Wednesday, May 11, 2016

Learning to “Own Your Voice”

In an effort to prepare for a speaking engagement for the upcoming Women in Leadership Symposium, held on May 19th, 2016 in Norfolk, VA at ODU; I wanted to write a blog on my definition of what it means to “Own Your Voice” in the workplace.

I have to admit; I have always had that “loud voice.” You know the type…the one that carries across the room? The voice, that is always the loudest (and perhaps the most annoying) at a party?  I was never one to be able to “talk quietly” as my interpretation of talking softly was defined as talking in a normal tone to others. I was always the loudest kid on the playground and in the classroom, and certainly got scolded for speaking “too loudly” more times than none.  You know that saying, “The loudest one heard, is usually the one that is used as an example for others to learn from.”  Yup, well that was and is still me.

Growing up in Connecticut, my friends would tell me, “bring it down a notch, you are talking to loud!” It was embarrassing to say the least, and each time I attempted to “speak softly” I failed miserably.  When I would go to my mom for comfort, my mom would tell me that my voice was a gift and that one day my voice would be used for something great! As any mom would do, my mom simply wanted to make me feel better for having such a strong voice that tended to take over a room. I am grateful to her, for being an encouragement and not for downplaying my loud voice. When she called it a “gift” I smiled inside.  My mom told me that while some people have a gift for art, others have a gift for being an athlete and even others have a gift in academia.  For me, my voice, is my gift!

 As a young professional starting out in the early 2000’s, I remember one particular instance where I was in front of a few hundred people and my boss was having trouble getting the attention of the crowd. There was no microphone around at the time, so I quickly stepped up to the plate and used my “gift” for speaking loudly. Sure enough within seconds, I had the entire rooms attention. I laughed about it then, thinking to myself “Wow, I am not sure if having a loud voice that projects very well is a good or bad thing.” I was concerned that I may have appeared as trying to be “too powerful” or “trying it intimidate others.” But, as I reflect back on that moment, I was merely just trying to get the task accomplished. My boss needed my help, so I helped. Period.

Later when I got engaged, just weeks before my wedding, I was diagnosed with laryngitis. Here I was about to be warmly accepted into an Italian Family and I lost my voice!? I finally felt like I was in a group where my voice belonged and now I can’t even speak? Leading up to losing my voice, my job at the time required a lot of talking to others and in addition to that, I was also also talking all the time to my family and friends about my upcoming nuptials. I was invigorated and energized for several different reasons. At 25, I found myself receiving my first promotion in less than one year of employment AND recently engaged. In turn, I lost my voice and was instructed to not speak for 3 days from my Doctor. Whoa, 3 whole days? This was pure nonsense, but to my fiancé, it was a “gift.” Seriously, a gift?!?! He explained, that while he loved me, he really needed a break from all the chatter about my recent promotion and our upcoming nuptials. He simply needed a “rest.” Interesting.  Eventually, my husband-to-be, admitted he didn’t like not being able to hear my voice and felt bad for feeling "so relieved" when I told him about my diagnosis of laryngitis. Eventually, my voice came back and life continued on as normal.

As I grew up in leadership roles over the years, I decided that “Owning Your Voice” can be very different depending on the circumstance. Sure, if you need to get the attention of the people in the room quickly, I am your gal. However, I quickly learned that for me to “own my voice” would mean something completely different in a professional environment.

I will never forget the day that a former CEO of mine, after being employed for less than one year, told me I was “mousy.”  I laughed and chuckled (thinking that he really has no idea about my gift) and asked him what he exactly meant by that and he said,  “You know; you are not being aggressive enough (though he used the “b” word here).”  WAIT, WHAT?!??! Was he actually telling me in order to have a presence in the room I needed to be more of a “b-----“?? That simply is not. My. Style. At. All. At first, I was quite put off by this comment my  CEO made to me, but I also took it as an opportunity for professional growth. You see, I had so much respect for my former CEO, that I did not want to say anything against him that could be considered “insubordination.” However, I realized, that all he was trying to tell me, was that he simply wanted “to hear MY VOICE in meetings.” I took this all in, and finally began my adventure into learning to embrace and on how to successfully own my voice.

So, then what does “Owning Your Voice” mean to you? Is it:

Speaking loudly over people, so only your points are heard?
Speaking only when spoken too?
To make others feel intimidated by you?

No, No and No. If you answered yes, I encourage you to re-evaluate your answers carefully.

Here is my recommendation on Owning Your Voice:

7 Steps to Owning Your Voice Successfully In person, Email and Social Media

1. Smile. Even if it cannot be seen, a “smile” can be heard.
2. Engage/Capture. When I talk, do it in a way that engages my audience. Share personal stories, crack jokes—simply relate to others
3. Listen. Successful speaking is not one way; you must listen to others and acknowledge their points of view.
4Respect. Be mindful when others are talking, allow them to have the floor when needed. When you disagree with someone start off by saying “With all do respect…” or “Respectfully, I disagree with your observation and feel…” Respect THEIR time to talk and they will equally respect YOURS.
5. Own It. When a mistake is made, don’t use excuses. Don’t try to pass the buck onto someone else. More importantly, DO NOT try to throw someone else under the bus during a meeting. This looks weak and is unprofessional. Plus, in doing so, this will come back tenfold, if you do. If you were responsible or had some portion of a mistake, you need to own it. I am not saying confess to each single detail of that mistake. What I am saying, is to admit and own your mistakes.
      6.  Mentor. In order to grow professionally and move on to another role, it is important to mentor others. Find those co-workers that you trust and in turn trust you. These individuals are your life-line and are hard to come by. For these people, begin showing then and guiding them along the path to be successful in their position.
7. Legacy. When the time does come for you to move upward or onward in your career path, it is crucial to leave your legacy behind. Make sure to set up your successors for success. Give them the tools they need to perform. Remember, this is a full cycle process! If you leave your legacy behind (in a positive way) when you move onward, it leaves little room to ever burn any bridges. Remember, you never know when you may need them again.

Now here I am with a young son of my own, who seems to have inherited my “gift”. I have since passed on the same message my mom said too me so many years ago and I tell him, “Own your voice, be respectful, make a difference and let your thoughts be heard!”

“Leadership is about making others better as a result of your presence and making sure that impact lasts in your absence” –Sheryl Sandberg, COO of Facebook

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Employer and Candidate Courtship

The first time I heard the word "courting" in the professional world, my mind immediately went to an old fashioned term for "dating."  A term that more than likely my Grandfather used when he was first "courting" my Grandmother. Today, the word has transitioned to one that is used in a professional sense of when an individual is getting to know a potential employer and vice versa.  I love how this word has evolved into the HR world, because I truly feel that the word "courting" truly defines what us Recruiters, Hiring Managers and HR folks think is going on behind the scenes when hiring a new employee.
 Webster Dictionary has a few different types of what courtship means, but the most relevant one is defined as "an attempt to convince someone to support you or to choose you or your organization." Brilliant! As a Psychology grad, I concur with the definition of Courtship in the sense of an employer/candidate or candidate/employer relationship.  Courtship IS not meant to be defined only in terms of the time before a candidate is actually offered a position. It goes beyond the "honeymoon phase" and normally includes the post-offer and probationary stages. Think about it in the sense of an actual relationship. 
Back when I was single and dating, I developed the 3 month rule amongst my friends. My theory, was that in 3 months time, I (or my friends) could determine if this said "guy" had potential to be "the one."  The initial 3 months was crucial to prove myself to him and him to me. It also usually involved that first scary argument and meeting each others parents for the first time (not necessarily in that My thought was that the first 3 months told a lot about a person and about the potential relationship. At the end of the 3 months, I would reflect back and determine if he was an investment to become "the one." 
Ok, so with that scenario in mind, now think of courtship in a modern perspective. One that involves an Employer and Candidate relationship. Both Employer and Candidate are apprehensive of each other in the probationary period upon acceptance of an offer letter. This probationary phase is the time for both parties to shine and show each other what they are capable of doing. The Employer wants to make sure they live up to what they said in the offer stage of growth opportunities and an impeccable benefits package. On the other side, the Candidate, wants to make sure they perform and excel what their dynamic resume originally outlined.  Each are "courting" each other through mutual dialogue and respect; with the end goal of becoming a long lasting relationship. 
A former CEO of mine, used to tell me after I hired a great candidate,  "Let's see how they perform in the first 3 months before I decide if it was indeed a great hire."  At first, I thought that was a pessimitic response to my optimistic new hire,  but upon further reflection, he was absolutely correct!  It makes perfect sense for both parties that are courting one another for there to be a probationary period of 90 days (some employers even do 180). Be patient. Just like relationships, it takes time for an Employer and Candidate to get acclameted to one another. The probationary period with an employer is there for a reason, for both parties involved. 
Just like a relationship, this professional employer/candidate courtship is quite similar to my original theory of the 3 month dating rule,  though now it features a more professional twist! After all, a lot can be said in those first 3 months of an employer and candidate courting period. The goal, of course, is to have a long lasting loving relationship!  If not, then hopefully it will end amicably with the final words of "let's just be friends" before parting ways. If both part ways mutually, just remember (as with most dating relationships), the time spent was not wasted at all and in fact provided an opportunity of growth and personal reflection for both parties involved.

Monday, July 6, 2015

The Cover Letter Appetizer

Back in my days of working in Higher Education, I would often times tell my students that the value of a cover letter goes a long way of making that first crucial impression with a potential employer.   My favorite quote (that I came up with myself) that I used to tell my upcoming graduates was "Presentation is the essential key to succeeding in life."  I would explain that this thought expanded to a well written cover letter, a detailed resume and a well delivered face to face interview.  All these factors, contributed to how an employer viewed you for their advertised position and ultimately defined you as a candidate as to why the employer needed to hire you! This was and probably still is good advice....until of recent. Let me explain.
was a firm advocate of a well written cover letter. Let me emphasize the "was" part of that statement. In my most recent position as an HR Director, I cannot tell you how many cover letters I read, skimmed over, ignored, etc. The reason is simple. TIME. I honestly did not have the time or energy to read a cover letter appetizer. Though, I will say, I did notice when a candidate included a cover letter along with their resume and application. I mean, who doesn't like the occasional appetizer now and again? What I really found myself craving was the actual meat and potatoes of their individual accomplishments. I wanted to see their resume tell me their individual story of how they got to be where they are today. The Main Course Resume and TIME, was what mattered to me the most. 
TIME. The time it took me to read their cover letter. Time it took them to write the cover letter. Time spent that both parties could have used on other resources. Let's be honest here, not only is it vested time in the employer, but it is time consuming for the active candidate to draft a company/position specific cover letter every. single.time. they want to apply to a position of interest.  Then you add in the extra ingredients of an online application (and all the new ADA, PreOffer, VEVRAA , etc. requirements into the mix) and we are talking at least an hour application process per position. 
Bottom line: Cover Letters are simply Appetizers. Resumes are the Meat and Potatoes. References are the Dessert (sometimes with a cherry on top ;-) ). While some HR professionals may want the "appetizers", personally for me I want the Main Course and the Dessert, too. I feel those two combinations of a Resume and References, truly are indicative of a candidate's skills, abilities and talents. So why then must we continue to indulge in the The Cover Letter Appetizer? Do we really put weight into cover letters? For me, on the reviewing end, I do not always need an appetizer. However, now that I am the one doing the applying and pursuing new positions, I must admit I do take the time to include my Cover Letter Appetizer. Though I only indulge in the appetizer if: 1. It is a requirement (you know... that annoying red asterisk that you see online when applying) or 2. I really, REALLY want to be called for an interview because my Main Course is Filet Mignon after all.
There is nothing more disappointing (when I invest one hour or longer in applying to a job online that includes a personalized cover letter, resume, references, application, and questionnaire) then to receive a generic "Thanks, but no Thanks" automated email response within 5 minutes of me pressing the "submit" button. UGH...and double UGH. However....this is the process and this IS to be expected. My advice? It is your individual decision on whether you want to invest in a full course know....the entire online application of personalizing the Cover Letter to an advertised position?! It certainly can't hurt to  have one, just be sure it is a good appetizer that truly leads up to the main course of your Filet Resume. Don't forget to save room for some Dessert...employers do like their Dessert! I am hungry....

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

To Connect or Not Connect? That is the Question...

As a LinkedIn Member and as an HR professional,  I would consider myself an active participant of LinkedIn for both recruiting candidates and for networking with other professionals. More recently, as I am the one personally seeking a new opportunity, I use LinkedIn to obtain as much inside knowledge about a company and  their current employees. I call this the "courting phase".
When I am pursing a new opportunity, I want to make sure I am investing myself wisely. This includes research on the company culture, their mission/vision, their products and their internal staff. It's more than just a potential opportunity, it could be the next step in my professional career. This future company that I am researching, may in fact become my "second family" in due time,  so why not take the time to do my due diligence to learn about the company and internal employees.  When I obtain that first interview, I am in fact wanting to learn more about the company,  just as much as they want to learn about me. In a sense we are "courting". In doing so, this means both sides are mutually looking into each other's profile, to determine if this would be a mutually benefitical relationship.
In reflecting on this initial courting phase, the thought occurred to me "how does it look to the employer I am pursuing if I request to connect with the Recruiter or HR Manager before, during or after the initial interview process?"  Does it appear that I am motivated and interested OR does it look like I am desperate if I request to connect before I even have the interview? Does it look like I am truly interested in the position if I ask to connect to the Recruiter/HR Manager after the initial interview? Or how about if I wait all altogether and NOT do anything? Am I playing hard to get?  Does that mean I appear as though I have no interest in the position or company? These questions have been running through my mind, especially since I am the one now looking for a new position.
When I was employed as an HR Director in my prior position, I was impressed when potential candidates requested to connect with me. However,  on an average I had at least 5 requests per week to connect with someone. It may have been an industry leading partner, past colleague, or a potential candidate. In receiving these requests, I  was always particular on accepting random invites and asked myself the question "can this benefit me and my employer"? If the answer was yes, I would accept the "connect request" if the answer was "no", I would not accept. Sometimes, I would just let the request sit there in my inbox until LinkedIn sent me a handful of reminders before I made my final decision. 
In my profession, it is crucial to have a network. I find this partnership to have paid off on both sides of the spectrum time and time again. I will admit when it came to potential candidates, I was impressed during the interview process if they asked me first if it "was okay to connect" via LinkedIn. I was equally impressed if they didn't ask, but later sent me an email request to connect. This spoke volumes to me that the candidate was interested in me as an employer and in the position I was currently looking to fill. With the LinkedIn benefits of "who's viewed your profile" indicates to a candidate (or in this case me) if a potential employer is in fact interested in pursuing things further. During this current job search that I am in, I have been selective on sending out requests to connect to potential employers that I was or wanted to "court". I was unclear on the "protocol" on asking "when" to connect. The thought never occurred to me when I was  the one  doing the hiring, however, now that the shoe is on the other foot and I am the one seeking employment; I am curious as to how other Recruiters and HR professionals view the email request to connect. 
It you are taking the time to read this post, I want to hear from you on this topic! What do you think when you are recruiting for a position? Does it annoy you to have candidates request to connect before you even interview them? Does it impress you if they request during or after the interview process? What is your stance? How do you view the question "To Connect or Not Connect"?
"Since you cannot do good to all, you are to pay special attention to those who, by the accidents of time, or place, or circumstances, are brought into closer connection with you."
-Saint Augustine
"Our life is composed greatly from dreams, from the unconscious, and they must be brought into connection with action. They must be woven together."
-Anais Nin

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Your Comfort Zone and Social Media Networking

This is it, now is the time to get out there without even leaving the comforts of your laptop! If you are about to graduate or simply looking for a job, start thinking about utilizing Social Media Networking as a tool for networking and landing your dream job. If you don't have a LinkedIn account even created, you are already behind the times. If you have one, but hardly use it, your poor account is only collecting dust over a pile of gold! USE it to the best of your abilities. Explore it! Jobs are posted everyday and a lot of them are exclusive to the LinkedIn community. In addition, make sure you have recommendations on your profile, as potential employers view this as a "character reference."

The more contacts you add to your account the more doors are going to open up for you! Join groups! Get active in discussions! Search for employers of interest and reach out to them. Don't be afraid to break through and get out of your comfort zone. Remember to always be professional, especially if you arte in need of a job! Check out this useful You Tube clip for new grads!

Thursday, June 4, 2009

How to Work A Career Fair

Guess what? It's that time of year again for the hustle and bustle of new graduates looking to enter the work force! A great way to get your name out there is by attending as many career fair events as possible. Sure, it can be a little intimidating at first, but once you approach the first few employers and inquire about their openings, it will become much easier as you move onward to the nextemployer!

Below are some great tips to help you "Work a Career Fair." If you have any questions or suggestions that have helped you in career fairs, feel free to post your comments.

1. Prior to the job fair find out which companies will be present and do research on them BEFORE you meet with them. This way you will have some facts and knowledge on the employer’s ahead of time. This will not only give you something to talk about with the recruiter of the company, but they will also be impressed by your “extra efforts.”

2. Come professionally dressed, as if you are going on a formal interview.

3. Bring several copies of your résumé with you (on résumé paper). Bring about 20-25 copies.

4. When you first arrive to the job fair, walk around and identify which companies interest you before you spend time talking with them.

5. Go talk to the companies with the least amount of people around them. This way you can spend valuable time with them before they get a crowd of people. Spend about 10 minutes or so with them, and then move on to the next employer. Talk to them about their company and what positions they are hiring. Try to be impressionable, so they will remember you! IF you are nervous, you can warm up with companies you are least interested in. This way you will be prepared for the employers you really like!

6. Be enthusiastic, friendly, give a firm handshake, and don’t forget to SMILE!!!

7. Pass out your résumé!

8. ALWAYS take their business card. If you need to, write on the back of the business card what positions are open with that company or what you discussed with the recruiter of that particular company.

9. Follow up with the companies you are interested in, about a week after the job fair. (This is where the business card comes into play). You can send them a quick e-mail or give them a call. Remind them of what you talked about and that you passed them your résumé. Ask them, “Would you like me to e-mail you my cover letter and résumé?"

10. Remember your goal here is to "stand out in the crowd". You want to make an impression, so that the company will remember you. In a sense, you want to be in "their face." Not in an annoying way, but in a way where they can see that you REALLY want to work for them! This is your time to SHINE!

See this Video Clip for 3 Quick Tips:

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Panel Interviews Anyone?

Have you ever done a panel Interview before? What was your experience?

There are a few reasons behind doing panel interviews. The first and most obvious reason is for convenience. If an employer has an opening that needs to be filled ASAP and there are a lot of "hiring managers" part of the hiring process, most companies will end up doing a panel interview as their first choice. The second reason could be to see how you, the interviewee, handles interacting in a group environment under pressure. This could be a way for an employer to screen your "comfort level". They tend to look for non-verbal cues, in regards to how you handle yourself in a panel interview.

Regardless of the reason, you need to be prepared before going in front of the firing squad. Below are some suggestions to help you ace a panel interview. If you have any additional suggestions or questions, please comment and share your thoughts.

1. Prior to the Panel Interview- Find out how many members will be part of the panel interview. This is a good way to be prepared and not be too surprised when you walk into the interview. The last thing you want to do is to assume anything about this interview. Once you know how many should be in attendance, increase that count by one more, just in case if a last minute addition occurs. Then print up that total amount of résumés and reference sheets. When you arrive to the panel interview, it will look like you did your homework and came prepared for the interview. Give each panel interviewer a copy of your résumé and references. Immediately, they will be impressed and thus in turn, you will already feel a bit more relaxed.

2. Answering the interview questions- Typically there is 1 or maybe even 2 members of a panel interview that ask most of the interview questions. Then there are others that are there to observe your behavior, professional dress attire, and your overall responses. When an interview question is asked, be sure when you are responding to acknowledge EVERYONE in the room when you answer. Even if is a gentle glance, you are being respectful enough to address everyone in your audience when answering a question. Of course the first person you should look at when responding, should be the initial person who asked you the question.

3.Don't let them see you sweat- No matter what you do, don't let the panel interviewers ever see you sweat! I know it's hard, but try not to show your nervousness through body twitches or even saying "umm" while thinking of how to answer your question. It is important to be confident and to leave that panel interview with the sense of them wanting more! Hopefully just enough where they will offer you the job!

4.Be sure to thank everyone-Once you are finishing up your panel interview, make sure to thank everyone for their time. If appropriate give each of them a firm hand shake as to acknowledge everyone who was part of the panel interview. In addition ask for their contact information. After the interview is over you and you have digested the whole "surviving the panel interview experience", take the time to send a professional Thank You email to each member that was part of the panel interview. This is just one final way to stand out from the rest of the applicants!

Please share your suggestions and stories! Have you done any of the above tips and did they work for you?