Amber Little

Big Business Blog: a guide to work, life and happiness

Build up self confidence at work May 9, 2011

Filed under: Tips for a successful career — Amber Little @ 10:16 pm
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No matter what kind of work you are in, your self confidence levels throughout your career will directly determine your levels of success.  If you don’t believe in yourself, you can’t expect others to.  Feelings of low self esteem can be painfully obvious to those around you, and can can cause a vicious cycle of self doubt and struggle in your life.  If you are not feeling confident, your boss and coworkers will pick up on this immediately.  They will likely start to doubt your abilities, and your boss may take away some of your responsibilities and not consider you for future projects.  This in turn will cause your self confidence levels to plummet even more, which may cause people to lose even more trust in you.  The good news is that there is a way out.  First, you need to be brutally honest with yourself and admit you are struggling.  From there, things can only get better.  Here are a few ways that you can get yourself out of a self confidence rut:

Be extremely prepared and organized.  Being prepared and organized are two of the most powerful ways you can boost your confidence levels.  By simply taking as little as 15 minutes a day to stay ahead of the game, you will reduce your anxiety levels, and it will show.

If you don’t have self confidence at the moment, fake it.  Body language is a powerful tool.  When you are feeling a bit down, you can fool others (and even yourself) into thinking you are on top of the world.  Stand tall, put your shoulders back and your head up.  Not only will you feel better, but people will also treat you better.

Express an interest to take on a new project.  When you always give yourself a challenge, you will be able to showcase your strong points and talents.  It shows great initiative to step up to the plate every now and then, and will make you feel great.

Make an effort to get along with coworkersThere really isn’t a worse feeling than being an outsider.  When you feel like you don’t belong, you will naturally begin to isolate yourself, which can lead to feelings of loneliness and depression.  Try and break out of this.  Make an effort to talk to and connect with people around you, you will be happier for doing so.

Face your fears.  Just like in life, when you face your fears at work head on, they simply aren’t as scary. Take some bold actions and learn how you can concur any roadblocks.

Think of your confidence levels as a journey.    Self confidence is a learned skill, and isn’t going to come overnight.  Remember that it’s okay to fall along the way, as long as you get back up.

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Look Your Best May 1, 2011

Filed under: Tips for a successful career — Amber Little @ 2:54 pm
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As the old saying goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.  And while we should really never judge a book by its cover, the fact is that people do.  We are constantly judged by our appearance, and whether you realize it or not you are also  judging others based on their appearance.  The way you choose to present yourself says a lot about you, especially at work.  Although we may have given a bad impression in the past, we are more than capable of giving a good second and lasting impression going forward.

Dressing casual or sloppy at work can give the impression that you are unorganized and unprofessional.  Managers, as well as coworkers and customers, may feel quite uncomfortable putting trust into a person that looks like they just rolled out of bed.  However, when you dress for success, those around you will perceive you in a more professional light.  This feedback will in turn encourage you to act in a more professional manner.  Also, many people are firm believers that you should dress for the position you want.  If your current position does not require a very professional dress code, yet upper managers are dressing professionally, you should dress like them!  This will give you an edge in the workplace, and people (including management) will take notice and view you in a much different light.  You don’t need to go out and spend an arm and a leg on expensive clothes, you just need to buy on the cheap and put a little more thought into your wardrobe.

Finally, while there are numerous benefits to dressing nicely, the most important one is how it will make you feel.  You will feel better about yourself when you look nice and put together.  If you know you look good, your self confidence will increase and you will carry yourself better.  So why not?  Go on, give yourself a little boost and look your best!

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The Secrets of Great Communication April 30, 2011

Filed under: Tips for a successful career — Amber Little @ 12:54 pm
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Do you ever find yourself having a hard time making conversation with new people?  If so, you are not alone. Communicating with strangers can be quite the daunting task, especially if you are a bit of an introvert and your self confidence is feeling a bit low.  While breaking out of our little shells will always require a bit of legwork on our part, the good news is that the more we practice the easier it will get.  Lucky for us, there are some very easy guidelines that we can follow to make conversing a little less scary:

Smile.  Smiling is such an easy way to improve your conversation.  It will put the other person at ease and let them know you are happy to be speaking with them.  It will also give your self confidence a boost.

Avoid too much detail.  Broad topics are great, but if you are speaking to a person that is not an expert on the subject, try to omit needless detail.  It will leave them bored senseless.

Avoid strong stances on political and religious views.  While it can be fun to engage in debates, it may be best to do so with people you already know quite well.  Doing so with strangers can be quite the conversation killer…remember to be sensitive to other people’s views.

If you’d like to criticize, do it by asking questions.  By asking questions, you are not directly criticizing the other person’s view, you are simply expressing doubt.  By doing this, you are able to criticize without offending.

Pay attention to your body language.  Be sensitive to the other person’s reactions, and remember to exude positive body language.

Give the person a chance to speak.  One of the biggest mistakes a person can make is to dominate the conversation and always insist on getting in the last word.  Pay attention to this and make sure you are giving the person a chance to  join in the conversation.

Speak clearly and slowly.  It can be so very awkward to ask a person to repeat themselves over and over again…not only does it interrupt the conversation, it also will likely result in the person simply pretending like they heard you.  How many times is two many times to ask a person to repeat?  I say 3 and then I’m done asking…it’s just too awkward!

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Become a time management guru April 25, 2011

Filed under: Tips for a successful career — Amber Little @ 9:55 pm
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Time management is one of those skills that nobody will teach you, yet just like listening, it is one of the most important skills you will need in order to be successful.  Demonstrating good time management will have wonderful and lasting benefits over the course of your career.  If you can master this skill you will be not only be able to differentiate yourself from the pack, you will also be able to greatly reduce your stress levels.  Here are a few ways you can manage your time more effectively and be as happy as a clam:

Make a to do list, or keep a personal planner.  This is a great way to avoid missing important deadlines like my two dino friends over there.

Stop multitasking.  This one is difficult, because often times we consider multitasking to be a good thing.  However, the truth is multitasking takes away focus.  Focus on one thing, get it done, and go onto the next.  You will be able to dedicate 100% of your attention to the task at hand and do a much better job.

Have an email schedule.  Dedicate a chunk of time in the morning as well as in the afternoon to check emails…and then ignore your inbox so you can focus.  Don’t be fooled into thinking that every email needs an immediate response.  More times than not you will wish you had put more thought into your response, thus dedicating set time to respond intelligently to your messages will do you a world of good.  Dare to be slow!

Get the most important thing out of the way.  It’s tempting to get the easy things done early in the day…it gives us a sense of accomplishment.  However, it doesn’t do us any good to have that task looming over our heads.  It will cause anxiety as time goes on.  Better to get it out of the way fast!

Know when your brain likes to focus.  Some people are morning people, some people are more effective mid-morning, some like afternoons, some are night owls.  The good news is that none of these are better than the others…the key is to identify when you focus best and take advantage.

Know when it’s time to quit.  Sometimes, we’ve been simply staring at something for too long, and perhaps we need to look at our project with a fresh set of eyes the next day.  So take it easy there killer, go home!

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I’m late for a very important date! April 14, 2011

Filed under: Tips for a successful career — Amber Little @ 9:21 pm
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We are all guilty of it once in awhile…some mornings things just don’t like us.  The snooze button inexplicably turns the alarm off, the coffee throws itself on our white pants, someone stole our shoe, every traffic light senses we are late…ya know, basically every morning for me it seems.  However, being late to work is one of my least favorite things.  It’s not that I work for Cruella Deville and get the evil eye when I walk in a few minutes late…it’s the feeling of not being in control that I hate.  Starting out the day stressed out is no way to start any day.  The good news is, there are lots of ways that you can get a better handle on your mornings.

The first step is to admit you have a problem.  As with any ailment, you can’t fix a problem unless you admit that there is one and you need to work on it.

Wake up when you are supposed to wake up.  If you love hitting the snooze button (oh snooze button, what WOULD I do without you) set your alarm an hour earlier…you can fool yourself into thinking you are sleeping in.  And don’t bother setting your clocks a few minutes ahead, you’ll always know…

Always be aware of the time.  Try and put clocks in rooms that you frequent in the morning.  Some days it’s easy to assume you have plenty of time but not actually be aware of the time flying by.

Don’t be so optimistic.  I do this all the time…”Oh, I have PLENTY of time”.  And I never do.  Things always take longer than you’d expect, especially without caffeine flowing through your veins.

Think in terms of depart time rather than arrival time.  I always have a set time that I need to be out the door.  If I think in terms of when I need to get there, I’m toast.  “You say I have to be to work at 8 and it’s 7:50?  Pffffff, I can make it!”   Ha.  Sure thing there Amber.

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Wait…what? April 4, 2011

Filed under: Tips for a successful career — Amber Little @ 8:53 pm
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Listening seems like a pretty basic skill that doesn’t take much thought.  If we can hear, we can listen, right?  Wrong.  Hearing and listening are two very different things.  What gets me about listening is that we’ve had very little formal instruction on effective listening, yet we spend plenty of time training to effectively read, write and speak… and it’s one of the most important skills you will need to be successful.  Poor listening can result in low morale, low productivity, high turnover rates and mistakes left and right.

Do you ever find yourself hearing words, but not really taking in what a person is saying?  Do you find yourself daydreaming that you are not in the office but at the beach with your soulmate?  (I’m talking about your dog of course)  It’s very easy to drift off and focus on other things, we’re human.  However, listening is one of the most important skills you can have in your career, and in your life, so here are some tips to improve your skills:

Make eye contact. It is very difficult for someone to feel as though they are effectively communicating with you if you are not looking at them…it’s not a great feeling to be brushed aside.

Take the time. If you are working on a project that is consuming all of your time, or you have to dash off to a meeting in a few, tell the person that you would like to have more time to talk with them, and schedule a better time.  This shows that they are important to you.

PUT.DOWN.YOUR.PHONE.

Reflect feeling. If you feel as though a person is sad, say so.  “This seems to be making you a little down.”

Shut up. Stop talking so much, and listen more.

Don’t relate everything back to you. It’s very easy to make the conversation about you, but don’t.  Sometimes it’s about the other person.  Let them talk.

Let there be uncomfortable silences. Don’t feel like you need to needlessly speak to avoid these silences.  Rather, wait and give the person some time to think and speak.

Repeat back a brief summary of what the person has said. This will reassure the person that they have been heard, as well as to make sure you have heard everything correctly.

Ask the person to repeat. I’m at the tail end of my twenties, so my mind naturally wanders a lot in my old age. (the real problem is I get 100% distracted by anything as small as a bird flying by).   I find the best way to handle my condition is to be honest about it.  Tell the person that you had a brief brain fart and to repeat what they just said.  Honesty is better received than guessing games.

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Body Language can say it all April 2, 2011

Filed under: Tips for a successful career — Amber Little @ 1:20 pm
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Body language is a funny thing…it is like a whole little secret world of communication that few people take the time to understand.  You probably don’t realize how much you are influenced by it every day, and how much you are influencing others.  What we do with our hands, eyes, expressions, and even our feet can say a number of different things.  We may be inadvertently sending the wrong messages,  so it’s a pretty useful social skill to understand (very little of human communication is verbal).

This one is a bit long winded, but these are important skills to know.  A word to the wise: try not to over think every signal you receive, but simply be aware of them.  Take some time to learn the language (you already subconsciously know it anyway) and you’ll be surprised how much your communication skills will improve.

Eyes: Any psychologist, philosopher or body language expert will tell you: the eyes are a window into the soul….pfff, and all this time I thought professional poker players were just too cool for school.  I don’t know about you but I’m going to be having some serious stare downs.

  • Pupil size: When you get happy, your pupils can dilate up to four times their usual size, and conversely when you are about to throw a tantrum your pupils will contract.
  • Eye contact: This one is pretty iffy as it varies from culture to culture.  Some cultures consider eye contact to be disrespectful, while others consider consistent eye contact to be a sign of respect.  In any case, try not to be too intense with eye contact, it freaks people out…which is sometimes fun.  On the same note, make sure you aren’t constantly averting eye contact, as this is pretty off-putting as well.
  • If a person is making eye contact yet fiddling with an object, it may mean their mind is elsewhere.
  • Squinted eyes and low eyebrows can indicate a person is trying to understand you, but it usually means they are skeptical.
  • Constantly gazing towards the floor is an indication of shyness.
  • Liars and nervous nellies have a habit of looking to the side a lot.
  • A person that looks away from a speaker may be an indication of shyness, submissiveness, or disinterest.

Posture: If you carry yourself well (shoulders back, head straight) you tell a much different story than if you are slouchy.  Your posture can reflect how open you are, your interest level and attention span, as well as your social standing.

What are their arms and hands doing?

  • Crossed arms can indicate a person is closed off and is putting up a barrier (or maybe it’s just really cold).
  • Hands positioned behind a person’s head is a sign they are open to receive ideas.
  • I know from personal experience because I do it all the time: if a person’s hands are on their hips it means they have an attitude about what’s going on.
  • Good communicators often let their hands do a lot of the talking…use hand gestures.  Not obnoxious ones if you can help yourself.
  • A person with clenched hands may be feeling uneasy.

Feet: Unless someone has ADHD, you can actually get a good reading on a person by what they are doing with their feet.

  • Weight shifting or rapid foot tapping/movement can indicate a person is nervous, impatient, excited or freaked out.
  • People will generally point their feet in the direction of the person or object they are interested in.
  • While standing, if feet are close together this could mean a person is trying to look proper.
  • If a person is sitting with their feet crossed at the ankle, this usually means they are calm.
  • If they touch your foot to yours (playing footsies) they are feeling flirtatious.

Mirroring: Mirroring is an easy trick you can use to get on someone’s good side.  Simply copy someone’s body language…it works because we automatically feel more comfortable with people we feel are like us.  Try and pick up on if someone is mirroring you by changing body positions now and then.  If they are copying you, it’s a good sign.

Head Position: I learned this one from my dog.  A tilted head is a sign of playfulness and/or trying to figure out what the heck you are doing.  A lowered head can mean a person (or dog of course) is ashamed or trying to hide something.

Space: Pay attention to how close a person is when they speak to you.  The closer they are to you, the warmer the feeling.  If you move a bit closer, and they do the same or do not back away, this means they are receptive.  If they back away, they are not interested…or maybe you need a tic-tac.

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