When career opportunities emerge...

Be prepared when career opportunities emerge.

Do some quick thinking.

Compare with your career plan.

Talk to your mentor or trusted advisers in your network.

If it's right for you...do something about it.

Formally apply. Tell someone who matters that you are interested.

You must be in it to have a chance!

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Networking: It's not meant to be like speed dating

Well this is my first experiment with a video blog!

My hair had just been 'done', face made up and back in the office from a client meeting - so I thought I would give it a go (I must confess it took more than one take to get the video masterpiece you see before you <sarcasm alert>)!

In the video I talk about networking and the 5 reasons why I think it's an important investment of your time. And not at all like speed dating where the objective is to collect as many business cards as you can and then move on to someone better.

So, here goes...

The reasons I think networking is a worthwhile use of your time and not a discretionary activity is because you can:
  • Learn new information or knowledge from others
  • Get ideas and be energized by what other people are doing
  • Meet new people with whom you can build mutually beneficial business relationships 
  • Educate yourself on 'who's who in the zoo' in your company or industry, who knows who and how they fit together
  • Let other people get to know you and about you; your knowledge, skills, experience and what you have to offer.
All good reasons to step away from your desk and go spend some time with people.
Let me know what you think!

- Karen

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What to do when...you're offered a coffee in a business meeting

If you are a coffee aficionado or in any way fussy about your hot beverages - you might want to stop reading this now. Because I see the acceptance of an offered coffee in a business meeting as an opportunity. Not only an opportunity for the a nice hot cuppa but an opportunity to guide the tone and pace of the meeting.
And if that means sipping through the last cold dregs in the bottom of your cup to buy you a little extra time…that’s something I am prepared to do.

In an earlier post Why i drink cold coffee in business meetings I talked about how accepting a coffee can help with a meeting. The question I then got asked was "how does it all work when I get offered a coffee?

So here's some quick guidelines...When offered a coffee in a business meeting:

Say yes

It can help with the pace of the meeting as I’ve described. It’s also polite to say yes as the person making the offer is extending their hospitality and it sets a more relaxed tone for the discussion ahead. It could be that it’s just the other person’s first chance to have a coffee that they have been hanging out for. Don’t deny them the opportunity!

Request an alternative

If you are not a coffee drinker it’s perfectly okay to ask for a replacement. “Would a tea be okay?” or “I’ll take a water, thank you” are more than reasonable requests. ‘Coffee’ has become an euphemism for any type of drink on offer. So don’t feel compelled to accept something you just wouldn't

 drink. There are only so many sacrifices you can make for your career!

Or decline politely

What? “I thought you said to say yes?” you are probably thinking about now? Well I did. But there are always exceptions and sometimes it just doesn’t feel right. You might pick up from the mood of the room or the body language of the other person that the offer has only been made out of politeness and that they really want to get straight down to business.

If you're not sure ask "Are you having one?" and if they're not I would decline. You don't want to slow a meeting down because everyone is waiting on you. 

If the offer is made by a third party and the most senior person in the room looks impatient to get on with stuff, if that’s the case, thank them for the offer and say no (nicely!)

The thank you

Even though you have said thanks when the coffee is served and regardless of what has been achieved or not during the meeting make sure you include a “thanks for the coffee” acknowledgement in your meeting wrap up. It’s a nice acknowledgement, it’s respectful and it also widens the meeting wrap up from just purely business issues. (And your mother would probably be proud of you too!) 

Thanks for your time..I'm going to grab a coffee!

- Karen

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Why I drink cold coffee in business meetings

I know coffee purists would be aghast but I must admit I quite enjoy the last few drops of the ice cold coffee that lie in wait at the bottom of a cup (that started out hot!) at the end of a business meeting. 

They have an “I’m-ready-to-leave-and-be-on-my-way” taste about them. An acquired flavor for sure and one I discovered quite by accident.

My weekend coffee is another matter; piping hot, brewed perfectly and preferably grown on an ecologically sustainable plantation by fairly paid workers (have I missed anything?). But in a work setting my coffee standards are rather different.

The first time I accepted a hot drink (to be honest I can’t remember if it was tea or coffee) at a business meeting it was in response to “I’m having a coffee, would you like one too?” offer from the customer I was meeting about his office phones. “Great,” I thought, “a cuppa will be lovely”.  And as the meeting progressed I realized that the mood was quite relaxed as we sipped away whilst discussing the relative merits of two different telephone systems.

This was the start of the “great coffee experiment” I conducted over the next few years of my sales career. Where I found that not only did accepting a refreshment make the meeting more relaxed it also gave some natural structure to it’s pace. Small talk (relationship building!) until the coffee arrived, a segue into the business discussion as the coffee is stirred and then down to business.

The great accidental discovery that I made (a bit like Penicillin but without the Nobel prize) was that I could influence how long I got to spend with a customer based on how slowly I drank. Most people are generally polite. Particularly those who offer you a coffee in the first place. And they don’t tend to kick you out if they know that you’re still drinking. (I’ve found that it does help to hold the cup in your hand if you don’t want there to be any doubt that you are still enjoying their hospitality).

This discovery gave me the opportunity to gain a few extra precious minutes of discussion that were so important to ensure that I built as much rapport as possible. And that I had the time at the end of the meeting that I like to confirm the participants understanding of where we had got to and to clarify next steps. Items that all so often get sacrificed as people are rushing off to their next back-to-back appointment.

In many years of field testing I can report that it works with all types of beverages but hot ones are best as you can work in the “wow, this coffee is taking a while to cool down” into the conversation. And it works in reverse. A meeting not going as well as expected can be hurried along (a little bit) by drinking up nice and quickly.

The cold coffee technique can also be applied in internal meetings, networking catch-ups and with most anyone. I’ve broadened my acceptance criteria from the ‘I’ll-have-one-if-you-have one’ response  to a yes to any tea, coffee or water that is offered; and whether it’s offered by the person I’m actually meeting with or the assistant who is setting up the meeting.

This is not for the purpose of outstaying your welcome, being disrespectful of others time or wasting it. You need to use the extra time you buy for good (business discussion, asking questions, building rapport) and not evil (talking drivel, being repetitive, delving into detail that others don’t need to hear about).

It’s a bit like the law of gravity - once the apple leaves the tree there’s nothing stopping it headed downwards, once the coffee’s on the table it might go cold but I can control how fast it goes.

And that tastes good!

- Karen

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The key to a successful business presentation

No matter how experienced you are as a presenter it is essential to plan, rehearse and prepare!

There is no substitute.

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5 Tips for managing your work and your career

With the multitude of tasks that we fully expect to be able to juggle, the relentless requests for us to do more and the desire to always perform at our best (and this is just at work!) learning the skills of how to work and manage your career are more important than ever.

Here are 5 of my top tips to help you manage your work and your career:

1. Decide what's important to you. 

To be your best you need to decide what is the most important use of your time and energy. It’s unrealistic to try to deal with every one of the multitude of demands that come at you, this approach comes at the cost of not being able to do anything well.

Prioritize the three most important areas of focus for your job. Be honest with yourself about what is essential to meet the key deliverables of your job, the time-frames available and for you. Use the old "what's important versus urgent" test to help you separate the multiple tasks you have on your plate.
If you find it hard to make this decision, ask your manager, something like, “If you had to prioritize the three most important things I need to deliver what would they be?” This should give you enough information to know about what to focus on.

2. Simplify your expectations

And work out how much you can realistically do. Bear in mind that you may not be able to do everything that you want. It is crucial to understand that just because you have the capability to do everything (you might have the skills to write a business plan, negotiate with suppliers, answer emails, train the new person, redo the company website and wash all the dishes left in the kitchen) the chances are that you don't have the capacity (as in enough hours in the day) to do it all. Learning to live with this reality is something that many people find difficult to reconcile. But you have to.

3. Don't multi-task

No matter how much you have to do, ignore stereotypes and expectations that you do everything at the same time. Women are often seen as the ultimate multi-taskers. Scientific studies now suggest that this may not be the most efficient way of working due to the downtime and significant effort that is required to swap between tasks. Superheroes belong in comic books and movies, not in real life. You may feel that you need extraordinary powers just to juggle everything that is expected of you on a daily basis. But you don’t. Concentrate on one task and do it well.

4. Look after yourself

So that you are able operate at your best! This is absolutely essential to achieve and maintain career success. No matter how busy you are, you need to prioritize the things that help you look after yourself. This could be anything from maintaining your appearance to enjoying things that you would usually feel guilty about. Like having a manicure, spa treatment, a massage or attending a yoga class. While some people are more likely to notice the overall effect than little details like a good hair-cut make, others certainly will. It sends a message that you are well-organized and in control, so consider time for yourself as an investment in your career.

5. Be good at what you do 

This the foundation of your career and your potential success. One of the major differences between those who are good at what they do and those who really get ahead is that they don’t settle for less than their best and they are constantly looking for ways to improve. 
It is more important that you put effort into fewer tasks but they are done well, very well. Being prepared to do a little more than others will give you an edge over your competitors, both in a business and a career sense. This will positively influence not only for your career reputation, but also your own confidence and sense of achievement.

And isn't that a great definition of career success?

- Karen

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