The first step to many interviews is an initial telephone interview. The tricky thing about telephone interviews is you miss all the important body language clues like facial expressions, posture, eye contact that are so crucial to reading a situation. That means you have to pay special attention to the one clue you do have. Voice.
Listen to the tone of voice
Let’s go back to lessons learned in childhood. Not the one about eat all your broccoli, the other one. It’s not just what you say, it’s how you say it.
By listening to how the interviewer speaks, you can figure out the best way to answer back. Some people are on the energetic side, bubbling with enthusiasm, others serious and to the point, others more empathetic. As with face to face communications you want to get into groove with them. Essentially mirror their tone and attitude while answering their questions.
Serious in tone
If questions are asked in a very factual way with little preamble then you’re going to want to get right to the point and stay away from small talk. This person is not interested in talking about the weather or hearing that humorous ice breaker you’ve been saving.
An interview is not the time to get all laid back and relaxed like you’re talking to your best friend. However, if the person on the other end of the tone is full of energy and enthusiasm, then respond in kind and reflect all that passion right back at them in your answers.
If you have a slow speaker on the other end then a speeding to the end of the finish line answer is not going to go over well. Take your time with your answers. Stay on point and don’t jump from topic to topic.
Whether the interview is in person or on the phone you want to get yourself in-sync with the interviewer. In both cases that comes from taking cues from the person either in front of you or on the other end of the line.
When we have a lot to do, deadlines pressing down on us, it feels like the best thing to do is power through and work till it’s done. Counter-intuitive as it may seem, the opposite is true. The best thing you can do to increase productivity and performance is nothing. Full break.
Ninety minutes of focus
Your attention and energy can only go for so long before things start to get muddied. Generally that time is about ninety minutes. Same as the ninety-minute dream interval your body cycles through during the night.
It’s certainly possible to keep going past the ninety minutes – most people do, but work suffers. It takes longer accomplish what you need to get done and there’s a good chance you’ll want to revise what you did later. When you come back to it with a clear head.
To see just how important breaks are, check out this illustration from Daniel Pink, detailing how restorative breaks influence test results.
Breaks improve performance
If test scores increase after taking a break, imagine the impact those breaks have day in and day on the work we’re trying to accomplish. In general eureka moments don’t happen when we’re staring at a screen trying to will one more crumb of creativity out of our brains. They happen when we put the problem aside entirely. When we go out for a walk or are thinking about something else entirely. That’s because our brains need empty space or organize and re-set. An ideal break would be twenty or thirty minutes—outside, completely away from your workspace. That’s obviously not possible, especially every ninety minutes. But it is possible to get up and move around a bit to clear your head, even if that just means to going into the lunch room for a glass of water.
Avoid the temptation to lunch at your desk
The one time you can take a full, long break during the day is during lunch. Don’t waste that time sitting at your desk. Even if you’re not actually working, you are still in that same space. Give your mind and body a rest. Get up and get out. The rest of your day will thank you for it.
How much of your time do you actually spend fully dedicated to the moment you are living? On one level we are all always in the moment. Physically anyway. There’s nowhere else for us to be. But on another level we are too often in another time and space entirely. Being somewhere physically and being somewhere mentally are two very different things.
Most of us spend inordinate amounts of time dwelling on the past or thinking about/planning for/worrying about the future. Yes it’s important to learn from the past, so we have to check in there sometimes. And if we want to be successful in the future we have to think about it to plan for it. But checking in with the past and future and living in them are not the same thing.
Fear of the now
The reason so many of us don’t live fully in the present is because all that future and past thinking is has created deep anxiety about the present moment. I’m going to use this moment to fix the past. Or this moment can never compare to what I did/achieved/saw in the past.
Or through this moment I am going to make the most of my future. Or this moment will never create the future I’m after. That’s a lot to put on the shoulders of a little moment in time.
Avoid judging the moment you are in
Instead of judging the moment you’re in against the past or future try focusing only on what it has currently going for it. Start by breathing – deeply and fully to center yourself. Pay attention to the details of your surroundings. Notice the people around you, how you feel physically. Ground yourself in now then let go of judgments. This moment neither has to fix the past nor the future. It only has to be the best it can be in the here and now.
For more tips on making the most of your current moment check out The Art of Now: Six Steps To Living in the Moment from Psychology Today
We have some good news for you and some bad news. What you accomplish in your career and in your personal life is determined by how well you get your message across. If you don’t consider yourself a good communicator that might be bad news. The good news is, you can learn strong communication skills.
A communication breakdown is the reason behind the majority of problems people face both personally and professionally. People do not say what they mean clearly enough. Or other people don’t understand the communication as intended. There are three elements to any direct fact-to-fact communication, words, tone, body language. If all three don’t match, the communication becomes muddied. Once you learn to take all three into account you’ll be able to dramatically increase your communication skills.
The Element of Words
Words only account for 7% of any message. That means, to communicate effectively you need to back up words with the proper tone and appropriate body language. People run into problems when all three don’t match. When that happens, the listener will invariably focus on the tone or the body language more heavily than the words.
Emphasis and Tone
Your emphasis and tone can completely change how a message is perceived. Sometimes you say something and it goes over way better than expected. Other times the person you’re talking to becomes offended without hearing an offensive word. The reason for both reactions is probably tone of voice and emphasis. Throughout your communication, remember to pay close attention to your delivery. Notice how your words are being perceived throughout the interaction and revise your tone if necessary.
Never forget the importance of non-verbal communications. You can dramatically increase the effect of your communication by leaning toward the speaker. Shift forward onto the balls of your feet. Face the person you’re speaking to directly, with strong eye contact. By ensuring your body is in line with your words you will dramatically increase the impact of what you’re saying.
A resume is a constantly evolving thing. Always being added to and subtracted from as you switch jobs, take courses, attend conferences. In general, we add the newest jobs and experiences we’ve had to our resumes and when there’s no more room, condense or remove the less significant ones altogether.
Swept under the carpet
But sometimes you come to a job you really hated and the feeling is on the mutual side. Your first instinct might be to simply try to forget that job ever happened and put it behind you. However, if you do that, there may be a significant gap on your resume. One way or another you will probably need to talk about it in your next interview.
Relevant or not relevant?
Sometimes the decision is made easy by the degree to which the job was relevant to your career. For instance, if the job you hated was in the service industry, but you plan on making a career in sales, you can just leave it off and simply say why at the interview (without ever saying anything negative about your previous employer).
However, if the job is directly related to what you’re applying for now, you have to choose. Either leave it off and hope the gap isn’t a big deal or leave it on and hope no one contacts them. In the article, Can You Leave a Really Bad Employer off Your Resume from Chron they suggest the best course of action is to actually include the job, but not use the employer as a reference.
Find positives in the experience
Did you learn any new skills during your time there? Did you have any new responsibilities? Find something positive to say about it during your interview and finish off by saying it was no longer a good fit. Don’t give in to the temptation to say something negative about a former employer. It will only serve to put you in a negative light with your prospective new one. Focus on your achievements and your potential and that’s what the interviewer will focus on too!
Are you perfectly happy with the way everything is going in your life or do you want more?
Are there accomplishments you’re still working towards? Dreams you haven’t achieved yet? Financial goals you have yet to meet?
One would be hard pressed to find someone who has achieved everything they set out to do and are happy sit back and spend the rest of their lives on autopilot.
The dangers of autopilot
And yet autopilot is the means by which so many of us steer our precious lives. Yes, there are things we want to do, plans we plan on starting, goals we have for sometime in the future. The problem is, unless we actually take concrete, definable steps toward achieving those goals they will waste away behind the mists of the unmanifested future, while autopilot takes steers us through our days.
First law of motion
According to Newton’s first law of motion, an object either remains at rest or continues to move unless acted upon by another force. Meaning if something is moving it will continue to move until it is stopped. And if something is not moving it will continue to not move until something moves it.
What that means for those goals we have yet to begin is, thinking about them and dreaming about them and talking about them will do nothing to bring them about. To get ahead, as Mark Twain so elegantly put it, is to get started.
Once we start the goal, or project, or plan, it will start moving and keep moving on the momentum created by starting. Once you start you become motivated to keep going. You begin to believe in the reality of this thing you are now actually doing.
So back to the question from the beginning. Are you perfectly happy with the way everything is going in your life or do you want more?
Getting the Most Out of Your Performance Review
For most of us in the work force, right around the 6 month mark, there comes a performance review. And then, depending on your work place, every 6 months or a year after that. It’s a time when your boss or supervisor shares with you with you what has gone well, and what are areas you can improve in your work.
Ideally this conversation is going over things you’ve already talked about with your boss. This is also a time when you can share your feelings about your job, your performance and ideas you might have for the direction of not only your job, but the direction of the company as well.
Don’t Wait for the Review
If you need help in your work or think you’d like to take on a new task, the worst thing you can do is wait a month or two until your next performance review. Ask your supervisor about your ideas, implement them and then your performance review will be about your ambition and how well your ideas did.
It’s not all about the numbers
Performance Reviews are about performance, and part of that is numbers and results. Another part of performance is how you as an employee are feeling. Happy people usually have better performance, and your boss wants to know how to help you be happier.
What would you like to be doing
You performance review is also a great time to talk about where you want to grow in your job and within the company. Are there things you’re not doing that you’d like to be? Are there areas of responsibility you think you could take over?
View it as an Opportunity
Some reviews are glowing, others are less so. No matter what the final word is at your performance review, the review offers you the opportunity to learn where you need to improve and what you can do to succeed in your company. It’s also an opportunity to ask your employer for help.
Your performance review should be as much about where you are going and how you can get there as it is about what you’ve done so far.
There’s an old saying, Man plans and God laughs. Meaning that try as we may to make perfect plans, as often as not things will go off in completely different directions. Rarely are we pleased with the unforeseen change in plans. At first.
The funny thing is, very often that change in direction takes you somewhere unexpected. It makes you consider things from a different viewpoint. Sometimes it causes you to reassess your original plan. Sometimes you have to adjust the original plan to accommodate new circumstances. Other times the original plan has to be abandoned altogether.
Interestingly, whatever steps into the spot emptied by the original plan is often a way better alternative. That’s why those old crafty sayings creators came up with, When a door closes, a window opens.
Trust the change of plans
How many times have you heard about someone whose life is dramatically changed because of some annoying circumstance that breaks their plans. For example, Jane is trying to get out of the house in time to catch the bus for her interview. But something gets in the way – the dog escapes out the door and it takes ten minutes to get her pet back. Jane sets out ten minutes late and misses the bus. Then that bus is in an accident. Like an invisible hand reached out of the abyss of time to save Jane.
That’s pretty dramatic, but let’s go back to the same example. Jane misses the bus. This time there is no accident, but Jane does miss her job interview. And misses out on the job she was a shoe in for. However, a couple of weeks later a much better opportunity shows up and Jane secures that job — one she would never have gotten if she’d made that bus two weeks earlier.
It’s tempting to rail against the whims of time and circumstance that ruin our plans, but the best course of action is usually to sit back and wait. Wait and see what comes in place of the original plan. It may not be where you wanted to go, but it will usually take you where you need to be!
So many people are concerned with the go-go-go of their lives they don’t slow down enough to consider the importance of stop-stop-stop. Sometimes people need a brain wandering break.
Brains Working on Overload
As much as it might feel like every ding of your email or beep from your phone is an immediate call for attention, it doesn’t always have to be the case. The fact is, for most of us, our brains are working on overload. The stimulation coming at us from every direction is endless. Studies have shown we’re taking in about five times more information a day than we were in 1986 and we’ve become Pavlovian in our response to the cords that tether us to our machines.
Take a Brain Break
Whether you know it or not, your brain would appreciate some time alone. When your brain is busy dealing with the hustle and bustle of daily life it’s engaged in active doing. When left to itself your brain will wander and ponder.
The Importance of Letting Your Mind Wander
Believe it or not the greatest insights don’t come to us during our thinking, concentrating time, they sneak in during the wandering, pondering time. Without a thousand things screaming for attention your brain has time to creatively explore on its own, making connections and leaps of association all that busy work keeps it from making.
The thing is, your brain can’t be in two places at once. It can’t be dealing with the busy work of go-go-go and wandering around in the stop-stop-stop. And even if you think you’re stop-stop-stopping when you kick back with Twitter or scroll through your Facebook feed, you’re actually flipping back to the busy side. All that information is adding noise to your brain instead of making room for quiet space.
When you’re multi-tasking it might seem like you’re accomplishing a lot, but a walk outside in nature could very well give your brain the break it needs to really come up with something great.