08 Jun

How Introverts Can Still Shine at Work

Articles, Blog No Comments by Mareisha Winters

Introverted Worker

When you think about the people who are getting ahead at work they are usually the ones who put themselves out front. They are more outspoken, more assertive and are comfortable and confident in any situation. They can think on their feet and always seem to have the right response to a question. They are comfortable talking to new people and are excellent networkers – small talk comes naturally to them. They are more social beings and will most likely attend the company social events thereby getting noticed by the higher ups. They are “the extroverts.” An extrovert is someone who gets their energy from being around other people.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are introverts. Introverts, by definition, are people who are energized by being alone and whose energy is drained by being around other people. While introverts may also be shy, introversion is not to be confused with shyness. Introverts are inspired by having time to think and ponder and recharge (alone). Too many interpersonal interactions and situations that require them to think on their feet drain an introverted person.

How does this play out in the workplace?
In American society extroversion is the “standard” behavior. Therefore anything against this standard is often judged. If you’re an introvert, your personality traits can send the wrong message to your boss and co-workers. In the workplace, introverts are often labeled as being:

  • antisocial,
  • not team players,
  • inattentive,
  • unproductive,
  • lacking ability and
  • unenthusiastic.

So if you are an introvert, how can you excel in the workplace?
Be aware of introvert characteristics and personality traits: By knowing the traits and characteristics of an introvert you can work at changing them within yourself if introversion negatively impacts your work. Additionally, you can educate your boss and co-workers about introverted characteristics to dispel any negative perceptions about your work ethic.

Show your strengths: Introverts are often characterized as good researchers, writers and problem solvers. At work, make sure these strengths get noticed by others.

Ask questions: To show that you are enthusiastic about a project or paying attention in a meeting – ask questions.

Get out of your comfort zone: Push yourself outside of what’s comfortable for you. Attend work social functions or group networking events.

Are you an introvert? How have you been able to excel in the workplace? Tell us in the comments below.

Go for it!

06 Jun

Why You Need a Work Sponsor

Articles, Blog No Comments by Mareisha Winters

Work SponsorWe have all been told the importance of having a mentor at work, someone who gives you career (and sometimes personal) advice.  Mentors help you work through your issues and act as a sounding board when you’re having a real tough day, or not sure how to handle a particular situation.  A mentor is someone who has had some experience within the same industry and company, who helps you learn more about your role and how you can successfully progress through your career journey.

Sometimes, however, this relationship is not enough.  What if you are seeking a new position?  What if you want to be next in line for a promotion?  Who will speak up for you?  A mentor does not usually play this role.  This is where a sponsor comes in to play.

Is a mentor enough?  If you want that job or promotion, you might need a sponsor.

Mentors are clearly a valuable resource and many companies have formal mentoring programs. Sponsorship is a newer term that is popping up throughout the business world.  So what exactly is a sponsor? They go beyond giving feedback and advice to use their influence to help you propel your career.

Ideally a sponsor is higher up in your company than your manager or boss.  Your sponsor may be in an executive level position.  He or she is someone who has influence.  Your sponsor is that person who will actively advocate for you, when you are not there to vouch for yourself.  They will campaign for you to get to the top of the promotion list and/or high potential list.

“Everyone’s heard of the importance of having a mentor who gives advice and how to develop, but a sponsor helps you get ahead,” says Christine Silva, director of research at Catalyst, the leading nonprofit membership organization expanding opportunities for women in business. “He or she is someone who’s senior in your organization who will advocate on your behalf for development and promotion opportunities.”

Minorities and women can especially benefit from obtaining a sponsor.  A Catalyst survey showed that women with just a mentor are less likely to get promoted than those who have a sponsor (Read: Why Men Get More Promotions Than Women).

Other research shows that minorities tend to leave organizations when they do not feel that they have someone to advocate for them for advancement opportunities.  Minorities are frequently left out of relationships with the dominant members of an organization’s power structure who could provide needed career advice.  In a survey conducted by the National Black Chamber of Commerce, 34% of people of color said they would have very likely stayed at their job if their employer had offered better managers who recognized their abilities.

A mentor and a sponsor can be one in the same person.  However, a sponsor may be less accessible than a mentor because they are higher up in the organization.  You may not be able to reach them as easily as you would your mentor.  Therefore, you should consider having both a work mentor and a work sponsor.

So how do you find a sponsor?

This can be tricky. If you are not viewed as a high potential candidate, it may be difficult to secure a sponsor. Some companies do not reveal that they have “sponsorships” even to the individuals being sponsored.  You might want to discuss your desire for a sponsor with your boss, mentor or even your HR representative.  HR might be able to share if the company has a formal sponsorship program.  If you are getting vibes that it may not be the right time or that you need more experience, you might want to gather more information to understand what would need to do to qualify for a sponsor.

That being said the ideal sponsor is someone who is influential within the organization (a key decision maker).  You will need to be visible to top leadership to be considered for sponsorship and your accomplishments must exceed expectations.

You really want someone to want to sponsor you…to come to you and suggest a sponsorship relationship.  If you don’t think that will occur, it is ok for you to seek out a sponsor but you must do this very carefully by cultivating a relationship with the potential sponsor. You cannot just approach a senior leader and say: “Hey, I am looking for a sponsor. Would you consider me?”  It will take time to build a relationship and prove that you are sponsorship material.

Do you have a mentor or sponsor?  How have they helped you succeed in your career?  Tell us in the comments below.

Go for it!

04 Jun

Getting Ahead in An Economic Downturn

Patience

Too often you don’t get what we want at work because we don’t know how to navigate the organizational culture, or you might be shy or simply just do not have the skills. This month we will give you tools and techniques for achieving the desires of your heart on the job.

Employee mood during the economic downturn has changed over the past year. The idea that the economy would eventually recover and go back to the glory days of the early 2000s has been replaced with an idea that perhaps this economic purgatory is the new normal. Good news of companies hiring are tempered with monthly updates that the economy isn’t growing at as fast as predicted. What was once a light at the end of the tunnel appears to be only a temporary reprieve.

The outlook on employment changed along with this. People were lucky and grateful just to be employed a couple years ago. Then, with optimistic signs of an economic recovery, there was a higher expectation and revived hope for employees that marked a mental shift from treading water to truly succeeding. This neutral state lasted for months, but here we are, still waiting to wake up tomorrow to lavish houses, cars, and well paying jobs.

In the meantime, how does an employee still get ahead in a job when there are no promotions in the future?

The overarching idea is that employees must change their idea of what it means to “get ahead”. Traditionally, this meant higher pay and job promotions. A more appropriate definition for contemporary times would be personal growth, education, and setting up for a future. Here are some hints below:

Learn from Environment both Laterally AND Vertically
A lack of promotion opportunities isn’t an excuse for employees to stagnate. This point reflects upon a larger idea of continued education. Education, knowledge, and learning are key ideas in dealing with the current economic climate. One must think long term and be willing to go one step backwards in order to take two or three steps forward in the future. Education is priceless. An employee can take this time to learn about all facets of a particular business. For example, an employee from the creative side can take time to learn from the marketing side and thereby sharpen their understanding of what the other side seeks from a product. There’s been a recent movement towards specialization that deals with economics – if an employee has a niche role, then that employee becomes irreplaceable. Yet taking a holistic approach to learning can yield inspiration and dividends as well.

Prepare for an End Goal – Owning a Business?
The popular archetype of work is to climb the ladder, moving from one promotion to the next. But perhaps the end game in this lackluster economy is to eventually own a business. This blog has devoted much space to the advantages of self employment. Employees are at the mercy of an economy. Employers, meanwhile, control their fate. Perhaps the “new normal” is for employees to work at a job that eventually prepares them to become a boss.

Nimble
Being nimble and quick to adapt is perhaps THE most important trait of business in 2012. This is due to technology’s exponential growth. There seems to be some new software or social media approach that recontextualizes how businesses relate to customers every few months. The basic set of principles remain the same; the delivery system changes. Every idea, every approach is temporary. It’s important not to fall in love with a certain way of doing things. What is popular today will be obsolete in the future. That’s okay. Understand, and act accordingly.

The ideas above do not come with a pay raise or showy dividends. The current climate for employees is far from ideal, but there are several ways to get ahead, grow, and improve regardless.

Go for it!