Posts Tagged ‘professional development’


‘Tis the season to be jolly” and take a break, wind down and refresh.

It can be a struggle to refocus once you return to work for obvious reasons. Sitting at a desk for 8 hours isn’t half as much fun as laying in the sun with a good book, or watching DVDs in your pyjamas. But getting your groove back is a necessity, and there are a few tips to help with the transition from beach to office.

“The secret of getting ahead is getting started.” – Mark Twain

That first morning you wake to the alarm is going to be hard, so try not to be tempted to stay in bed too long and go into work at the last minute. Some time alone to regroup, check voice messages, open any mail and start on the inbox, before the rest of the team arrives, will help you feel organised and in control. Your first week back can be hectic, so this isn’t the week to schedule important meetings or commence big projects. Try to catch up on tasks left over from before your break and leave the hard stuff until next week.

Share your holiday stories with your co-workers and reconnect before you return to the business of goals and targets. How often do we hear people say they felt like they never relaxed and that the holiday is a distant memory within days of returning. Relish the memories of the sun, or the snow, depending how you spent the holidays, so you can knuckle down and work towards the next adventure!

Get back into a routine, or if you don’t have one, take the opportunity to create new habits. If you feel fresher in the morning, this might be the ideal time to work on new projects, make sales calls or tackle the jobs where you need extra concentration. Afternoons might be best used for administrative tasks that require less creativity. While you are playing catch up, it can be tempting to push hard, not take breaks and stay back late. Make sure you eat lunch every day, preferably at the same time, and leave on time if you can. Organisation and a fresh focus will be your friend.

Touch base with your co-workers on any joint projects, and see what work is outstanding or requires a higher priority. Getting your bearings will help you identify where to start and what direction you need to focus your energy, which is just the boost you need.

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” – Arthur Ashe

Simple pleasures will help you make the holiday feeling last, especially on your first day back. Pick up a coffee from your favourite café on the way into work, or pack yourself a special lunch. Returning to work doesn’t have to happen with a thud.

If you over-indulged over the break, as we often do, getting active, taking a walk before work or even at lunch, or hitting the gym to start the day will help restart and re-energise your mind as well as your body.

Returning to work after a break is inevitable, so you might as well embrace it and enjoy the fresh start. Every extra day is one day closer to your next break so why not start planning now. We work to live not live to work!


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Lawyer on his workplaceJob interviews! If you have been to at least one, you know that the experience can be quite tense and can bring out exactly those aspects of our personality that we would prefer not to show to our prospective boss. However, bear in mind that job interviews can be stressful, intimidating and awkward not only for the applicant, but also for the interviewer, as this piece helpfully suggests.

What Not to Say

Hundreds of posts around the web will explain in detail what you are expected to say at an interview: when to say it, how to say it, what to say and why to say it. It is also important, however, to know what not to say, because a perfect interview can be spoiled by a single inappropriate utterance. Therefore, always remember how to not lose your cool – be composed, take your time and think before you answer. Nobody will have a bad impression of you if you consider your reply before giving it. On the other hand, if you answer hurriedly with a nonsensical reply, that may well be the end of the interview. As much as you want to be yourself, remember there is a fine line between being yourself as you will behave at your new workplace and being yourself with your closest friends.

So, what not to say? No inappropriate jokes. No embarrassing personal information (think in terms of ‘what would I say on a first date – I don’t want to appear as a loony!’). Not too many personal details – speaking briefly about your hobbies or your life is okay, but giving the exact minute-by-minute details of your day would be a bit too much. And finally, do not mention other companies that have offers for you, other interviews you are going to attend, other opportunities you might take – it is cheap and will always make a bad impression.

What Not to Do

To start with, DO NOT fail the handshake. Many people will form their first impression (even if it is a subconscious one) on your handshake. So grasp firmly and release on time, do not offer a finger, do not slip your hand, do not catch the fingers.

Try not to appear stressed or anxious. Just remember that worrying and being nervous will never help, it will only make it harder for you to focus. Compose yourself and go in; act confident and calmly.

Do not drink alcohol before the interview. As much as you would like some extra help with calming down, they will know, and it will not be of any advantage to you.

Do not do anything strange, weird or awkward during the interview. This includes many of the examples in the piece quoted above – dancing, singing (unless that’s what the interview is for!), applying or taking medicines, eating, leaving and reappearing, leaving without reappearing, performing magic, etc. You are there for an interview and will have to impress the interviewer with your composition, experience, knowledge and manner, not with fooling around.

Finally, do not be aggressive or stubborn. Never threaten the interviewer or anyone in the vicinity. Actually, this is something to keep in mind at all times, not only at job interviews. Take ‘no’ as ‘no’ and leave when you are expected to; do not make it worse by refusing to go or doing something stupid. Remember, it is always better to part with good feelings (you might be the second best candidate and be invited if the first decides not to start), than slamming the door and thus locking it for yourself forever.

To cut a long story short, interviews are not as scary as they appear! The main rule is – “Keep calm and show them they need you.” Remember – the interviewer has probably seen some weird applicants out there, so he or she will be grateful for the lack of embarrassing situations. Good luck!

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Group of business people assembling jigsaw puzzle and represent

While some organisations focus solely on their clients, others realise that their people are their most important asset. Team building exercises have long been recognised as a great way to help groups break down barriers between associates and foster greater levels of communication and trust while boosting morale.

When most of us think of ways to build teams, shared activities such as a retreat or cookout often come to mind. Events like these provide a relaxed and informal space for workers to get to know one another on a personal basis. Unfortunately, due to the time and expense involved, these types of events are often only held on an annual or semi-annual basis. If your organisation is suffering from a lack of morale and cohesion, you really can’t wait for the next group picnic to turn things around!

Why the best education is all fun and games

A great way to quickly get everyone on the same page in your organisation is to have a little fun and play some games. Before you dismiss this suggestion, think back to your early school days. When was learning and cooperation the easiest? Why, when you and your classmates were having fun while trying to achieve a shared goal, of course!

The benefits of team building games

Make time on a regular basis for some fun and games in your organisation. Choose games that require members to step out of their comfort zones and routines and ask questions as well as actively listen. Playing games not only shakes up the routine and breaks up the monotony in your organisation,  it will help your associates to develop their problem solving skills, and creativity, and help them to feel free to open up and discuss ideas.

As your associates have to rely on one another and work together to find a solution, they will build bonds that they will carry over into their regular work space, increasing cooperation, innovation, efficiency and productivity regardless of what specific work they happen to be doing at the moment.

Suggestions to get your game on

A recent article in the online journal, Call Centre Helper, offered some suggestions for fun and challenging games that many teams might enjoy trying to tackle. A simple online search for the term ‘team building games’ can also help you to find appropriate team building exercise for your associates.

In general, role playing games, or games where associates must cooperate and share information in order to solve the puzzle, generally work the best to help associates step into one another’s shoes and see different perspectives.

Don’t resolve yourself to traditional thinking when it comes to picking out a team building exercise for your group. Even something as simple as dividing your associates into groups that have a friendly competition to raise money for a favorite charity has the power to bring people together and focus on doing their best to achieve a common goal.

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The world has probably seen successful start-ups at a local level being managed and run by one or several people. However, expansion and growth are impossible without a team of people working for you, and if you want your business to move from a local to a national or even an international level, you will need to invest in people. In one of his recent posts, Robin Sharma states that you can triple the growth of your organisation, but for that you will need to triple the number of people working in it.

However, taking people on board is not enough to initiate growth. More people = more growth is a good formula, but it has some factors that define its success. One of them is motivation. If you want your team to achieve success, you will need to inspire them. Be the leader they have always wanted to have. Show them the right path and arm them with dreams. According to Robin, your team will have more motivation to achieve the goals of your business or organisation if the goals themselves are bigger and more ambitious.

It is true that you hire people for their skills and pay them to work, but there are times when money loses its value and importance and what your employees need is encouragement and recognition instead. An employee will only be happy if their job is challenging and rewarding (but not only financially). Therefore, you should never miss a moment to encourage someone you work with – this may take 5 minutes from your day but totally change theirs and significantly improve the quality of their work.

Cooperating with your employees on a daily basis will certainly result in knowing them very well. This is to say, not only knowing things about their personal life, but also knowing what and who they are and what they are able to do. This will inevitably lead to realising what they can become and do if someone inspires them – a realisation that will come to you rather than to them because it is easier to assess the people around you than to assess yourself. And if you are wondering who should inspire them to achieve their maximum potential – the answer is you. You can and should always try to inspire your employees and colleagues to always improve themselves.

Having said all this, it is obvious that “the quickest way to grow the sales of your business is to grow your people”. If you want to achieve the growth you deserve, you need to take on board more and more people, to train them, to turn them into the best professionals and team players and to constantly inspire them to become better in what they do. The growth of your business can have no limits if you realise that the stronger and more capable your team is, the better it is able to work and help you expand.

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When it comes to appearing good at your job, your performance and delivery typically speaks for itself.  If you’re in a situation where you have a particularly busy manager, or work remotely or independently, getting your hard work noticed can sometimes be hard work in itself.

Recognition helps with motivation and the chances of a promotion or pay rise.  There is a fine balance though, between subtly promoting yourself and being seen as blowing your own horn.  Here are a few ways that might help attain acknowledgement for your work.

Status Updates

If you haven’t been in touch with your manager for a while, clearly and simply list in an email what progress you’re making and any tasks you’ve completed.

This not only helps keep them up to speed, but illustrates what you’ve achieved – it simply lets your work speak for itself.

Exceed Expectations

Using your initiative and ‘going above and beyond’ can demonstrate your willingness and dedication to getting a good result.  Offer assistance which is still within the scope of your role (providing you have the capacity to do so) and send useful updates to the relevant stakeholders involved.

Recognise The Work Of Others

If you’ve been witness to the great work of someone else, mention it to their manager or team members.  It shows that you are interested in the
efforts of the team as a whole to get results, and it’s good office karma – what goes around usually comes around.

Everyone deserves to be acknowledged for excellent performance but in certain situations it can be difficult to promote yourself without being pushy.  The key is to communicate to others what you are doing but in an objective manner which still adds value to them too.

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To have or not to have – a mentor – that is the question.

What, you might ask, is mentoring? Mentoring is a partnership through which one person shares knowledge, skills, information and perspective to foster the personal and professional growth of someone else.

In short – “Mentoring is a brain to pick, an ear to listen, and a push in the right direction.” John C. Crosby

But, you might ask, how do I find the right person to be my mentor? If you are already in the workforce ask if your company or organisation has an existing mentoring program. If there is no system in place, be brave and bold and personally ask questions in order to find the right person.

The right person will be someone you admire and has the skill-sets that you wish to develop. Don’t be afraid to ask somone directly. People feel honoured if you ask them to share their skill and expertise with you.

Think about other opportunities for mentors: your family and friends, people you admire, networking organisations or your university alumni. These are all good places to start looking. An important quality to consider is the time availability of your potential mentor – will they have the time to devote to assisting your career development?

You may want to have more than one mentor, one within the organisation you work for and one who is a more objective outsider to your workplace. The final step in the process is to approach the person concerned and invite them to be your mentor; you may wish to do this over a lunch date or a coffee.

Once you and your mentor start working together you will find great solace in having a professional sounding board and professional guide in your life. One day you too may be in a position to offer yourself as a mentor to a struggling star and share your own wealth of knowledge and insights.

You’ve got absolutely nothing to lose and everything to gain from finding yourself a mentor!!

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We all know that personal development should be an important and ongoing part of our lives. Can I ask you, though, when was the last time you thought about your personal development and your needs?
In fact, when was the last time you thought about where you want to go, not just in business, but in life?

For most of us, our personal development is an ad hoc thing. We see a course or a book that appeals to us and we grab it. Proper personal development should be planned to take into account our strengths and weaknesses. The problem with the ad hoc approach is that we’re human and we shove our heads in the sand when we don’t want to face a difficulty. Usually it’s those difficult things that are the signposts showing us what we need to do.

Business Link is a business advisory arm of the UK government. It has a questionnaire that you can work through which will lead you to an assessment of your needs.

If you’d rather avoid questionnaires visit Lifehack where there is a great article and useful guide written by Dustin Wax.

If you want to grow as a person and move on in your life, a personal development plan is a tool that you must have.

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