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6 secrets of great team members

Anyone who’s worked in information technology for any length of time has probably been asked to join a project team. Working with a group of colleagues can be fun, as teams become infused with camaraderie and a shared sense of mission. But being a group participant can also be challenging, especially for technology workers whose interactions are often focused on a computer screen.

 Nonetheless, the ability to collaborate with others is an essential skill in the IT world. If you can’t work with others on a project team, your ability to take on positions of ever-growing importance in your organization may be hampered.

 How do you move from working as an “I” to a “we”? Here are six secrets of great team members:

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Why saying no to your boss can be a good idea

Your manager comes to you in a panic and asks you to fill in for Sharon, who will be out of town all next week. Your first thought is, “Why me?” Yet, despite your frustration, you smile and say, “No problem.” Your boss is making the request, after all, so refusal is not an option. Right?

 Not necessarily. In some cases, “Sorry, I can’t” may actually be the most appropriate response. Dubious about this claim? Here are some examples of situations in which it might make sense to say no and suggestions for how to turn down the boss diplomatically.

 “It looks like Joe can’t make the deadline again. Can you handle it?”

The situation: Whenever a colleague falls short on an important assignment, your supervisor looks to you to save the day. Initially, being the go-to person was flattering. But having to constantly step in at the last minute is forcing you to put in extra hours so you can get your own work done.

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How to Extend the Shelf Life of Your Career

We’re all a little wary of food that has an unusually long shelf life — you know, the stuff that never seems to age no matter how long it sits in the back of your fridge. But when it comes to your career, you want an expiration date that outlasts even the oldest loaf of Wonder Bread. So what’s the secret to keeping your professional life fresh for years to come? Here are some essential ingredients:

A willingness to embrace change. Your ability to advance your position (and salary) is closely tied to how ready you are to embrace change — both in your profession and your office. Rather than complaining about the latest financial regulation, for instance, accept it and get ahead of it. Become your firm’s expert on emerging issues and help others in your organization understand how to prepare for them.

By accepting those sure-things on the horizon instead of sticking your head in the sand, you’ll be seen as a change enabler, not someone who will do anything to maintain the status quo.

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Your shark attack survival guide (for the office)

Each summer, Discovery Channel’s “Shark Week” capitalizes on our collective fear of large, toothy fish with seven days of programming dedicated to topics like “Rogue Sharks,” “Killer Sharks” and “How Sharks Hunt.”

At the same time, however, the people at Discovery Channel want us to be realistic about the actual incidence of shark attacks. The “Top 100 Shark Facts” listed on DiscoveryChannel.com point out that shark attacks are actually very uncommon. In fact, you’re more likely to get bitten by another human than by a shark.

Since shark attacks are pretty rare and getting bitten by another person is not so rare (or not as rare, at least), we decided to focus on a more common kind of shark attack, one that most people should learn to protect themselves from as soon as possible: The office shark attack.

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Are your emotions thriving or thrashing in your job?

Considering the rocky state of the economy right now, you may count yourself lucky just to have a job without giving a second thought to how happy you are there. However, don’t be so quick to dismiss your personal feelings about your job —companies know that happier employees are more innovative and loyal. If you’re having your emotional needs met within your position, you’re a much bigger asset to the company than you may have originally thought.

Mark Ingwer, business psychologist and author of “Empathetic Marketing,” shares his insight about satisfying emotional needs in business. Ingwer identifies five core emotional needs that every company and employee should know about in order to be more successful and motivated. Check your professional pulse with these five emotional needs, and find out if you’re thriving in your work environment or if you belong on life support.

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Many workers help make your vacation great

“Vacation, all I ever wanted. Vacation…had to get away.” So said The Go-Go’s, and who can’t relate to their timeless song? It’s funny how vacations are all about relaxing and escaping work, responsibility and the stresses of daily life but think about how many people are employed to help you get to that Zen-like state of bliss.

 At every stage of your vacation, from planning to the trip home, you come across many people who are working to keep you and your family or friends comfortable.

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Quiz: Is it time to quit your job?

If you’re unhappy at your job, thoughts of shouting, “I quit!” and running for the door have likely crossed your mind. Yet such a drastic decision isn’t easy and shouldn’t be made in haste.

So, how do you know if you’re just having a bad day or if you’re truly ready to resign? Or are you on the other end of the spectrum and love your job a little too much for your own good? Take this quiz to find out where you fall:

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The professional benefits of developing a thick skin

No one likes to be criticized, whether it’s deserved or not. But accepting — even embracing — constructive feedback is one of the best career skills a professional can have.

 Even when suggestions for improvement are offered in a positive way, however, many employees find it hard not to take them personally. Of course, this is only natural; even the intimation of poor performance can threaten job security in the minds of many people.

 Like it or not, however, occasional criticism — both the good and the bad kind — comes with the job. And how you respond to critiques can either boost or detract from your professional stature and may even affect your advancement potential.

 With this in mind, here are some do’s and don’ts on receiving feedback:

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