goals and how you plan to achieve them before starting your day. It will help you better evaluate your position, job performance, and the future expectations of the hiring company.

Become an expert. Have a deep understanding of the products or services you will be representing. Be prepared to discuss competitor offers and products. This will be very useful when you are asked questions by the calling customer.

Be prepared to handle unhappy customers. When faced with an unhappy customer on the other end of the phone or in person, remain positive and respectful during your entire interaction with them. All customers must be handled with dignity and respect at all times. If possible, do your best to calm the customer and cool down the dialogue.

Listen to your customer’s needs or concerns. Allow the customer to fully explain why they are calling before providing a solution or alternative. Even though you may already know the answers, give the customer the opportunity to fully express his or her feelings and opinions before acting.

Remain focused on the job. Keep non-work conversations to a minimum. These can be distracting to other employees and cause a disruption in customer service.Man Taking An Order

Confirm that your call or interaction is complete. Before disconnecting with the customer, be sure to confirm that they have no other questions, comments, and concerns, and ask if there is anything else you can do to assist them.

Always go the extra mile. When working with any customer, always strive to go the extra mile to ensure their satisfaction and happiness. Your customers will greatly appreciate your commitment and dedication to fantastic service.

I hope these guidelines help you in your new employment venture. I know you will be very successful and provide the best experience for your employer and your customers.

Readers, who of you have worked in a customer service position before? What was your experience like? Anyone have a good/bad experience that they are willing to share?

Best Wishes and Luck!

-Anita

Making Time To Exercise

A reader writes:

Hi Anita,

I have sworn to myself that this will be the year that I successfully keep my New Year’s Resolution. For many years, I have tried to eat healthier, make smarter choices, and get more exercise into my daily routine but I seem to fall of the wagon in a matter of weeks. What can I do to make sure I succeed at my goal and become a healthier, better me?

Thanks for the question, Eager to Exercise,Man Stretching at the Office

During the holiday season, many of us see our weight creep up on the scales — to the point that we make Santa Claus himself look like a runway model! One too many of Grandma’s famous cookies or an extra helping of mashed potatoes here and there can really expand the waistline. It is no wonder that the top New Year’s Resolution is to become more physically fit and get healthy, according to a survey conducted by FC Organizational Products in December 2011. With the hustle and bustle of our daily lives, where can you find the time to fit in exercise and smart diet choices? I have a few ideas that will help you be more active, involved in your health, and keep your resolutions all year long – even at work!

  • Avoid the elevators. Take the stairs whenever possible.
  • Park your car at the far end of the lot. Depending on the size of your parking lot or structure, you can make up for the half of a cookie you grabbed walking out the door. Remember, every step counts!
  • If possible, walk or bike to work. You are already leaving time to complete your standard commute. At least double your normal commute time and put your shoes and pedals to the pavement.
  • Find more opportunities to stand while working. Standing will increase blood flow throughout your body and relieve some soreness from muscles. It also takes more effort from your body to stand than it does to sit. Try taking a call with a head set or trade emails and phone calls for a walk over to a co-worker’s desk.
  • Make room for a quickie walk. Utilize your allotted break times or put 20 minutes of your lunch break aside to take a brisk walk around the building, either outside or inside.
  • Swap out your regular office chair for a large fitness ball.
  • Rise and shine. Wake up an hour or so earlier and take a fitness class at a local gym. By the time you get to work, you will be running on the energy you just earned at the gym and you also have freed up a whole hour after work for other activities.
  • Bring your exercise clothes to work with you. Anything you can do to make getting a workout in easier the better. You are also limiting your excuses for not making it to your sweat session.
  • Keep a set of these guys (look left) at your desk.
  • Make a run for it. Bring your lunch to work with you and swing by the gym on your lunch break. Even 25 minutes of exercise will have a positive effect on your day and health. Once you get back to the office, eat at your desk and refuel from your great workout.
  • Join or start a sports team at your work. Gather your co-workers for a game of kickball or basketball after work. Having other people depending on you and holding you accountable for the team will make it harder for you to wimp out at the last minute.
  • Snack the smart way. At all costs, avoid the vending machines at your office. These on -the-go food facilities are full of high sugar, calorie, and salt options with little to no nutritional value. Keep healthy snacks like fresh fruit, unsalted nuts, raw veggies, and yogurt with you or in the office fridge. For tips on how to keep it safe from thieves, check out my post, “Bring Your Own Lunch, Bandit.”

DumbellsI hope these tips help you stay on track with your New Year’s Resolution goals. Remember that it takes time to transition into new habits and ways of life. Make your goals small and achievable. If you have a slip-up or fall off the tracks, don’t give up. Pick yourself back up and start fresh.

What are you trying to achieve in 2013? What advice do you have for others trying to make their goals in the New Year?

For a quick workout while you are at the office, check out the video below!

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Best of Luck,
Anita

Perfecting Public Speaking

A reader writes:

Hello Anita,

I need your advice on something. Ever since I can remember I have been terrified of public speaking. Just the thought of it gets my stomach all stirred up. I have goals and aspirations to be an executive someday but know that I need to overcome my fears to get there. What can I do to make speaking in public less difficult?

Woman RunningDear, Stage Frightened,

Public speaking ranks very high up on the list of people’s biggest fears. According to Live Science’s article “What Really Scares People: Top 10 Phobias,” public speaking and social phobia ranked #4 behind scary spaces, spiders, and snakes.

Being in front of a crowd with all eyes on you can be intimidating and anxiety ridden. I myself have had my fair share of being stage shy. The thought of speaking to a group made me feel like running for my life. I have always been jealous of those lucky individuals that look carefree, unscathed, and darn-right comfortable when they are giving speeches and presentations. Not fair, right? Well, life is not fair and when life gives us lemons, what do we do? Make lemonade.

Before you start even thinking about presenting a topic in public, you have to figure out the key elements. My friend, Bonnie Cox at Power Training Institute, has a great amount of experience in public speaking and has offered her professional advice to us! How lucky are we? Here are Bonnie’s proven tips to become at ease with your presentation skills and make you a pro in no time at all.

  • Try to relax. Your audience is there to see you deliver a great presentation. They are not there to see you fail. Luckily for them, you won’t!
  • Know your topic cold. Practice it until you are comfortable.
  • Remember that everyone has stage fright. Let it work for you, not against you. It can be very energizing!
  • Focus on what your audience wants or needs to hear. It’s not about you.
  • Stay humble. If you are more focused on what you can give to your audience, you’ll be less focused on yourself.
  • Do not draw attention to your hiccups or your nerves. You are probably the only one who notices them.
  • Join Toastmaster or National Speakers Association to hone your skills and perfect your ability to connect with your audience.
  • Know the room that you will be presenting in.
  • Arrive to your presentation at least 15 minutes early.Microphones

And from Anita’s bag of tips and tricks, a final piece of advice to leave you with… As scary as it may sound, the only way you are going to be more comfortable with your public-speaking self to is practice, practice, and practice some more. The more times you present, the less anxious you will be and the better you will become. Baby steps are usually the best way to go about it. It may sound silly, but try practicing your speech out loud in front of the mirror. Once you have nailed it, enlist your friends and family to test your skills out on. It should be a
no-judgment environment, one you are completely comfortable with. Then move on to bigger stages and audiences. You will be a master in no time.

Toastmasters has come out with a great video called Five Basic Public Speaking Tips. Check it out here:

Readers, what do you do before and during a presentation that makes you the star of the show?

Have a question you would like to ask? Visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Pack Like a Professional

A reader writes…

Hi Anita,

I am heading on a business trip next week and need a few pointers on how to make air travel and transportation as carefree and easy as possible. I feel like I am always super stressed out before leaving and I am in need of some help from the expert herself.

Woman TravelingTraveling, whether it is for business or pleasure, can be stressful to prepare for. I find myself running around my house searching everywhere for my missing sock or my go-to purple blouse just to realize that in my fury I had already packed it in my bag. Or on the flip side, you think you are as prepared as you could possibly be and you get to the hotel to find that you left one of your dress shoes on your bed or your cell phone charger still plugged into the wall. Either way, packing and preparing for a trip can be difficult and daunting. I have compiled a short list of items that any prepared professional should have while traveling and still be able to carry it all on the plane.

Before you leave the office, you will want to make what I call a “Traveling Survival Kit.”

  • Nothing makes you look more unprepared and unprofessional than arriving with no business cards. Grab yourself a box to bring with you. It may seem like much more than you need, but you never know when you may meet that once-in-a-lifetime contact.
  • Slip a notepad and several pens into your bag. This will come in handy when you meet someone and need to leave yourself important notes to remember them by. It also opens up the opportunity to help a potential client out of a pinch. Bonus points for you!
  • Breath mints will keep you fresh and stench-free on the plane, after your morning coffee, and after a garlic-rich dinner you have enjoyed. I can’t think of anything more off-putting than bad breath when you first meet a person.
  • Keep yourself clean and healthy with a handy bottle of hand sanitizer. While traveling and networking, you are interacting with a lot of people. Colds and illnesses thrive in these types of environments, and sickness can spread like wildfire. I suggest grabbing a small bottle of sanitizer, under 3.4 fluid ounces to comply with TSA regulations, and applying it at least every 30 minutes. Better safe than sorry.
  • Bring a few disposable name badges or, if you can, find the plastic name tag holders and print a professional tag for yourself. These may come in handy if you arrive at a conference and they forgot to print you one or if on the off-chance you forget yours in a hotel room or lose it at dinner the night before.

Before you leave your house…

  • Double-check that you have your government-issued identification, 2 credit cards, $50 cash, and your itinerary. If you don’t have your ID, I would say you might just forget about the rest of the list. Driver’s licenses and state identification cards work when traveling domestically. Passports are needed when traveling outside of the United States.
  • Depending on the length of your stay, I suggest that you bring clothing for each day plus two additional shirts. I know I have made a few food mistakes through the day and wished I had a shirt to change into. For men, bring at Suitcasesleast one pair of professional pants and a jacket. For women, bring a skirt and jacket combo or dress pants and a professional top. Be sure to pack at the most 2 pairs of shoes, one for professional outings and the other that are more on the comfortable side. Ladies, I know we love our shoes and would bring the whole closet with us if we could, but refrain. Save the space and the weight for other things. Don’t forget your socks!
  • Never forget your cell phone and laptop chargers. For many of us, these are our professional lifelines. Don’t find yourself writing a proposal 15 minutes before it’s due to find you have 5 minutes of battery left and no charger.
  • Visit your local drugstore and make your way to the travel-size aisle. With the TSA regulations, you can buy almost anything in 3.4 fluid ounces or less — tooth brush, tooth paste, shaving cream, cotton swabs, band-aids, deodorant, and mouthwash, to name a few.

I hope this list of items and pointers will help you travel safe, efficiently, and without any last-minute packing emergencies.

Readers, what are you “must have” items for when you travel? Is there an airline you think better caters to business travelers? What about hotel?

Safe Travels,

Anita

Being Body Language Conscious

Virtually nothing can be heard as loud and clear as body language. Even if you keep your lips sealed, unconsciously you are sending hundreds of messages by the way you present yourself, the way you hold your arms, your posture — the list goes on and on. During a job interview or at a networking event, you may have rehearsed your elevator speech and practiced your answers to those grueling questions, but if you are “saying” the wrong things with your body language, you can do significant damage to your professional image. By reading and putting these suggestions into practice, you can be sure you make, rather than break, a deal.

Confident WomanMy number 1 rule to starting out a good conversation or introduction is with a strong handshake. None of this wet noodle stuff. Your handshake should be firm but not inflict pain to the recipient.  Make sure it is long enough so they know you aren’t running for the door but short enough that a nervous sweat doesn’t develop. (Gross.)

When you are standing, keep your head held high, shoulders back, and back straight. This presents the image of confidence and ease in social situations. Slouching will give off the message of low self-confidence or laziness. The latter two attributes do not work well when looking for a job or instilling a positive first impression.

Same advice goes for when you are sitting. Most likely, you will be sitting during a job interview or client meeting, so focus on nailing these points first. When addressing your interviewer or other person in conversation, keep your shoulders square on the person. You want them to know they have your full attention and you are not intimidated by their questions or approach. Men, keep your legs crossed or in front of you. Women, avoid crossing your legs. Instead keep your knees together and put one ankle behind the other for support.

Nodding in acknowledgement is also encouraged but refrain from becoming a life-sized bobble-head doll. The goal is to project understanding and agreement, not to attempt self-inflicted whiplash. Also, try your best to not to touch your face, play with your hair, focus on your hands, or pick at your fingernails (clean them ahead of time) during the conversation either.

Remember to smile! A pleasant expression on your face will send off messages that you are interested and welcoming of the conversation and discussion. It will relax the person you are talking with as well. But be sure it is a natural smile. Plastering a fake smile on your face can read as if you are just trying to be as tolerant as possible.

Hands are also a straight signal to how a person is feeling at the time. Fidgeting can send signals of uneasiness or aggression. If you are one who talks with your hands, be subtle and only use at appropriate times. When in doubt, put your hands by your sides while standing and folded in your lap while sitting.

As the old saying goes, your eyes are a window to your soul. Maintaining eye contact seems to be the hardest thing for Eye Contactpeople to do during an interview. Some feel uncomfortable just from the thought of it. It is important to keep eye contact with the other person who is speaking. This is a surefire way to show you are confident, attentive, and genuinely interested in what they are saying. All are great qualities you look for in an employee or potential business contact.

If you put these tips into your daily routine, they will become second nature. Practice them with your friends and family to get the hang of it, and once you are ready to put them to the test, try them out in the real world… then come here and tell me how they worked for you!

Forbes posted a great video with Christine Jahnke, author of The Well-Spoken Woman, discussing how to make a lasting impression through body language.

And a quote to round out this week’s post, one which I love to think about when entering a room of strangers or going into a job interview, is one by Henry Ford that says: “Whether you think you can or think you can’t – you are right.”

Readers, what do you do to boost your confidence and portray the professional individual you are through body language? What have you noticed in what others do that have had a positive or negative effect on how you view them?

As always if you have a question for me, visit http://anitaclew.com/ask-anita/.

Best Wishes,
Anita

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Disclaimer

Anita Clew's blog posts are intended for general guidance and should never be taken as legal advice. In all instances where harassment, inequity, or unfair treatment is believed to be present, please consult your HR Department or legal representation.
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