The In Crowd – Networking Part 2

People Talking- Courtesy of Microsoft ImagesMy last post “Networking is BS” aka “Networking is malarkey” was a hit. My post was featured on the oh so fabulous social media pro, entrepreneur and author, Susan Avello’s site HR Virtual Cafe. As promised in that post I would give advice to being inclusive at networking events to, so here it is. My advice is based on what I have seen to be successful and what I know I want to see.

It was July last year when I started using Twitter for professional purposes and since that time have connected with many stellar HR, PR, SoMe Folks and more!  ILSHRM was the first conference and networking event I attended after establishing connections via social media. I was able to meet several of the people I connected with via Twitter, in real-life (IRL). While it was exciting, I’m not going to lie many of the encounters were kind of socially awkward. I felt like a regular person meeting celebrities and they looked at me like “OMG, is she stalking me?!” And no I’m not stalking your completely public profiles and information that you share with the world.  Anyway, of all the people I had met on social media first and then IRL Susan was the most sincere, open, friendly and genuinely engaging person I met at that conference.

Here’s how you too can be inclusive: This advice is for the seasoned professional that may get tied up in their “normal” behaviors and for the newbie that wants to know how to connect with others!

1.) Awareness: Be aware of your surroundings. While it’s important to be fully attentive while in conversation, make sure your blinders aren’t on. Notice passerby’s or people who are looking “lost”. You know the people I’m referring to, the ones walking around pretending to read the posted promotional materials and signage for the event. They are most likely just buying time. Take notice and invite them into the conversation, or excuse yourself from the conversation at the proper time and approach that person.

2.) Open circles: When speaking in a small group people have the tendency to gather in a closed circle style. To an outsider this says “Exclusive conversation happening here, no one else is welcome…move along“. The best way to counteract this perception is to make sure the circle doesn’t close. This is so easy to do because it really only takes the positioning of one person to open that circle. Create a space that allows outsiders to see they are welcome to join in the convo!

3.) Face Time: Eye contact, smile, greet! These are all the same skills we use when encountering anyone in the workplace and in life so do it here too! Your friendly demeanor will show others that you are approachable.

4.) I know you? I don’t remember but lets chat! If someone does approach you claiming to know you from somewhere and you don’t recall its ok to say  “Ok I don’t remember.  What’s your name? Nice to see you again!” Then show genuine interest in that person by asking thoughtful questions and really engage with that person.

The reality is not everyone will have a connection with everyone they speak to and that is completely natural and ok but that doesn’t mean we should deviate from common sense and social etiquette.

Happy networking!

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Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth? Listen Up People!

“Do you understand the words that are coming out of my mouth!” ~ Chris Tucker, Rush Hour. Guess what if you’re only hearing people speak you’re not going to “understand the words coming out of their mouth” and here is why….

Welcome to the 2nd Whine Wednesday of the HR life. Today’s whine is a classic, listening. Listening has been a concept at the forefront of my mind since middle school when we learned about how humans send, receive and interpret messages. The act of listening is more than just “hearing” the message being communicated, it’s the act of absorbing, processing and retaining that message. Hearing, in the workplace, is all too common cause of breakdown in communication. People think because they are hearing others speak means they are listening, well friends it’s totally different.

I experience a great deal of hearing in employee relations meetings. For example, an employee will see me to discuss an issue they are experiencing in the workplace. Now, I have trained my ear, my mind to fully and engage and listen to that employee. I’m careful not to make assumptions and jump to conclusions. I listen intently and collect facts and information before speaking. Nothing is more irritating than finally receiving the opportunity to speak and offer information, knowledge and/or advice than seeing the employee just hear me!

Here’s how you know someone is just hearing the your message:

  • Lack of eye contact
  • Glossy, blank stare or gaze in their eyes
  • Interrupting your time to speak
  • Continuing to state the same question or issue after hearing your message

Here’s how to aide someone to listen:

  • Engage them by asking questions like: “Does that make sense?” “Does this information help you?” “How can I best help you?”
  • Engage them with continue eye contact
  • Ask if you may complete your thoughts before they speak

Here’s how you can listen:

  • Maintain proper eye contact
  • Clear your mind from preconceived notions, thoughts and ideas. Essentially be unbiased.
  • Listen completely to the words they are saying
  • Do not interpret their words, just listen
  • Repeat back to them what you understand from the message they sent you
  • Ask questions and gain clarification

Hopefully, these tips with help you with the art of listening. A listener will have more opportunities to succeed than employees that just hear messages! The reality is everyone is a poor listener, aka “hearer” at times but in every conversation there is always an opportunity to get back on track and engage with the person you are speaking with to make sure there is limited breakdown in communication. Employees work best together when they understand each other, the company and the leaders expectations. There are less conflicts and time wasted when we actually listen to one another. So next time you’re talking with someone at home or at work, LISTEN UP!

Wall Street’s “Blunt” Job Applicant

Did you hear in the news today about the “blunt” job applicant? Apparently this applicant applied for a summer internship program with a financial firm on Wall Street. His tactic to “get notice” brought more attention than he probably ever expected. And he did this all through the “dead” cover letter. It’s about  the 3rd paragraph into his cover letter he states the following:

“I won’t waste your time inflating my credentials, throwing around exaggerated job titles, or feeding you a line of crapp about how my past experiences and skill set align perfectly for an investment banking internship. The truth is I have no unbelievably special skills or genius eccentricities, but I do have a near perfect GPA and will work hard for you. I’ve interned for Merrill Lynch in the Wealth Management Division and taken an investment banking class at (BLOCKED), for whatever that is worth.”

All the buzz it would you hire this applicant? Here’s my analysis:

1.) The cover letter is a bit long! However, it worked for him because he created personal interest by reminding the hiring manager of their meeting in NY. He engaged his reader from the beginning.

2) He demonstrates his skills: He’s straight and to the point; which for a finance major perfectly aligns with their nature of directness and being factual. He also demonstrated the ability to use problem solving skills. Problem: 100s of people are applying for this internship. Solution: Stand out!

3.) He created something special and unique.  Just with that paragraph he was able to stand out from the rest of the hundreds of applicants that applied with the same old boring praise cover letter.

Personally, I don’t hire based on cover letters but I would absolutely interview him. Would you hire him?

Cite:

http://www.forbes.com/sites/crossingborders/2013/01/16/wall-street-bosses-are-calling-this-the-best-cover-letter-ever-but-not-everyone-agrees/

That Funky Stuff! Writers Block

Oh that funky stuff! What I’m talking about is that “funk stage” we all seem to experience at some point in our lives; whether it be personal or work. I seem to have a funky ebb and flow, not like I’m manic, it just occurs with the natural progression of life and career . My funk seems to have a big impact on my ability to write, thus causing a writer’s block situation. There are certain times when I experience that FUNK and need to regain my focus. This is what I did to get back on track!

First, I stopped putting pressure on myself to start blogging again. Originally I planned to start blogging again once school commenced but that didn’t happen. Then as each day passed I kept thinking about my “NEED” to write. Thoughts like “It’s your personal brand. Your ruining your reputation by not fulfilling the guidelines of writing 2-3 times a week!” But thank I had a wake up call! I said to myself “Hey I write because I enjoy it. It is not a MUST do on my list of chores.” Once I said this aloud I realized it was okay to let it go! Let go of the timeframe. I took time to chill out and enjoy the holiday season with my family.

After the holidays I was hopping my funk would lift and I would immediately want to write. I drafted a couple of pieces but really wasn’t feeling the flow. So I stopped. By the way my technology problem was fixed (ie my iPhone was fixed as a Christmas gift to me) so the convenience of reading my favorite HR blogs was regained. After a couple of days of reading and sharing information I began to feel the zest, passion and positive energy slowly creep back into my life. It was a refreshing feeling!

Finally, I started to move my focus away from the things I cannot control. My truth is that there are many realities of this world both our personal and professional that can be negative. Focusing time, thoughts and energies on these realities is frankly a real bummer and a total waste of time. So I stopped. After allowing some time to pass I felt 100% again! I felt my passion to write emerge.

So just to sum it up, get out of that funky stage by:

  1. Eliminate Pressure to Produce Results
  2. Read industry trends and current events
  3. Free your mind from the elements of this world you cannot control
  4. Write:) 
  • And really at any point you may need to just STOP yourself and step back. Reflection can be rejuvenating. 

Happy Writing!!!

Sorry HR can’t help you!!

Sorry No People allowed in HRServing in an HR position requires a number of various skills, which include customer service. HR representatives are responsible and involved in all aspects of human relations in the organization, thus the critical importance of highly customer focused people is key to a successful HR department. Serving in a recruiter, talent acquisition or related position requires customer focus on both the internal and the external fronts. In addition to supporting our internal customers  we are providing serves to a number of external customers or potential customers such as; agency recruiters, community members, applicants, candidates, etc.. Here are a couple sure-fire ways to make sure your HR department shows commitment to both your internal and external customers.

Be accessible, BE A.C.C.E.S.S.I.B.L.E! You heard me!! Nothing is worse than the BIG BLACK HOLE of HR. I work for a medium-sized company and I cannot tell you the number of times applicants have said to me “Wow, I can’t believe I’m talking to a real person in HR! Usually, I apply to positions and never hear a word back!” All I think is “Wow, how sad is that! Way to take the human out of Human Resources!” While small and medium-sized organizations may have less challenges to connecting directly with their external customers, larger organizations still have that opportunity to make that connection. Organizations that care about their people, inside and out, will be accessible whether by phone or web. If HR is not accessible via the human resources site it sends the message that HR does not want to be bothered by people, they are busy and have work to do.

Listen to your voicemail,  better yet have someone else listen to your voicemail. I for one hate to hear my voice especially since my husband noted that I sound like the product of Fran Drescher (minus the east-coast accent) and Mini Mouse! Anyhow he was also the one that said to me “Why do you sound so angry on your voicemail?” I was like WHAT! Naturally, since it was coming from him I was defensive and said “I sound friendly and inviting, and professional.” He responded “You sound mean.” So I listened to it and wow I totally sounded unenthusiastic and I admit it… mean! Have you ever called another company HR department and they answer the phone in a dry, stale and irritated way that is exactly what I sounded like, boy was I embarrassed. I changed the voicemail to have more pep while maintaining my professionalism. To this day when I change my out of office messages I have to make a conscious effort to sound friendly and inviting, not overly professional and boring. Overly professional and boring will send the wrong message to external customers. It will say “Our HR department is stale, archaic and we don’t care to interact with real human beings.”

Answer the phone with a smile! I don’t care if you’re the recruiter’s assistant or the senior-executive-manager of recruitment /talent acquisition you need to answer that phone with a smile EVERY freaking time! If you happen not to answer in a friendly way change your tone quickly while the person on the other end is stating the purpose of his/her call. Think of every conversation you have as your opportunity to sell your company to the person on the other end. Whether you end up employing that person or not, that person needs to leave your conversation saying “Holy cow, company ABC is so friendly, I really want to work for that company, they care.” . Another tid-bit for answering the phone, NEVER EVER answer with a greeting and an immediate “can you please hold”. Not allowing the person on the other end to speak is plain RUDE! You are a human being answering a professional line not an operator routing calls. Answer like so “Hello thank you for calling ABC, my name is Bonnie Ungaro. How many I help you?” Once the person has stated his/her purpose then you may ask to place them on hold.

Customer Service is in every facet of what we do. Just because you’ve “made it”, you’re no longer working retail, serving burgers or whatever customer service field job you had in college you need to have customer service at the forefront of your mind. Every single interaction is an opportunity to sell yourself, your company and your employer brand. How many times have you walked into a store and not been greeted at all or the greeting was subpar? How did that experience make you feel about that store? Well consider yourself as the greeter for your company. Make every interaction you had count EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Don’t call me sweetheart!

If you’re not living under a rock, I’m sure you heard the controversy with NFL star Cam Newton. Cam is a 23-year-old QB for the Carolina Panthers. He recently referred to a female sports writer as “sweetheart” during a press conference. The word sweetheart is a term of endearment. The definition of “term of endearment” is a word or phrase expressing love or affection. In the professional environment terms of endearment are highly inappropriate and this is why his comment has made headline news. When use of these words were common, women were enduring sexual harassment and unfair treatment in the workplace.

I have experienced this in the workplace over the span of my career. I’ve been called; sweetheart, hun, sweetie, doll and cute. I am not a feminist, however I do oppose the use of these words in the workplace, heck even in my personal life. I do not call friends, family, co-workers, anyone sweetheart, sweetie, doll or cute, not even my husband. It’s just unnatural for me. In my perception I feel like the person expelling these words is “putting me in my place”. Like, hey I’m better than you Bonnie, and I will show you that by calling you a word that I would use to describe my dog, baby or toy.

However, I find situational differences can slightly change my perception and feeling. I am not the WORD POLICE I do recognize that certain generations grew up in a very different time, a time when women were not in the work place, and when these terms were commonly used. For example, I worked in an industry with a large number of older workers, workers 70+. Some of them called me sweetheart, sweetie, hun and doll. At the beginning I was incredibly put off, and then I began to understand their differences. The ones that would call me these names, knew my name and would address me as Bonnie when they greeted me or introduced me to others. The sweethearts were mainly used when I assisted them in solving some type of issue.

There was a time when I interviewed a candidate who called me sweetie 7 times! 7 times! Not once, not twice but seven times in the course of his 30 minute interview. After the first time I politely said to him “Thank you, you can just call me Bonnie.” That was his out, but he missed it. It was an interview, an interview is when you put your best foot forward. As an interviewed my concern was the behavior this person would show in the workplace. Would he offend female co-workers and customers? One time I had a female manager say, in front of 4 others managers, “isn’t she cute.” “Isn’t she cute!” Like I wasn’t even in the room. Of course I didn’t say anything at that time, I would have looked like a jerk!

There are so many circumstances and variables that come into play with the use of these words, that will impact how it will be received. It’s probably in everyone’s best interest not to use these words, but the reality is people always will. Look at the restaurant industry, I’m pretty sure every bartender and waitress has referred to most of their customers and co-workers as sweetie as some point.

Sometimes terms of endearment are received in a positive way. In my opinion, I think a great deal of how the message will be received is by who is delivering the message. Lets just say you work with Brad Pitt (or Robert Pattinson). You’re both marketing specialist, making the same amount of money. You’re working on a project together. He asked you to pass him the project folder, you do and BAM he says “Thanks hun!” Are you going to run to HR? Call the compliance line? Smack him in the face? What if wasn’t Brad or Robert but someone with a sweet-soft southern accent, would you be offended? Or would it be ok, because in the south “that’s what they do”.

Have you ever seen the SNL Clip with Tom Brady making advances to his co-workers? If not check it out here. It’s hilarious, and has some truth to it.

This is my breakdown, takeaways:

  • Know your audience.
  • Refrain from the use of terms of endearment in any professional setting.
  • If you meet this situation, use your best judgement to decide if you need to say something.
  • If unwanted terms of endearment continue let the appropriate parties know; i.e. HR, your manager.
  • If terms of endearment are more than words, if you feel it’s harassment notify the appropriate parties.

Everyone is different. Everyone has experienced a different life. Our experiences mold who we are and how we see the world. Just my 2 cents.

Workplace Bullying – A Whitney Kropp Inspired post

I’m sure you’ve heard about the Ogemaw High School student nominated for homecoming court as a prank. If you haven’t learned of this disturbing story check out this article from the New York Times. In the last many years horrific and truly disturbing bullying situations have made headline news. The fact is bullying has been an issue long before recent time. Social media and the viral nature of communication has made it possible for these stories to gain momentum and the attention they deserve.

When I think of bullying, my mind naturally goes to middle school and high school aged people. It’s common for this age group to taunt, ridicule, tease, and pick on other people because of their differences, and or “odd” ways. In my opinion they do so because of underdeveloped minds, lack of understanding of culture and vary background, consequences and plain immaturely.

When I read about workplace bullying it’s not just disturbing, it’s incredibly appalling. There is no reason workplace bullying should even be an issue  in an environment consisting of mainly adult people. At the age of 18 and beyond there is no reason, an adult should act in hostile, temperamental, violent, abusive or bullying way in the workplace. Or anywhere for that matter.

When hired into a company we learn about the culture, company code of conduct, and policies. A majority employees know how to read, comprehend, and apply that knowledge to the workplace. I find it completely 110% unacceptable to keep workplace bullies in the employed. I don’t care how technically skilled a company top sales person, manager, director or vice president is, if they yell, scream, hit, throw, slam doors or lose their temper in any way that person should be gone immediately! Not only is it unacceptable, but this person is likely a ticking time bomb waiting to explode with violence and wreak havoc on any person in their way.

While bullying is more common in the younger ages, I feel it’s unacceptable at any age! There are no FINAL WARNINGS when it comes to bullying in my book. People that act in violent, abusive and hostile ways need should be dealt with immediately. And by dealt with I mean TERMED! It is plain and simple, we are ADULTS we know how to act, so act right at work and in life!

“Treat others as you want to be treated” 

What do you think about bullying? What about workplace bullying? Have you ever encountered a bully in the workplace?