Transitioning from Winter Wardrobe to Spring Styles

Willow-Pink-DressWinter has persisted for many months – which means that winter apparel has dominated our wardrobes for longer than we might like to admit. With the arrival of spring, it is time to start switching out that winter wardrobe for spring styles.

Of course, here in Toronto the chilly weather will continue to persist for several more weeks. With the slow transition from winter to spring in mind, here are a few tips to saluting spring while still preparing for cooler temperatures.

 

 

  • Fresh and light makeup
    When updating your look to fit spring styles, start with switching your makeup for light and airy colours and tones. You do not need to compromise any of your warm winter wear to give your face a fresh look for spring.

    The Harpers Bazaar article on the Prettiest Spring Pastel Makeup for Any Age can help you determine exactly how you can make the season’s soft colours work for you. For women in their 30s, 40s, 50s and 60s, read here for the best shades to brighten your eyes, cheeks and lips without going over-the-top.

  • Suits in transition
    With this weather, we are nowhere near ready for the lightweight suits and whites of summer. However, there are excellent transition pieces that can take you from the darkness of winter to the lightness of spring, without a dramatic switch in fabric and colour.

    For example, this handsome Akris Punto suit is made of lightweight wool, and the camel colour allows for a subtle shift from darker fabrics that dominate in wintertime. Additionally, the modern shawl collar gives the blazer a fresh update without too much drama.

  • Accessories that pop
    Accessories make for great transition pieces, from introducing a hint of colour into your winter repertoire to staying vibrant all throughout spring and summer. If you work in a business casual environment, you can afford to go a little bolder with your accessories.

    This Burberry floral print silk scarf nods to spring by adding subtle flowers and pops of brightness without appearing to busy or extravagant. From Nordstrom’s Shades of Bright springtime collection, the Simon Sebbag leather multistrand necklace in teal and silver lends an elegant way to welcome colours that mirror spring’s growth and renewal.

Just because winter weather may stick around for a few more weeks does not mean that your wardrobe also must be stuck in the season. Celebrate the coming spring by transitioning to light, bright and fresh styles!

Manage Stress and Exhaustion During Business Travel

When traveling for business, days can extend well beyond a conventional workday. Filled with breakfast events, meetings, presentations, networking meals and cocktails, the schedule can go on and on. Especially when business brings you far from the comforts of home, this kind of travel can be exhausting.

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Yet for important business that draws you from afar, it is important to exhibit Executive Presence and put forward your best professional image. Managing stress and exhaustion while traveling can help you to perform well, as well as make the experience much more enjoyable. A few steps you can take on your next business trip:

 

 

  • Set aside time to yourself
    With back-to-back sessions and networking around meals, many conferences or invitational meetings can go from breakfast until bedtime. Within this full schedule, ensure that you set aside a small amount of time to yourself.

    Even five minutes spent alone, whether relaxing, reading, or taking a short walk, can help you to refocus and feel centred before tackling more activities and socializing. Do not do work during this time – you will feel more energized to approach work after a short break.

  • Take care of business before leaving the office
    Make sure everything that you need on your trip, including files, presentation slides, addresses, and schedules, are exactly where you need them – before you set foot on the plane. Without everything in an accessible, central location, like a USB drive or a single folder, you may be scrambling to find missing pieces when you arrive at your destination. This will only add to your stress.
  • Energize without crashing
    While there are usually endless supplies of coffee at meetings and conferences, energizing exclusively through coffee and sugar often results in a caffeine crash. Further, mindlessly drinking coffee at meetings all day likely will alter the quality of your sleep. As well, in the evening, limit alcohol consumption. You don’t want to be the one looking like you were at a party the night before. It just doesn’t bode well for your reputation notwithstanding that it’ll be difficult for you to concentrate for the rest of the day.

Instead, find other ways to energize that won’t result in crashing. Take a brief walk outside and breathe some fresh air. Drink a refreshing caffeine-free herbal tea, like mint or ginger. My favourite is Rooibos. Exercise at the hotel gym if you have time for an energizing workout.

  • Maintain a “home” in your hotel room
    It can be tempting simply to drop your bags in the hotel room and dig out clothes from your suitcase during your stay – it is only a temporary home, after all. Yet at the end of a long day, it can be much more calming to return to a hotel room that is organized and tidy, not one with your belongings strewn around.

    Additionally, it will be better for the look and life your clothing to take a few minutes to hang and store them properly in the provided closet and drawers. A short time spent organizing can make you feel calm and collected during your trip.

Do you travel often for business? How do you manage the demands of business travel to put forward your best Executive Presence and professional image?

Complaining with Grace

complaints-buttonIt is important to be able to voice your opinion when issues or concerns arise. The main point to consider here is how you deliver your opinion or complaint. On one hand, a complaint can be constructive and help to solve a problem. But when poorly executed, a complaint can damage relationships, create tension, and reflect negatively on the person behind the opinion.

 

Here are some points to consider before lodging a complaint of your own.

Complaining on the Internet

  • Social Media
    If you are ready to launch into a tirade on a public forum on the web through a LinkedIn post, a tweet, or a Facebook status update, consider your motives first. Will a public complaint on social media reach its intended ears and solve the issue that bothers you? Or are you simply venting frustration, sending out your woes to anyone who will listen – whether or not they are your intended audience?

    Posting general complaints on social media always have the latter effect. This approach could lead to an array of negative impacts on the individual who posts directionless and unfiltered complaints. With such a wide audience, there are bound to be users who will see such thoughtless complaining as poor form. This will hinder the reputation of the individual who launched the criticism.

    Further, venting online means that other users in the future can see this negative attitude broadcast on social media. If this happens to be a prospective client or employer who hopes to connect with a positive, constructive individual, it could damage chances of future business or employment.

  • Private Email to Appropriate Contact
    If you hope to solve an issue using the Internet, an email to the right contact – whether that is the person at the root of the problem or an appropriate intermediary, like the HR department – is the safest way to go. Keep in mind, however, that an email also is never a completely private forum, as it can be forwarded, printed, or made public. In this case, write an email using facts – not feelings – to describe the issue, and send it with a goal in mind. Problem solving, not venting, is the objective.

Complaining in the Office

  • Loud Tirades in Public Spaces
    Just like posting woes recklessly on social media, loudly expressing frustration in an open area of the office or another public space will never have a constructive effect. This is a monologue that others will inevitably overhear – whether or not a complainer can see them in the vicinity.

    Especially if a complaint is about a person or a group of people, this usually will be perceived as gossip. This type of information is much more sensitive than technical or operational issues, as others’ feelings and reputations are at stake. If you have a complaint about an individual’s conduct or behaviour, do not express it in an open space for others to hear.

  • Private Meetings
    Instead of a monologue toward anyone who will listen, opt for a dialogue. Meet privately with the individual who is at the root of the issue. It also helps to have an unbiased third party, such as an HR professional, who can mediate the conversation and ensure that it does not escalate into petty arguing.

Even if someone or something distresses you, remember that how you express your frustration always reflects back on you. Protect your reputation and complain with grace.

Informational Interviews: The Why and How

Business people handshake in the office.Whether you are at the start of your career or you are seeking a professional change, informational interviews are a great tool for learning about the jobs, companies, or fields you aim to pursue.

When conducting research on an industry using resources that are widely available to the general public, it can be difficult to gain more than a basic sense of what a profession entails or what a company actually achieves. However, an informational interview can lend an insider’s perspective, telling more about a company’s culture, day-to-day work, key priorities, and important issues within that field.

By connecting with individuals through informational interviews, not only can you learn from a unique and personal perspective but also you can build professional relationships and grow your network.

Since informational interviews require individuals to lend their valuable and often limited time, here are a few tips for conducting the most effective and respectful interviews.

  • Do not ask for a job.
    An informational interview is not the right time or place to ask for a job. It is a learning opportunity, not a chance to solicit a position. In fact, if you are looking for a job under the pretence of an informational interview, it could damage your relationship with your contact and hinder your chances of pursuing a career at that company.It is true that building relationships through informational interviews could lead to opportunities in the future, but it is not the point of the interview itself.
  • Be very conscious about time.
    When requesting an informational interview, do not ask for more than 30 minutes of an individual’s time. During an interview, take responsibility for regulating time and ensure that you do not go over the allotted schedule. Additionally, like a regular job interview, punctuality is essential – respecting the time of your contact and making a great first impression are still both important here.
  • Prepare in advance with questions and research.
    Do not arrive unprepared by simply expecting the interviewee to tell you exactly what you want to hear. You should have structured questions prepared in advance so that you can focus on exactly what interests you, and also so that you can maximize the limited time you have.Additionally, make sure you research the company and the interviewee’s position. It is important to demonstrate your interest and investment in the field, so that an interviewee feels it is worth his or her time to meet with you.
  • Write a thank-you note.
    After an informational interview, show your gratitude to your contact in a formal manner. Whether via email or a handwritten note, saying “thank you” will help to ensure that you maintain a positive relationship with the interviewee in the future.

 

Throughout Your Career, Never Burn Bridges

Often when people quit jobs or leave negative professional situations, they are tempted to cut all ties with their former employers – and sometimes even speak poorly about the company or its employees. More often than not, this approach will have repercussions in the future.

97421060Keeping distance from former colleagues is one thing, but actively condemning an organization and those who work there is a more serious issue. Moving between jobs in this manner does not demonstrate Executive Presence and will not benefit your reputation. Instead, maintaining ties and keeping a respectful attitude will allow you to build positive connections throughout all the transitions in your career.

As you move between jobs and locations, here are several reasons why you should build – not burn – bridges.

  • Gossip Travels Fast through Networks
    Especially if you move around within your industry or stay in a particular region, chances are that your current colleagues know other individuals in your previous and future workplaces. If you gossip about your former employer, it could travel through your networks – either to your former colleagues, or to another contact whose opinion you truly value.As an exercise, look at your LinkedIn connections to see how many mutual contacts you share. If you speak negatively, word can spread quickly among all those professionals.
  • Positive Forces Lead to Positive Growth
    On the other hand, if you keep positive ties, you will maintain an upper hand in your industry. This does not require a serious effort: even reaching out to a former colleague or supervisor and meeting for coffee once per year can keep relationships strong. If your experience at a particular company was a bad one, look past those memories and remember which individuals were trusting and affirmative within that environment. Try to maintain connections with those individuals.
  • Aggression is not a Characteristic of Executive Presence
    You may feel the impulse to critique your former organization because you no longer work there: after all, if they can’t hear you, what does it matter?However, this attitude and behaviour could negatively influence your current position. If you critique previous employers or colleagues with aggression, your current colleagues may get a damaging impression of you. Further, they may be wary to trust you in the future, as they may suspect you will apply the same attitude to them. Even worse is to demonstrate this behaviour during a job interview, as starting off on a destructive tone will never leave a good first impression.If you feel this temptation to criticize, remember that Executive Presence is not characterized by negativity and aggression, but rather composure and grace – even in difficult situations.
  • View All Experiences as Learning Opportunities
    Any career path will involve a variety of colleagues, jobs, and companies. Whether good or bad, try to see all of these experiences as learning opportunities. In fact, you can often learn the most from difficult moments, as they teach you how to respond to similar challenges in the future.

What are your tips for maintaining positive relationships throughout a career?

Make 2015 the Year You Develop Executive Presence

executive presenceIf you have considered developing your Executive Presence, elevating your career, or acquiring highly rated credentials, 2015 may be your year to do it. It is a big year for Corporate Class Inc. and Executive Presence – not only are our public-enrollment programs and seminars back by popular demand, but also we are offering a brand new intensive certification program based on feedback of current and potential participants.

With the breadth and depth of our programs, we continue to cater to professionals with a variety of goals. Read about our upcoming sessions below and see which one could be right for you.

  • Human Resources Professionals Association (HRPA) 2015 Conference
    Toronto, January 21-23, 2015

    As in previous years, I am delighted to once again present at the annual HRPA conference. This year I will deliver two sessions. On January 21, join Christine Felgueiras, Corporate Class Inc.’s Associate Director of Programs, and me for “First Impression: Here’s Your Second Chance!” Learn about the important factors that contribute to a winning first impression, so you can start every professional relationship off on the right foot.

    On January 22, together with corporate training consultant Marjorie Malpass, we address “The Power of Yes and Levity in Conversation”: a discussion where you learn how to become a great conversationalist and find out the useful – and sometimes surprising – advantages of using levity in professional conversations.

  • Executive Presence Workshop for Leaders and Executives
    Toronto, March 26-27, 2015
    Top leaders, corporate executives, and HR managers: this program is designed for you. For those who have already advanced within a career or a company, this workshop will give you even more of an edge and allow for continued personal advancement.

    Back by popular demand, our 2-day program in March will enable you to demonstrate the multi-dimensional aspects of Executive Presence with interactive classes and small group sessions. Among other topics, I will address powerful first impressions, crafting a memorable personal brand, effective communication in any context, and exuding confidence and poise.

  • Executive Presence System Atlanta Certification Training Program
    Atlanta, April 20-24, 2015

    After receiving much feedback for a fast-track program to the world of corporate training, we have designed the Executive Presence System Certification Training Program in Atlanta – the newest program from Corporate Class Inc.

This 5-day intensive training program will be your entryway into becoming a recognized Executive Presence trainer. During the interactive sessions, you will learn how to master your own Executive Presence, then develop the skills to train a diverse range of clients. By the end of the program, you will acquire the credentials that will lend you an edge in the corporate training industry.

Click here to read more about the program and to register. Mark your calendar: our early bird registration special ends on January 23.

With the diverse range of upcoming programs and opportunities, we hope to address your specific objectives when it comes to enhancing Executive Presence. Register for one of our programs today!

 

Do Not Let Fear Limit Your Executive Presence

fearaction“The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

What do you think you could accomplish if you simply let go of your fears? Fear influences all of our choices and decisions, and often limits us where we most want to succeed. However, when we stop and take a good look at our fears, we often find that what is behind them is not so perilous after all.

If you want to develop your Executive Presence, you must address your fears and work through them. After all, Executive Presence is built on a strong foundation of confidence and strength in trying moments. And just as Executive Presence is a learned skill, you can also learn to confront your fears until they are simply a challenge that you have overcome.

Professionals hold many fears that prevent them from reaching goals in the workplace. Here are three common fears with tips on how to address them.

Fear of Public Speaking
This is one of the most prevalent fears in the workplace. The anxiety of making a mistake or delivering a poor presentation in front of a large group can be an enormous burden. If this is one of your fears, consider the following tips:

  • Practice, practice, practice – and then practice again. The more you practice your prepared notes, slide changes, and any other elements of your presentation, the less likely it is to go wrong. This alone will give you more confidence to proceed.
  • Keep in mind that the audience likely will not know if you have made a mistake. If you do, calmly keep going as if nothing happened.
  • Before taking the stage or the podium, take a few deep breaths. This will help to calm you before you begin.

Fear of Networking
Some professionals have great discomfort not with standing in front of a group of people, but rather in trying to make a connection with another individual. The potential awkwardness of networking leads some professionals to avoid it altogether. However, since making meaningful professional connections is integral to success, think about these strategies:

  • As with presentations, you can also practice networking. Discuss your professional interests and ideas with a family member or close friend before you converse with strangers at a conference or networking event.
  • Remember that networking events aren’t all about “selling” your professional goals – small talk is equally important for making connections. Before heading to an event, think of a few talking points in advance, so you don’t struggle to come up with conversation topics on the spot.

Fear of Advancement
Are you too apprehensive to assert yourself in the workplace and aim for a promotion or a raise? Or do you think that if you advance to a higher position, you will not be able to perform and won’t “deserve” the promotion? Consider these points:

  • If you are promoted, do not overthink it or doubt the decision. If the management team acknowledges that you should advance within your company, then it is clear that others recognize your successful performance and trust in your capabilities. Now it’s your turn to trust in your own ability.
  • If you aim to get ahead but fear rejection, remember that you will never advance if you simply do not try. When you try to succeed, there is an inevitable risk that you will not. Choose to accept this risk and proceed to strive toward your goals.

What are your greatest fears in the workplace? For more on this topic from our blog, see our previous post on Conquering the Fear of Public Speaking.

 

Your Selfie, Your Professional Self

How much information do you share about yourself online? On your personal Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and other social media accounts, how large of a window do you let into your life?

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Posting personal photos and updates on social media is nothing new or unusual. If you do it, you are among millions of other users worldwide who share some elements of their private lives on a public platform. When this becomes an issue, however, is if the presentation of yourself on social media – whether through group photos, self-taken images or “selfies,” or written posts – is vastly different from the image you try to cultivate in the workplace.

“But this is my personal profile,” many have argued. “I have a separate profile for my work-related tweets and Facebook posts.” This may be the case, but lines become blurred between personal and professional on social media. A boss, client, or potential employer could have access to both – and it may not work to your advantage.

  • Be Careful What You Selfie For
    In some cases, the selfie and its subjects have acquired a connotation of being self-centred, overly indulgent, and simply unnecessary. Aside from this annoyance that some people feel when viewing the selfies of others, such images can harm the photographer if they reveal him or her participating in inappropriate behaviour.

    Although selfies have become normalized and encouraged – there is now even a professional camera designed for taking selfies – be wary of your own selfie-image and how often you post them. Before posting a selfie to social media, ask yourself if it aligns with the image you present in the office. One useful tip is to think of an actual person in your professional circle – whether an employer, client, or otherwise – and ask yourself whether you would mind if that individual saw the selfie you were about to post.

  • Don’t Compromise Your Reputation
    Reputation is an indispensible component of Executive Presence. However, even if you have worked for years to build up a flawless reputation in the boardroom, inappropriate online posts or images on personal accounts can shatter that reputation in an instant. Although you can heal a bruised reputation, it takes much more time and effort than maintaining a good reputation in the first place.

    Not only can questionable images hinder your reputation, but also hateful or negative written posts can do damage as well. Even something that seems like a harmless complaint can have a massive effect, especially if it is related to your company or line of work.

  • First Impressions Are Not Always in Person
    First impressions do not always occur face-to-face. In fact, an increasing number of employers admit to reviewing job candidates’ social media accounts before hiring. According to a 2014 Jobvite poll, some employers not only factor in appropriate images and posts, but also details such as spelling and grammar.

    If you are concerned about your online first impression, take steps to improve its quality – or limit its accessibility. If others tag you in images you would not like to be widely available, remove the tag and ask friends not to tag you in the future. Increase the privacy settings on your Facebook account and consider making your Twitter private as well.

Remember that if your social media accounts are widely accessible, there is no difference between your professional and personal image – anyone can see both. For more on social media and professionalism, see our previous posts “Dining Etiquette in the Age of Food Selfies” and “Spring Cleaning for Your LinkedIn Profile.”

 

Start Fresh in the New Year

PhotoCredit-Tweak-Your-BizIt may sound cliché to promote the New Year as a time for new beginnings, but there are many good reasons that January 1st can be an excellent moment for a fresh start in your professional life. Not only is it the start of a new calendar year, but also many businesses start their new fiscal year, the holiday rush is finally over, and new projects and initiatives frequently begin at this time.

With the start of a new year, it is best to begin with a fresh frame of mind. Here are a few steps you can take to start 2015 off right.

  • Outline your professional goals for the year.
    Take time for yourself early in 2015 to reflect on and outline your professional goals for the coming year. Without this time for reflection, many people continue their work at status quo and do not think seriously about what challenges and accomplishments they hope to meet in their job.

    A year’s length is the perfect amount of time for this kind of planning: it is a short enough span to foresee the end of attainable goals, but long enough to achieve something meaningful or make a significant change. It is through self-evaluation and reflection that you can begin to recognize what you would like to accomplish in your career.

  • Review and refine your schedule.
    The holidays can be so busy that we often do not take time to think about whether we are maximizing our productivity through an organized schedule. Instead, we simply scramble to get it all done.

    If the activity slows down somewhat after the holidays, review your recurring schedule as well as the deadlines approaching in the coming weeks or months. Even the simple act of looking over your calendar can help to inspire ideas for upcoming projects that you previously pushed off as “next year” in your mind. Additionally, revisiting your regular schedule can help you to consider changes that will allow you to maximize your productivity in the New Year.

  • Clean up your office space.
    The physical spaces in which you work can impact your productivity, attitude, and outlook, as well as the way others perceive your company. After the holidays, an office clean-up is especially necessary: no one benefits from tinsel and stale Christmas cookies as we head into the New Year.

    Ensure that someone is accountable or that there is a group effort to tidy what is left of the holiday decorations. This could even begin before December is over, depending on when your office closes for the holidays. Take additional time to prep your personal office or cubicle space for the start of the year.

  • Clean up your inbox.
    Just as we spend many hours in our physical office every day, we also spend many hours in our digital spaces. An overcrowded inbox can leave you feeling already behind on your work, even when the New Year has only just begun.

    At the start of January, set aside a few extra hours to archive the emails you don’t need, categorize what you have read, respond to any outstanding requests, and catch up on what you have flagged or marked unread. Little can be more overwhelming than the feeling of unfinished tasks following you from the previous year.

Happy New Year! For more posts on the season and its new beginnings from previous years, see “Time and Dedication are Your Keys to Success in 2014” and “New Year’s Resolutions for the Workplace.”

How to Handle Difficult Colleagues

No matter where you work, it is a certainty that you will have to work with a difficult co-worker at some point in your career. In fact, you may have met him or her already: a difficult colleague can be someone who complains constantly, does not contribute equally, is always ready to start an argument, or even engages in bullying.

In many circumstances, it can be hard to know the right thing to say or do in response to someone whose behaviour is uncooperative and irrational. However, there are a few responses you can rely on that will make the situation easier to handle in many contexts.

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  • Don’t fight fire with fire.
    If someone is getting into a heated argument or accusing others without thinking, you might begin to feel yourself getting worked up and ready to fight back.

    While it takes great restraint, try not to let someone’s passion or anger influence your own behaviour. “Fighting fire with fire,” as the saying goes, will only escalate the situation. Instead, take a deep breath, try to maintain a cool head, and counter his or her irrationality with logical and measured responses. While doing so, do match their emotions. If someone is on fire and you speak in a slow and calm voice, you will only aggravate them even more. You do not have to yell and tell, simply match the passion in your voice and the cadence of your speech with theirs.

  • Don’t take it personally.
    When a colleague is acting rudely and is difficult to work with, know that this behaviour is not directed at you personally. Instead, a colleague’s challenging behaviour in the workplace is often a result of his or her own stress, whether in the office or at home. He or she also may be coping with problems that you are not aware of.

    Although it is unprofessional and unkind to be rude to others as a result of one’s own stress, keeping this idea in mind will help you to cope when faced with difficult behaviour, as well as to be empathetic to your colleague.

  • Focus on your positive professional relationships.
    While you might have one demanding co-worker who overshadows your workday, try not to focus all your attention on this single relationship. Instead, remind yourself of all the supportive, friendly, and professional relationships that you have in your network.

    When you maintain your attention on building and maintaining strong relationships with the people who are truly a joy to work with, it will help you to feel more positive and productive rather than diminished by one individual’s difficult personality.

  • Hold your ground—and pick your battles.
    You do not always need to take someone’s challenging behaviour lying down – and you must know when to fight back and when to let it go. Constantly trying to resist and argue with a difficult colleague can become extremely exhausting and stressful. Additionally, always reacting to a co-worker’s behaviour can affect your own professional image by portraying you as someone who is combative and reactive to provocation.
  • If it becomes a serious issue, involve HR.
    A difficult colleague can simply be testy or uncooperative. However, when an individual engages in sustained workplace bullying or any form of abuse, this becomes a much more serious issue. If the problem escalates to this level, it is appropriate to contact the Human Resources department within your company and report abusive behaviour. Your HR department will help to take the necessary steps to solve this critical workplace issue.

Relying on your Executive Presence can help you to navigate many challenges in the workplace, including dealing with difficult colleagues. For more on this topic, see our previous blog post, “How Executive Presence and Other Skills Can Help You Solve Issues in the Workplace.” How do you cope with challenging personalities in your working environment?