Category: Life Transitions

The Sweetest Sound: My Name

Some people make jokes about their terrible memories and their inability to remember people’s names. Like it’s a big joke. It’s not.

“Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound” Dale Carnegie

Recently I recounted a story about the CEO of a national company with 2,000 employees. When I visited his office, the walls were covered with photos of the company’s employees. Some had check marks next to them. The check marks indicated those employees that the CEO had met in their hometown (all over the country) and with whom he had spoken about their family. His goal was to know the face, name and family members of each employee no matter where he met them. Imagine the energy it took to work on this.

Why did this CEO think this was so important? Well, first of all it meant that he was focused on employees. Next, it gave him a way to connect to people who were not at ‘headquarters’ and a way to make them feel that he cared about them, which, he obviously did.

I work hard to remember people’s names. I learned a trick many years ago; when I meet someone new, I say their name as I shake their hand. Then I try to use it at least one more time before we part company. It’s a small thing but it leaves a positive impression. Check out these tips for remembering names.

Photo credit: Whisper

Job Interview Magic: I and We

I recently had an opportunity to do help graduate students work through mock job interviews. I had 4 international students, all with impeccable credentials. The first young man was charming and humble. A musician by avocation, he’s looking to help the world be a better place. He was a sharp contrast to one of my other interviewees.

When I asked this next young man what he wanted to accomplish from his ‘mock’ interview, he said that he needed direct feedback about how he could improve. I started by asking him about his strengths. He mentioned that he felt that working with people and getting things done were his strengths.

When he described how he led teams, he mentioned that when an employee did something wrong, he would tell them, “You made a mistake,” and then he would tell them how to fix it.

While I didn’t like how he described his supervisory style, I couldn’t argue with directness in employee coaching.

In giving him feedback, I pointed out that the way he spoke about subordinates was different than the way I would do it. That didn’t make it wrong but I wondered if he was being too direct, and perhaps it was cultural.

When I read this post, “The 2 Most Important Words in a Job Interview,” I realized that perhaps what I sensed was too much “I”  in the discussion of his success and not enough “we.”

The entire experience was, for me, uplifting, as is all my work with young people. I get the feeling that the world is going to be in good hands.

Habits for Excellence – Yawn. Been There.

Creating ‘habits’ for excellence is hot topic. Make your bed as soon as you get up. Put things back in their place when you’re finished with them. Pick up clutter every night. Yawn. Heard it, tried it. Hate it.

One suggestion I do like is… Become Enthusiastic. Why don’t more of us do it? Habit.

“Most people drift through life with their shoulders hunched and wrinkles on their forehead. Be enthusiastic not just about going on vacation, or taking some time off from work… but about everything in life.”

How can we find a way to be more enthusiastic? Work at it. Set it as a goal. Understand its power.

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We show people we care by listening, so listen with energy. Be verbally supportive. Nod, smile. We demonstrate our priorities by where we put our time. It’s not easy to insert more enthusiasm in our daily lives, but it’s worth the effort. We are often enthusiastic about our kid’s accomplishments but not about our friend’s or colleague’s… or a stranger’s (heaven forbid!)

Enthusiasm doesn’t look the same in every person. Some might stand up, shift their weight from foot to foot; others might get louder. There isn’t a formula. Pay attention to how YOU show enthusiasm and then harness that focus and attention when you want it.

By the way, enthusiasm does not guarantee success, but it’s makes the journey more fun. And while some people might mock us, do we really care?

Swearing and Spelling

wonderful story, curious spelling

I find it surprising and disturbing that recruiters are still holding two things against job seekers in their social media posts:

Swearing and spelling.

Really?

In the infographic, “Watch What You Post on Social Media,”  when recruiters were asked, “what are the biggest red flags in job applicants’ social profiles?, the answer is, well, old fashioned … and perhaps not helpful to the potential employer.

In this survey, swearing and spelling have nearly the same negative impact as illegal drugs and sexual posts.

Really?

Look, I completely understand that we need standards and differentiators. But eliminating a candidate because they use an ‘F’ bomb vs. using drugs? This makes no sense. I am 100% for everyone paying attention to what they post. I am a well-known ‘hater’ of Face Book for many reasons (mainly they have continually shown open contempt for privacy), but I understand that it is an important part of many people’s daily lives. So just eliminating a candidate for a spelling error doesn’t make sense. In a tight job market, I can see why recruiters use any tool to distinguish between applicants. But spelling errors? We teach the whole language approach to reading and writing in school (vs. phonetics). When you look at the picture… at this kid’s notebook… you see “samwichis” and “lemminad” are early attempts to wrangle language.  When you realize kids today probably are not even learning cursive… perhaps it’s time to think of the ‘context.’

I realize hiring is complex and keeping up with trends in social media is difficult. But especially in the coming, ‘war for talent’ – it will be helpful to think broadly about the changing mores in social media and expression.

Photo Credit: Extra Credit  Woodleywonderworks

You’re A Rookie, Good!

Are you trying something new? How does it feel? Exciting? Scary? Confusing?

Are you feeling like you want to try something new but you’re afraid? (Seems reasonable!)

Have you stopped considering trying new things because you are:

  • too old, too tired, too cranky, too dull, too young, too blah, blah, blah

In this inspirational talk, the founder of ModCloth (which she started at 17), talks about why it’s good and even powerful to be a ‘rookie.’ When we are rookies, we have no preconceived ideas about how it’s ‘supposed’ to work. That makes it easier (and even necessary) to innovate. We ask rookie questions, we make rookie decisions and we hopefully have rookie energy. Learning is energizing.

There is power in rookiedom. I’m not suggesting that you don’t ask for help or get advice from trusted advisers. Of course, that makes sense. But it’s also important to trust your rookie ‘gut’.

If you are accomplished at something but still want to get better or if you want to expand your capabilities, consider talking to a rookie. Someone who knows very little about the topic. They may have insights that all the experts in the world never would have had.

I was a rookie teacher… I cringe when I think of how naive I was. In many ways, I see how those early lessons shaped the teacher I am today. I’m excited to be a rookie again. I’ll keep you up to date on my, ahem, progress.

Photo credit: School Friends  Woodley Wonderworks

Develop Unconventional Skills

Beach of maria flour. Paulista. Janga. Pernambuco.<br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Artur jumping.

I studied French and German as an undergrad. I always thought I wanted to be a French teacher. Once I became a secondary school teacher, I realized I liked the kids, didn’t like ‘school.’ Ok, so now what?

I had worked in the University Library for my work-study money and I loved it. So next thing I knew, I was in a Master’s of Library Science program. I didn’t have any idea what I was going to do with this degree. I didn’t really seem like all the other ‘librarians’, but I loved all the adult learning, bringing order out of chaos, etc.

I moved from Washington, D.C. to Rochester, N.Y. and finished my degree at SUNY Geneseo. Now what?

The point of the story is not… what I did. The point is that it’s surprising and amazing how all the skills I learned along the way, helped me gain my future positions. Whether it was teaching that turned into training, or knowing a foreign language that turned into translating; I had a background that others didn’t. That brought me opportunity. That brought my skills and personality to the attention of people who could help me in my career.

Just when you think your weird/odd range of interests could be of no possible benefit to anyone… suddenly you find that you are the person who can get the job done. Make your career long by doing the following:

  • Constantly be learning
  • Learn different things than other people (stamp collecting? uni-cycling?)
  • Expand your network by deliberately including people of various ages, ethnicities, professions, etc.

Do not be discouraged if you are in a job (or looking) that isn’t exactly what you want or if you feel that your diverse skills aren’t appreciated. Hang in there and never give up. With patience if you come to see where you fit. The world needs you just the way you are.

Photo credit: Somersault Netjer-Lelahell

I Don’t Care

All my life I’ve been torn between caring and not caring.

On the one hand, I care deeply about other people.  I grew up in a difficult family (alcoholics) and so much of what I ‘care’ about has to do with people who have ‘less than.’ I make a conscious effort to be helpful and kind.

On the other hand, I have never really cared about what people think about my choices. Because I grew up quickly and had a lot of responsibility, I learned to be independent. When my choices conflict with what other people think they should be, it causes them discomfort and then they judge me. They are afraid that my ‘differentness’ might rub off on them or challenge their own ideas.

A lot of decisions are made because people are so afraid of what other people will say or think. OR what we imagine they might say or think. The more time we spend thinking about what others think, the less time we spend doing cool, fun or interesting stuff, that we want to do.

This morning I heard an old favorite on the radio. “Make Your Own Kind of Music” by Mama Cass Elliott

Nobody can tell ya
There’s only one song worth singing
They may try and sell ya
Cause it hangs them up
To see someone like you
You gotta make your own kind of music
Sing your own special song
Make your own kind music
Even if nobody else sings along
It takes courage to sing your own song. Most of us want someone to sing along. Realize that to be yourself in the face of criticism, being different, having unique ideas and viewpoints, speaking up, etc. are all hallmarks of strength. And if they don’t like it, well, I just don’t care.
Image credit: RapGenius

Start Where You Are

Schmoopy doing a balancing act.

“Do what you can, with what you have, where you are.” –Theodore Roosevelt

“WE ALREADY HAVE everything we need. All these trips that we lay on ourselves—the heavy-duty fear that we’re bad and hoping that we’re good, the rage, the jealousy and the addictions of all kinds—never touch our basic wealth. They are like clouds that temporarily block the sun; all the time our warmth and brilliance are right here.” Pema Chodron  Start Where You Are

What could Rough Rider (soldier, big game hunter, President) Teddy Roosevelt and a Buddhist nun have in common?

They both counsel us to live in the day, today. Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is not here.

If you are seeing the world from under a cloud today, know the sun is just above them. If you are feeling the sun on your face, turn that light towards someone else. It can be as simple as a smile, a thank you. We’re in this together. #Goteam

Photo Credit: Buddha Dog  Bruce

Why Are You So Angry?

“The only disability in life is a bad attitude.” – Scott Hamilton

People with a bad attitude (bullies and the like) HATE inspirational sayings. They think they are for are stupid and ‘weak’ people. They feel their anger and bad temper are justified. I remember having a ‘chip on my shoulder’ when I was growing up. (Maybe I still have it.)

My parents were alcoholics, I had my share of problems. Worse, I couldn’t control how I expressed my anger. It just came out. Often when I didn’t want or expect it to. The people I was most angry at… wouldn’t have been able to hear me even if I had expressed my frustrations and fear.

So I’d be at the grocery store and some young clerk would make a mistake and I’d lash out, all out of proportion to the error. When I finished carrying on, I would feel justified at first… then I’d just feel awful. Why did I do that? I was never going to do it again. And then, suddenly, I would do it again.

I finally got sick of being angry. I got help. I went to Al-Anon  (free peer support for families of alcoholics), got a counselor, went to treatment for children of alcoholics. My life changed slowly but dramatically.

My story is no different than many others. I was lucky; I had the will and resources to get help. Many caring and intelligent people never get help. They just stay mad, sad and lost.

If you recognize that you sometimes lash out at people, whether at people you love or strangers, I urge you to talk to someone. There are free resources available to you, no matter where you live. No matter what your problem, there are others who have had them too.

Photo credit: Scott Hamilton

Wanna Be A Teacher? Be a Student.

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I have the privilege of being a teacher. I am grateful for the opportunity and in general, I work to learn as much as I teach. Every environment (classroom, one on one, online) provides me a chance to learn because of the students. Each one teaches me something interesting and often, important.

Life is a series of learning opportunities. How we approach learning is as important as our character.

When someone is a ‘student’ – they get space to fail/make mistakes/goof up. In fact, we expect it. But somehow, when we “grow up” – that changes. We aren’t students anymore; we’re expected to be confident, aware, ‘on top of things.’

Ugh. This drives me crazy. If we view everyone as a full time student of life… who happens to be employed as a (fill in the blank), imagine how much easier it would be to try new things and learn. Failure, mistakes and goof ups would be normal, good, desirable.

Good teachers are everywhere, but good students are hard to find. Look to teach others (it makes us feel smart and important) but WORK to learn (it makes us feel stupid and weak). Hang around other students (entrepreneurs, kids, artists)… they’re full of mistakes and joy.