What Would You Do with an Extra Hour?

One more hour ar134383890972537How many times have you found yourself saying, “If only I had one more hour to work on this project!” or, “If there were a few more hours in the day, I could…” When we have so much to accomplish in a day, gaining even one extra hour – whether during daylight savings time or when transitioning between time zones – can seem like a luxury.

What would you do if you had one extra hour in the day? Although we can’t actually create that extra time, imagining what we would do with it can be a helpful exercise for daily productivity. A goal or a reason to make extra time can be just the motivation you need to more efficiently complete your daily tasks to fit in an extra activity.

Here are a few activities that take only an hour but could greatly enhance your workday – and could boost your productivity level to make room for them. If you had an extra hour, would you…

  • Clean Up Your Workspace
    When time gets away from us, so can the tidiness of our workspaces. But a messy desk can only hinder your productivity – and your professional image. You are rarely doing yourself a favour by keeping papers piled on your desk, folders stuffed in drawers, and information buried when you need it most.

    Even when a cluttered desk may work for you, others may associate a disorganized workspace with your actual products. Like your professional image, the image you project with your office environment has an impact on both internal and external contacts. Taking just a short amount of time to tidy can help you to leave a great first impression with your office space.

  • Learn A New Skill Over Lunch
    It can be overwhelming to face the big task to “learn a new skill.” But if you knew it could take only an hour to add a new skill to your resume or repertoire, would it be less intimidating? A Lunch and Learn can be a great way to transform your lunch hour into an interesting, exciting, and useful learning opportunity. For example, we offer 60 to 90 minute sessions on sixteen different topics, including “Working a Room,” “Public Speaking,” and “Business Dress.” These sessions are interactive and engaging – which can help to inspire and re-energize the rest of your workday.
  • Have a Networking Coffee
    A coffee break with a business contact or friend rarely lasts more than an hour or two, but this task can often remain on a to-do list for weeks or months. Yet think about what kind of valuable business relationship you could build if you reached out to someone you recently met at a conference or a meeting, with whom you have been meaning to discuss your professional ideas or your company’s plans. Networking is one of the most important ways you can grow as a professional, as business connections are invaluable.
  • Hit the Gym
    Studies show that 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week can work wonders for your health. It can also help you to manage stress and improve your mood. Yet there is often not enough time in the day to fit in a visit to the gym. But there are some ways to incorporate wellness into your workday, especially if companies are on board.

    For example, try walking during breaks or at lunch – or aim to walk to work one day per week (if you live within walking distance of your office). Find a gym near your office so you do not have to add an extra commute for exercise. And on certain days, plan for a fitness class just after the day ends – so you can’t let tasks persist well into the evening.

Even with one extra hour in the day, you could accomplish so many things. The trick is to determine how you can make all the hours of the day productive and worthwhile – and it will feel like time is on your side!

 

In the News: Casual Attire Gone Too Far?

Earlier this year, the New York Times featured a Room For Debate discussion on the topic, “The Casual Couture of the Average American.” The article series drew opinions from six debaters with thoughtful responses on the topic, from fashion bloggers to a fashion psychologist as well as the curatorial director of the nearby Fashion History Museum in Cambridge, Ontario. Their opinions varied: some argued that casual attire fosters a more accessible workplace; others thought that casual dress might send others the wrong message about ourselves. Each debater lends an interesting perspective from his or her own professional background.

One argument that was particularly resonant with our approach here at Corporate Class Inc. was that of psychology professor Karen J. Pine. Pine notes that clothing choices are inevitably tied to a good first impression: according to Pine, “People take a nano-second to judge us on first meeting and clothes are a good shortcut.” Even if an individual is intelligent, organized, and competent, others may perceive him or her differently if their appearance suggests otherwise.

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We agree that first impressions – of dress, body language, behaviour, and attitude – can greatly influence a professional relationship. No matter how valuable the idiom “don’t judge a book by its cover” can be, inevitably appearance will factor into the perception of one’s character, especially in the workplace. If an individual appears apathetic about his or her appearance by wearing jeans and flip-flops to the office, others may assume that he or she is apathetic about work or professional success as well.

As we’ve discussed in a previous blog, first impressions are not only about attire, but also about attitude and body language. Besides presenting yourself well with a tidy and professional appearance, the way you interact with others also has an important influence on how they perceive you. Smiling and eye contact suggests that you are listening and invested in the conversation. Good posture and an open stance show that you are confident yet welcoming. All of these tactics can help to start a professional relationship off on the right foot.

When it comes to casual attire in the workplace, however, there can be confusion about what is appropriate and what is not. As Jonathan Walford of the Fashion History Museum suggests in the Room for Debate discussion, the 1990s saw a rise of casual attire in the workplace and a transition from “casual Fridays into everyday business casual.” In order to clarify what is appropriate and what is not in your own work environment, we suggest establishing a business casual dress code policy at work. This way, if there are any questions about whether employees can wear open-toed shoes or the most appropriate length for a skirt, managers can refer directly to the policy instead of allowing discussions to get personal.

What do you think? Are workplaces and public spaces becoming too casual? How does your office handle the balance between professional and everyday attire?

Professional Growth through Self-Evaluation

-1Though many attempt to avoid the task, regularly evaluating one’s own work, habits, objectives, strengths, and areas for improvement is necessary for any successful professional. Consistent self-reflexivity will allow you to understand what you need to work on to become a stronger professional, as well as help you to identify opportunities for advancing to the next level in your career.

 

While critical self-reflection can be a challenge, luckily there are many resources available to help you improve where you need it. In this post, we outline a few common areas for improvement, as well as some tips and training opportunities to tackle them.

When you ask yourself how you could improve, how do you answer? 

  • “I am uncomfortable presenting in front of groups.”
    Many people admit that public speaking is their biggest challenge. If you find yourself constantly dreading the next presentation you have to give or the next time you are in front of the boardroom, plan to take concrete steps – before, during, and after your presentation – to alleviate your fears.Before you speak publicly, do what you can in advance to make yourself as prepared as possible: Practice your presentation at least three times before you deliver it to others. Craft a winning PowerPoint or Prezi presentation that you feel proud of. If possible, rehearse with the presentation equipment so you can be sure that technical difficulties won’t arise.

    During the presentation, your own body language can make you feel more confident. Try striking a power pose: even if you don’t feel confident, making yourself look strong and competent – or, “faking it until you make it” – will actually make you feel better.

    After a presentation, take a few minutes for further self-reflection. Ask yourself, “What went well? Where could I have improved?” Taking stock when an experience is fresh in your mind will help you to prepare for next time.

  • “I have issues communicating with difficult colleagues.”
    Effective communication is so important to the success of individual professionals and a workplace as a whole. But when internal or external contacts are difficult to communicate with, it can be tempting to just give up entirely on communicating effectively.Not so fast. Avoiding communication may be an easy fix in the short-term, but good communication skills are vital for long-term professional relationships. In fact, a lack of effective communication may even be the root of the problem. Straightforward, clear communication with a positive tone – whether in face-to-face conversation, email, or over the phone – is the best way to go. Negative comments or the “cold shoulder” are never constructive in business.

    Additionally, refining your Executive Presence will lead to good communication skills. Executive Presence can enable you to solve issues in the workplace, and can help you build rapport with others and foster positive relationships. Corporate Class Inc. Executive Presence training programs and seminars can help you to improve these skills.

  • “During stressful situations, I can’t think straight or I become irrational or angry.”
    The ability to maintain grace under fire is a key element of Executive Presence. Of course, this is easier said than done. One major way to improve the way you handle intense pressure in a stressful situation is to manage your overall workplace stress. To keep stress in check on a daily basis, try taking short breaks throughout the day, schedule activities outside of work that focus on other goals or interests, and stay organized. Attempting to stay calm and composed on a regular basis will help you keep control when situations escalate.You will also need tactics for those especially intense moments. If a stressful situation involves a colleague or another contact, Psychology Today’s Preston Ni suggests taking a deep breath and slowly counting to ten before saying something you might regret. Or, if you are at the brink of a difficult decision, Ni recommends doing a cost-benefit analysis by listing pros and cons and numbering them in order of importance. This allows you to step out of the stress and see situations in a logical way.

In which areas do you need to improve? How do you stay self-reflective?

Outstanding Professional Skills Training for Graduate Students & Post-Doctoral Fellows

Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.46.24 PM Screen Shot 2014-03-23 at 7.45.12 PMPost-graduate studies can provide an in-depth knowledge and expertise in a particular field. In any field, however, there is one common set of skills necessary for success: professional skills. Yet in many academic programs, there are few opportunities to refine these skills or enhance students’ abilities outside of the program requirements.

This is where the Mitacs Step program makes a difference. Mitacs Step provides professional skills development workshops for graduate students and post-doctoral fellows across Canada. The free workshops offered by Mitacs Step give students a competitive advantage as they launch their careers and enhance skills that will be necessary for a lifetime. Here at Corporate Class Inc., we excited to be part of this exceptional and accessible programming with our Business Etiquette and Networking Skills workshops in Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

How Mitacs Step Lends a Competitive Advantage
The Mitacs Step program aims to build competencies for graduate and post-graduate students in four key areas that are recognized as essential for professional success. All of the Mitacs Step workshops address at least one of the following competencies; some address all four:

  • Leadership & Management
    From “big picture” management issues (such as influencing future outcomes, risks and impacts) to day-to-day organizational processes (such as planning, budgeting and performance management), participants learn skills necessary to lead and manage people and projects.
  • Communication & Relationship Building
    Working with people – and doing it well – is essential to success. Mitacs Step helps participants assess situations and communicate solutions, while fostering collaborative environments and offering constructive feedback to a team.
  • Personal & Professional Management
    For individual success, Mitacs Step aims to help students find self-management techniques to achieve their career and personal goals.

  • Entrepreneurialism
    Participants are encouraged to identify professional surroundings as a professional marketplace – then acquire the tools to take advantage of opportunities within that marketplace.

To address these four competencies, Mitacs Step offers a range of workshops that are hands-on and interactive and help students apply these skills to both academic and non-academic settings. Further, the workshops provide access to networking opportunities and industry expertise.

Corporate Class Inc. in the Mitacs Step Program
We are excited to be part of the Mitacs Step programming. With sessions on both Business Etiquette and Networking Skills, our team connects with graduate students and post-doctoral fellows in universities across Ontario and the Atlantic provinces.

  • Business Etiquette: This full-day workshop aims to increase awareness of how one’s actions and behaviours matter in building personal and professional relationships and reputation. The session begins with an overview on business etiquette. It then discusses the role of business etiquette in and out of the workplace environment, using technology appropriately, running and participating in effective meetings, and personal appearance.

    Click here to learn more about the learning objectives and key topic areas covered during the workshop.

  • Networking Skills: In the full-day Networking Skills session, participants gain insight on how to build and sustain professional relationships through effective networking. Participants then have the opportunity to try out the skills learned during the workshop during an in-session networking opportunity.

Click here to learn more about the learning objectives and key topic areas covered during the workshop.

We look forward to meeting you at one of the upcoming Mitacs Step workshops. For extraordinary skill development for emerging Canadian professionals, find a workshop here or share this link with a graduate student or post-doctoral fellow today!

“Spring Cleaning” for Your LinkedIn Profile

LinkedIn ProfileBelieve it or not, spring is just around the corner. When the warm weather finally comes, it’s time to let the fresh air in and complete a thorough spring-cleaning! But why leave this task just to the home and garden? In addition to the traditional spring-cleaning, take time this spring to clean up your virtual spaces as well. Start with your LinkedIn profile: for many, the most prominent professional social media platform.

Your Personal LinkedIn Page
On your personal LinkedIn page, do not forget to add new accomplishments, promotions, trainings, and skills as you acquire them. Like updating your resume, it can be easy to forget about adding every detail if you do not need to send it to an employer in the near future. But if you do not keep your resume – or LinkedIn profile – up-to-date, it can be overwhelming to try to catch up on everything you’ve accomplished over the last few months or even years.

Your Summary:

  • Do you have a summary that sets the tone and direction for your profile? If not, create one. Having a memorable LinkedIn summary can augment your profile especially when you are searching for jobs, so that new contacts know exactly what your interests and qualifications are right away. It also comes in handy when reaching out to clients, as they will be able to understand your role in your company and industry as soon as they view your profile.
  • Write a concise paragraph that is easy to read and understand quickly: use short sentences and keep your details free of jargon.
  • If you already have written a summary, read it again to ensure that it still reflects your current position and interests. Are you transitioning between industries? Looking to embark on a new career path? Have you developed a new specialty or skill? Revise your summary to reflect any new changes such as these.

Your Job Tasks:

  • Under the titles of your current and previous jobs, you have the option to add a list of job tasks and requirements. It is a good idea to write a few details for each job, as it will give a more accurate and precise view of your work experience.
  • Like your summary, re-read any tasks that you have already listed, and make sure they are still the most relevant and important tasks that you want to highlight. Tasks may change frequently, so be sure to revisit this section often.
  • When writing job tasks, avoid writing descriptions that are too text-heavy. People viewing your profile likely will read only a few words, and then move on to another section of your profile or another page entirely. Try using bullet points to make each job task distinct, concise, and memorable.

Your Profile Picture

  • Is your profile picture your most professional headshot? Was it taken within the last ten years? Has your imaged changed drastically since your headshot was taken? Consider these questions, and determine whether you want to update your profile picture. Having a recent and good-quality headshot has many benefits for your professional image; your LinkedIn profile is just one space where you want your photograph to represent your most professional self.

Your Headline

  • On most occasions, users will spend only a couple of minutes or even just a few seconds looking at your profile. Your headline – the key takeaway – should help you to stand out from the crowd. Forbes contributor and personal branding expert William Arruda recommends avoiding the “me-too” headline: using your current job title, thereby making yourself interchangeable with others who hold your position. Instead, Arruda suggests writing a headline that better describes what you do and sparks a viewer’s curiosity to know more about you.

Additional Details

  • Don’t forget to fill in other categories such as Volunteer Experience & Causes, Education, and Courses! Whether or not all your volunteer work or previous qualifications are relevant to your career, a variety of experiences and skills contribute to a well-rounded professional. Viewers of your LinkedIn profile will take note of these.
  • You cannot add to information provided by other users, such as Recommendations and Skills & Endorsements. Instead, develop these categories on the LinkedIn profiles of your colleagues and contacts! Some of them likely will return the favour.

For more from sources around the Web, check out The Globe and Mail’s “Get the most out of LinkedIn with these 10 tips” or the Huffington Post’s “8 Secrets to Building a Stunning LinkedIn Profile.” How do you maintain your best LinkedIn profile?