August 6, 2008

Avoiding Snap Judgments

Posted in Careers tagged , at 1:08 am by Lindsay

Some time ago, I was at an evening social gathering (read: house party) with my roommates.  We knew very few people there, but made a point to make the rounds and acquaint ourselves with those in attendance.  One such person, let’s call him Steve, was very receptive to our introduction and quickly began a conversation with us.  We were about forty five seconds into our exchange with Steve when the first snap judgment popped out of his mouth.  When one roommate told him she was from Kansas his immediate reply was, “Are you a farmer?”

She explained that she was actually from Kansas City, and that no, she was not nor had ever been a farmer.  With that he was off on his next topic.  He told us he’d guess where each of us had gone to college, knowing that we were recent graduates.  He turned to me and said “Florida State, right?  You were the girl passed out next to the keg.”  (Count along with me – snap judgment tally: two and three)  Ignoring my roommates who were trying to explain that I was perhaps the girl least likely to be in that position, he turned to my other roommate, squinted and said, “Harvard?”  Oh, Steve. 

Snap judgments shape our interactions with others.  When meeting a client or business associate for the first, second, or even third time, the conclusions we piece together will dictate how we treat them, what words to use, which subjects we bring up, and our general mood and approach.  Most importantly, others will be able to infer how we view them by the way we act towards them.  Even if Steve hadn’t been so forthcoming with his opinions, I would have known he viewed me as “the party girl”.  The intellectual girl-next-door in me wouldn’t have responded positively.

Realistically, we’re all guilty of making snap judgments, even though we’re usually smart enough not to blurt them out the second they enter our minds like our good friend Steve.  And to a point, they can be efficiency tools, used to make quick decisions when the situation does not warrant careful consideration.  Many decisions have to be made on the fly, and snap judgments may be the only information we have. 

But they can also be harmful, especially in the business world where it’s essential to build trust and create relationships.  A hasty judgment will put others on the defense.  They’ll perceive a lack of effort to get to know them and their needs.  It will make them resistant to everything you say and do, getting you nowhere.

Take time to get to know people.  Be hesitant to form an idea of a person with only a few details to work with.  And that ever popular adage, don’t assume.

I think a viewing of The Philadelphia Story, one of my favorite films, is in order for Steve.  I’d tell him to pay special attention when Katherine Hepburn declares,

“The time to make up your mind about people is never.”    

April 13, 2008

Friends Remain

Posted in Careers, Life tagged , at 8:28 pm by Katelyn

Read With The Lobsters! – Every weekend, Katelyn and Lindsay discuss the book Never Eat Alone by Keith Ferrazzi in an effort to sharpen networking skills.

This weekend I finished reading Section One (The Mind Set) of Keith Ferrazzi’s Never Eat Alone. These are great introductory chapters that outline the need for a network and motivate you to alter your mindset and go out there to make lasting relationships & friends.  The summary points at the end of chapter 2: “Don’t Keep Score” are what really stuck with me from this section.

“Business cycles ebb and flow; your friends and trusted associates remain” (p. 21).

“Job security?  Experience will not save you in hard times, nor will hard work or talent” (p. 21).

Both of these statements really hit home for me in our current economic times.  I feel increasing uncertainty for not only what my personal career holds for me, but how the economy will effect my ability to find my dream job.   What I am learning when it comes to finding or landing the job you want is the importance of having contacts rather than an impressive resume.  And wouldn’t it be great if those contacts were not simply a friend of a friend, but someone you have a relationship with who can really vouch for you?

For now, I feel grateful to have a job I feel secure in, where I am learning and growing professionally.  I know though, that this will not be my last job, and I know that when I am ready to move on, I will need the help of those within my network.  Without knowing exactly where I want to go next, I am going to make it a point to meet and build relationships with people from all different areas of business and service, because you never know where they may be able to help you in the future.  So I plan on using this time while my job is good and steady to meet people and network as much as possible, so that when the timing is right, my relationships will be in place.

Speaking of building our careers and changing jobs – Ferazzi mentions a branding idea that I have heard before, but would like to mention here.

“Each of us is now a brand.  Gone are the days where your value as an employee was linked to your loyalty and seniority.  Companies use branding to develop strong, enduring relationships with customers.  In today’s fluid economy, you must do the same with your network.”

I plan on creating lasting impressions and really looking for relationships rather than simply a collection of business cards.  I plan on giving/helping before receiving.

I’ll keep you posted on my continued reading of this great-so-far book and also of my own networking experiences now that I am motivated and reminded of their importance.

November 19, 2007

“Save It”

Posted in On the Job tagged , at 10:58 am by Katelyn

I wish I could say that phrase: “Save it for someone who cares” or more importantly, “Save it for someplace more appropriate.”

Why is there always that one co-worker who has the amazingly dull life, but insists on sharing every detail of it with anyone who will listen?  Or the colleague who wants to hear all about everything you did this weekend so they can feel like your best friend?  And why do I seem to attract these people??  Perhaps I should have been a shrink!  But in all seriousness, is there not an obvious line drawn between one’s professional and personal life? 

I have read several articles in the past that subscribe to the idea that you command more respect in the workplace if you keep your personal life private.  I understand that there are exceptions to this with certain co-workers who  become friends, but on the whole, I have to agree.  The colleagues I find most interesting and most competent are the ones whose personal life is a mystery to me.  I see them only as professionals and in control of their lives at work.

And what about personal relationships at work hindering work performance?  Do you think that employees work better when they consider their colleagues friends or just work colleagues?   

A lot of this has to do with my personality.  I recently took an Interaction Style Assesment Test (http://www.jtodonnell.com/assessment/signup.htm) where I proved to be a “contemplator.”  Part of this interaction style is characterized by being reserved and preferring professional relationships to personal relationships in the workplace.  That’s not to say that I wouldn’t like to find a friend at work to have lunch with and discuss the happenings (or non-happenings in my case) of my weekend, but until that friend magically appears, I prefer to remain professional and mysterious.   

~DC