Professional

4 PAINLESS WAYS TO COPE WITH THE PRESSURE OF LEADERSHIP

The responsibility of leadership can feel like walking a tightrope on a windy day. Leaders continually have to strike a balance between achieving the greatest good for the greatest number, while also having the resolve to make critical and even unpopular decisions. What’s more, the higher the stakes, the more thankless this role is. Everyone counts on leaders to demonstrate strength in times of crisis. However, leaders seldom have the luxury of showing vulnerability when faced with problems. The boss always has to be composed. The boss should always have the answers. The boss should always have a plan of action.
People easily take for granted that even the most dauntless leaders are human at the end of the day. Regardless of what their specific title is, they face pressure that tests them at every decision. This pressure is what adds the most weight to the burden of leadership. If a leader doesn’t actively try to cope with the stress of external expectations, their chances of success become greatly diminished. It doesn’t matter whether you’re in charge of a neighborhood book club, or the CEO of a blue chip company, practicing stress-management as a habit is imperative to the survival of a leader. Rather than avoiding pressure, addressing it proactively creates the opportunity to disperse the insecurities that pressure causes. Here are four easy tips that every leader should use to overcome the pressures of responsibility.

Stay Calm: When things get tense, keeping your wits about you despite any fear or aggravation is the single most helpful thing you can do for yourself, and the people who depend on your leadership. This is because panic only begets chaos, whereas composure begets wisdom. The simplest metaphor for this is the Stop, Drop and Roll safety drill. If someone catches on fire, succumbing to the human instinct to flail around and scream doesn’t put out the flame one bit. On the other hand – even though it feels counterintuitive – overcoming panic with calm by stopping, dropping, and rolling on the ground, does more to extinguish the fire.

Be Humble: One of the easiest traps of leadership to fall into is excessive ambition. Whether it’s because of a desire to prove oneself, or because of a genuine wish to solve as many problems as possible, many in leadership often find themselves making more promises than they can actually keep realistically. This is detrimental because it amplifies the expectation to deliver on pledges and perform well. Intelligent leadership means understanding how to reassure others without biting off more than you can chew.

Be Flexible: Any leader who doesn’t know how to compromise is setting themselves up for failure. It’s important to keep an open mind about what it takes to make complex decisions. This is why negotiation is one of the most essential skills of leadership. Not every conflict can be solved without a willingness to be pragmatic and find a happy-medium. The more stubborn a leader is about getting their own way, the more others are entitled to expect nothing but unattainable perfection from said leader’s choices.

Live Healthy: Pressure causes stress, and stress in turn causes physical symptoms of illness. Maintaining good health is therefore necessary to circumvent not just the mental impact of pressure, but it’s possible physical outcomes as well. Good leaders should always remember that stepping outside of the tension in order to rest, exercise and eat a good diet is just as vital to good performance as academic and professional training. A healthy lifestyle keeps people strong enough to withstand any severe conditions in life.

Pressure isn’t something to be endured without awareness or precaution because it has the capacity to overwhelm people unnecessarily. Leaders who understand this and take holistic steps to deal with pressure on a psychological level don’t just stand to survive, they stand to grow exponentially in leadership ability. Check out more of RISE Programs’ Blogs for helpful advice on leadership, and remember to spread the word by sharing this post.

Author: Daniel Otianga

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7 SMART STRATEGIES TO ACE VIDEO CONFERENCE ETIQUETTE

Once upon a time, only big corporations and media outlets enjoyed the luxury of being able to video conference live. Today, any mobile device with internet access can facilitate a conversation with people who are oceans away. Video chatting has become so available, and so easy, that we hardly notice how routine it now is. For instance, skype interviews are part and parcel of the job-search process today. Board rooms and staff meetings often feature conference calls with stakeholders in remote locations. It’s impossible to do business without encountering the need to video conference in a formal setting. This makes it all the more important to always be prepared to participate in a video conference without conveying disorganization or incompetence. A few basic preparations can go a long way towards creating the right impression. These are the seven cardinal rules of how to video conference with professionalism.

 

  • Set the Stage:

 

It’s always a good idea to ensure that the area you intend to speak from is tidy. At the very least, declutter your space and create a background that doesn’t distract from the conversation. The simpler the better. Even beyond clearing out, set up plenty of lighting to guarantee your video feed is visible. A clear image on-screen makes it possible to interact without visual obstructions to the conversation.

 

  • Dress the Part:

 

If a video conference is being hosted for professional reasons, it’s especially important to treat it as if it were an in-person meeting. It’s easy to underestimate the seriousness of a video conference because each party chooses to stream from familiar environments. This luxury doesn’t change that fact that choosing the wrong wardrobe can put people off. Breaking out that business suit for the meeting communicates a willingness to go above and beyond in order to respect the other party.

 

  • Keep your Info Nearby:

 

If a meeting with someone is likely to last for an extended period of time, chances are the topics of discussion will require reference to specific records. Scrambling for notes and sources mid-conversation not only looks sloppy, it slows down the pace of discussion and can sidetrack the conference altogether. Well before connecting with someone on video, gather all essential information and place it within reach nearby. This keeps the flow of the meeting seamless whenever it becomes necessary to look-up relevant information.

 

  • Test your Equipment:

 

No video conference can be successful without functioning audio and video equipment. One-on-one meetings don’t necessarily create any challenges with regard to this issue, but conferences with multiple people in different locations often require added logistics. It’s important to figure out if every microphone, every camera, and every computer works well enough to keep conversation uninterrupted. A quick test-run before the meeting easily prevents the possibility of glitches.

 

  • Secure the Area:

 

Even with everything perfectly in place, there is one seemingly insignificant detail that many people neglect when it comes to hosting video conferences. Lock the doors if privacy is vital to the meeting. It can be painfully embarrassing to apologize for people barging into a meeting if it’s meant to be held behind closed doors. The peace of mind itself of knowing that one’s immediate surroundings are secure make it easier to concentrate on the video conference.

 

  • Be Punctual:

 

Being available on time for a conference call is arguably more important than punctuality for in-person meetings. The limitations that make meeting face-to-face impossible also amplify the urgency of a video conference. Being late thus translates into irretrievably wasted time. Always factor in how much time it takes to organize a video conference, then prepare strategically enough to accept a call within 15 minutes of an appointed time.

 

  • Be Conversational:

 

One of the most common mistakes that people make when video conferencing is treating their call as if they’re watching TV. They begin to display passive habits such as leaving the room to attend to random issues or frequently looking away from the people on-screen. Establishing an interpersonal connection is equally as important during a video call as it is face-to-face. Always make an effort to be attentive, maintain eye-contact and actively listen to everyone involved in a video conference.

Video conference etiquette is all about self-awareness. The most important thing is to treat conversations that happen on video with equal respect as those that happen in person. As long as interaction is respectful and focused, there shouldn’t be any hindrances to a satisfactory experience with this mode of communication. Check out more of RISE Programs’ Blogs for helpful advice on business, and remember to spread the word by sharing this post.

Author: Daniel Otianga

 

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A Quick Guide to Training Team Members

A Quick Guide to Training Team Members

At some point or another, every company has to go about the process of training its employees. Whether it’s because of new-hires, or whether it’s to introduce new procedures and systems, understanding how to formally prepare and instruct team members to adopt new ideas is an essential component of business. Good training has the capacity to enhance employee performance and elevate operational output. Many managers fumble when it comes to staff-training however because they either underestimate its importance, or they do not know how to coordinate the variables involved in training team members. On the surface, training people seems like a complex, labor-intensive initiative. Nonetheless with the right approach, there are no circumstances that make it absolutely impossible to achieve success when it comes to training employees. The following is a general guide to illustrate the most important principles of training team members:

  1. Conduct a Needs-Analysis.

Any form of training has to be established on a bedrock of self-awareness. The more an organization understands the specific areas of its functions that need improvement, the more precisely said organization will be able to facilitate changes that eliminate its problems. This self-awareness is best achieved through a needs-analysis evaluation. Needs-analysis involves documentation of elements such as employee skills, shortfalls in customer satisfaction, production cycle hitches, financial losses, or any other such performance indicators. Documenting this information creates a clear guide to determine the exact changes and training resources a company should implement in order to improve its situation.

  1. Know your audience.

Training programs are a tangible representation of the standards and values that an organization seeks to uphold. When successfully incorporated, these programs are meant to become part and parcel of employees’ behavior and instincts. As such, successful implementation of a training program hinges on a thorough understanding of the people who are expected to practice it. Instead of springing a set of blind instructions onto a team out of the blue, taking some time to assess their knowledge and abilities will create the opportunity to identify who needs concentrated attention during training, and by how much. Always prefix new training with team-building exercises that help staff prepare for change. Explain the company’s employee development process to reduce uncertainty, and prepare everyone psychologically for heightened supervision.

  1. Customize your Training Program.

Getting to know your audience opens the window to customize a training program. A deeper understanding of the personality profiles that compose a team makes it possible to modify training methods in a way that matches the performance expectations of your current workforce. For instance, if it is discovered that some members of a team are more familiar with a specific new technology than others, it would be more effective to design training in a way that gives basic information to the novices and advanced information to the experts. The most important goal is to emphasize knowledge that will enhance employee’s ability to perform their work rather than inundate them with information that they either know already, or have no ability to comprehend.

  1. Implement the Program.

After all of this background preparation has been completed, the next step is to decide on how best to implement the desired training. This basically denotes making choices such as: whether or not to hire professional trainers, whether to attend conferences, whether to invest in new technology, or whether to rely exclusively on in-house methods. Ultimately the most beneficial thing to do is to use a cost-efficient method. If training is going to be conducted on a small team, using elaborate means such as hiring professionals should only be necessary in cases where team members require specialized expertise.

  1. Evaluate Progress

Good training is about being engaged in the process well beyond the point that team members have been given new information. As employees adapt to new procedures and requirements, managers also have a responsibility to minimize any friction or push-back instigated by the natural human impulse to resist change. Feedback should be provided abundantly in order to maintain consistent performance from team members. Performance appraisals can help keep track of how well people are adapting to their new responsibilities. Rewarding good performance also bolsters employee morale about adopting new routines or systems. Making the effort to guide the training process past initial instruction keeps the motive behind this training alive, and allows it to become instinctive.

Conducting regular training is a way for a company to simultaneously improve operations, as well as communicate to a workforce that personal growth and development are esteemed at an institutional level. Being systematic and considerate about introducing employees to change is the key. Training is a process of nurturing and cultivation, not delegation. The more attention is paid to seeing it through, the more successful the desired training will be.

 

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THE BENEFIT OF DOING NOTHING IN A BUSY WORLD

The daily grind of modern life can be exhausting: working full time, going to appointments, running errands, squeezing in grocery shopping, preparing a nourishing dinner, finding time for the gym… the demands can seem endless.

 When’s the last time you spent an afternoon doing absolutely nothing?

 Now, in a culture that celebrates being busy, people are on-the-go nonstop – and it’s taking a toll on our health and happiness. Constant stress is causing a growing epidemic of depression and anxiety and stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol are linked to obesity and diabetes.

 What’s the solution?

 Blocking out regular time in your busy schedule to rest and recharge. Even if your Monday is busy and stressful, it can be reassuring to know that you have a relaxing and stress-free Saturday to look forward to.

What is your favorite way to relax and recharge?

With clients, friends, family and myself, I have come to experience how important this virtue of “doing nothing” really is. I don’t see it as “doing nothing” but rather I see it as “establishing something”. Intentionally taking time for yourself is truly establishing health into every part of your being. I see it as LOVING YOURSELF so that you have more love to give.

 In the last 14 years of my experience in counseling people into health and wholeness I have found that many must truly labor into this kind of rest. It’s so difficult for many to sit still. Many feel guilty and begin to condemn themselves when they do. If they sit still their mind races therefore they are not truly resting or gaining peace in their lives.

 I have counseled some to actually make it a goal to sit and gain peace. Once it became a goal for some reason they were able to accept sitting there because of their satisfaction of meetings goals. Sometimes it’s 10 minutes, other times 20 minutes and every once in a while a whole hour! Ha! Try it! Love yourself!

Richard Martinez

Transformational Expert

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MAKING SURE YOUR 2017 IS AN UPGRADED VERSION OF 2016

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It’s that time of the year when people seek to create their New Year’s resolutions, but why? Especially when over one-third of resolutions have gone by the wayside before January is over and most won’t even be remembered six months later. When we have a specific resolution it requires us to evaluate ourselves in a way many of us don’t normally do, which is good. Through self-reflection, we are able to find our flaws to improve upon. For many, it may be a good wake-up call. Recognize your own flaws through self-reflection by creating specific resolutions is a powerful thing!

Why do most fail before January is over?

Most resolutions are made in response to something negative; a habit or situation that the person wants to change or end. That is a big problem – it’s hard to develop momentum from a negative response. It is always easier to move toward something than away from something. This is a powerful key to whether people follow through on their goals or not.

Most New Year resolutions lack a foundation of meaning and personal relevance that makes sure they run out of steam. What you need is something that comes from the inside, something that’s based on what’s important and what matters to you. Something that is in alignment with your personal values, vision, and purpose. This is the only way to get behind it, have confidence in it and keep the motivation and commitment going. It must be attached to something bigger, to something that has meaning, something that you can clearly see the benefit of doing.

Embrace the Gap

Resolutions or goals can have the tendency to make you feel less-than because there’s something you don’t have now that you aspire to have in the future. Goals introduce a gap or transition between where you are and where you’d like to be. This instantly makes part of where you are right now a place you don’t want to be – and this is how the very nature of having goals can hurt your self-confidence and self-esteem if you don’t know you personal value. Learn to embrace the transition, embrace and enjoy the gap.

Once you reach a goal, what’s next? Another goal? Then another, and another…When do you get to stop and just enjoy life? The real value is in the experience, NOT in the end result.

Create a Life on Purpose

Live on purpose with purpose! What will you do in 2017 to put yourself in a position to make more money?

 What will you do in 2017 to develop better relationships with those you love and value?

 What will you do in 2017 to live the life you always wanted?



You must not only have written goals, but you must have a plan to reach your goals. Be clear and specific with what you want to achieve and why you want to accomplish that goal. See yourself enjoying the benefits of reaching your goals and imagine it to the point that you can taste, smell and in your imagination experience it as if it were your current reality. 

Will 2017 be just another year that started with good intentions but didn’t go anywhere? It’s time to go from good intentions to intentional living! Make this your year to get your weight under control…start that business you’ve been talking about…get out of debt for good…take your business to another level or to build or restore a relationship.  



Here is a great tool to help you achieve your goals!

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PRACTICALLY PROMOTING SELF-CONFIDENCE

The gap between what you know and what you do is often created by a lack of confidence in your ability to do what you know. Although confidence come from purposeful, daily applications of core values there are also outward practical things we can do to match the confidence we are developing inwardly.

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 Here are a few practical tips to promote confidence:

Have you ever heard, “Dress for success”? There is some value in this statement.

How you dress can have a big impact on how you perceive yourself. When you feel confident about how you look, it changes the way you carry yourself and encourages you to interact with others confidently. Take an ACTION STEP and walk into your closet and say, “you are about to be cleaned”. Get rid of all the clothes that no longer go with who you are and now mindfully choose some new pieces that make you feel great.

Something as simple as walking outside in the sunshine and fresh air creates confidence. Everywhere you go learn to walk with energy and purpose. Step with purpose and power. It’s good for your mind and emotions to walk this way. Go practice! Make a conscious effort to strut today!

When you stop to take a break from walking it becomes what? Standing… or sitting right? Sit it up straight, stand up tall, hold your head up, and look people in the eye.

If you stop to stand or sit don’t stay there too long because staying active is essential for confidence. Exercising energizes your body and mind, improves physical appearance, and encourages positive momentum to move forward to reach your goals. Stay active and do things that you enjoy so that you will continue to do it.

Know you are unique and valuable therefore share who you are and the ideas you have. Challenge yourself to speak up in every group discussion. This will help you organize your thoughts and refine your public speaking skills. It will also help others to perceive you as a leader. Step over those fear into victory!

Lastly develop an attitude of gratitude! Yes, this is so powerful. List everything that you are grateful for: loving relationships, personal successes, your health, your unique impact on the world. Let this list encourage you to move forward with confidence. Learn to write a list once a week. Let it guide you through to the following week.

Richard Martinez

Transformation Expert

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SET YOURSELF UP TO COMMIT TO YOUR GOALS

Having a goal is one thing but being responsible & committed to meet that goal is another. Goals without responsibility & commitment are just wishes or dreams.

One day I was out running getting some exercise when I had a revelation about goals and commitment. While I was running outside I said to myself, “Wow, it’s so pretty outside! What a perfect day to run…” Than I thought, “I’m willing to use the treadmill when I need to but I rather run outside”. After thinking this I wanted to know more about myself so I thought about why I felt this way & this is what I got…

1) It’s much prettier outside than the inside the gym or inside my garage

2) When I’m on the treadmill I’m not going anywhere so it’s boring to me.

3) I run more when I run outside.

This last reason stopped me and made me think!

Why do I run more when I run outside? Am I more motivated because it’s nice? Yes, But there is another reason I have never though of before.

I figured out that it’s because I’m more responsible & committed when I’m running outside. How am I more responsible & committed?



Let’s say my goal is to run 5 miles. When I get on the treadmill to do these 5 miles I’m not only bored but I’m not fully committed. Why aren’t I fully committed when running on my treadmill? The reason is that I can stop the treadmill at anytime by a simple push of a button. But when I go run outside what happens? When I go outside for a run I go run for about 2-3 miles than turn around & run back home. What does this do? It makes me responsible & committed.

Once I run out a couple miles I HAVE TO turn around & run back home! I mean, I can walk back but ill still get exercise, yet still I’d rather at least jog since I’m already out there. So I found that running this way outside makes me more responsible & committed to meet my goal for my run.

The lesson:

Having a goal is one thing but being responsible & committed to meet that goal is another. Goals without responsibility & commitment are just wishes or dreams.

Richard Martinez

Transformational Expert

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MY TWO MEETINGS WITH KOBE BRYANT

Kobe Bryant, straight from high school becoming the youngest All-Star in NBA history at the age of 19. What an amazing basketball player who has amazed the world with his passion and discipline for the sport. With this passion and discipline he carried a strong leadership presence and amazing skills on the court that set new standards in the sport of basketball. Kobe has won five NBA titles with the Los Angeles Lakers and played on both the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic teams, winning gold medals with his teammates. After many years of inspiring the world through his passion and skill in basketball, Kobe is now retiring from the game. So many are sad and thankful at the same time. Sad because there will never be another Kobe Bryant yet thankful for the amazing 20 years he shared with us and demonstrated greatness on the court. Whether or not you were a fan, you could not deny the level of skill he played with. Twenty years ago Kobe walked onto the court straight from high school and today one of the best players to ever walk the court. For me, I am truly impressed and know that he has set very high standard for the next generation of NBA Basketball.

I myself had the privilege of meeting him on two very different levels in two very different times in my life. The first time I met him was when I was around 19 years old. At that time I did not know what I wanted to do with my life and had no clue that the next time I would met him would be because he himself reaching out to me to have lunch and talk leadership. Yes, you read that right… he and his agent reached out to me to have lunch and talk leadership. What an honor right?

Below is a picture of the first time we met in 1999 at a bowling fundraiser event he had. Interesting to me that there were many other celebrities there yet I only took a picture with him and little did we both know that we would meet again almost 6 years later to have lunch. At the fundraising event the only words share between us went something like this,

Richard, “Hey Kobe, you mind taking a picture with me?”

Kobe, “Sure”

Richard, “Thanks”.

That’s about it! Ha! But little did I know that we would meet again and that he would ask me about my view on leadership.

Now it’s the year 2005 and I myself am a totally different person with a totally different mindset and way of living. I now have a clear vision and purpose for my life and am actively making a different in the world. By this time I was traveling to different Nations teaching leaders to become more effective and influential in their spheres of influence. I was having conferences where 300 leaders from over 10 different nations would come hear me speak for 3 days. Also, Kobe was in a totally different place in his own life. In 2003 he was accused of sexual assault in Colorado, but the charges were eventually dropped and settled out of court. In 2004 Shaquille O’Neal was traded to the Miami Heat and now Kobe himself became the cornerstone of the Lakers.

I received a phone call from Rob Pelinka who is Kobe’s agent. He asked to set up a meeting with him and Kobe to talk about the topic of “Leadership”. Wow! What an honor right? To be honest I was shocked and humbled and a little nervous. We set up our meeting about a week from that phone call to meet where lived in Glendora California. I picked a nice small Italian place near my home where I knew he wouldn’t be bothered for autographs and pictures. We all arrive and sit and begin chatting and getting to know each other. I was calm yet excited and had it set in my mind that I was going to impact both of them in a powerful way. Rob was truly a great guy and Kobe is blessed to have him as his agent. He was very intelligent, diplomatic, and compassionate. Kobe was a little quite at first but had a presence.

They begin to ask me what I thought was key to great leadership. I had lots to share about this topic and our talk was very interactive full of depth. They are two sharp guys who wanted to grow and be the best at what they did. We enjoyed our lunch and talk about leadership for over two hours. I was truly humbled and honored to sit with such amazing men and talk leadership.

After that day I asked myself, “Did my input impact them?” I believe it did but to what level I do not know. I do know that Kobe led the NBA in scoring during the 2005-07 seasons and scored a career-high 81 points against the Toronto Raptors. He also was awarded the regular season MVP award in 2008. I am definitely not saying this this happened because of me and our lunch chat but I am just honored to have had that time and share the knowledge I had on the topic of leadership with such great men.

As Kobe Bryant’s career is coming to an end it made me reflect on my own journey and how I have learned and grown in every area of my life. To meet Kobe for the first time when I was about 18 years old and not have a clue of what to do with my life to the second time meeting him when I was around 24 or 25 years old and have the opportunity to share with him my knowledge about leadership.

Richard Martinez

Transformational Expert

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3 MISTAKES THAT YOUNG ENTREPENUERS MAKE TO JEOPARDIZE THEIR CREDIBILY

Building credibility is critical to the success of your business, so it is important to separate your personal life from professional field.

Being a young entrepreneur it is both a blessing and a curse. They can take risks and managing real-time business to find out where are the best opportunities. However, the curse is on the learning curve.

Mistakes are a must for young entrepreneurs step. In fact, some of the owners of the most successful businesses in the world still fail before hitting it big. However, some errors are evident.

Here are three mistakes that young entrepreneurs make to jeopardize their credibility:

Make over sharing, i.e. they share everything on social networks.

The average Internet user spends 1.7 hours on social networks per day. For young entrepreneurs, use social media to share the monotony of everyday life has become the norm.

In Twitter they talk about a new deal. In Instagram about their jet set lifestyle. In Facebook their share about their vacation in a Speedo. Just remember that, once the information is public everyone will see it, including your investors, board members, employees and customers.

I once had an employee who decided to use his personal Twitter account to tweet about how difficult it was our client brand. Needless to say, the representatives of the brand using social media as well. Therefore, it is better to keep private life and thoughts on that, in private life.

Recruit family and friends.

Friends and money do not mix. Loans made gifts, favors and tasks become friendships often spoil.

As young entrepreneurs, our intuition is hiring we know. We want to surround ourselves with people we like and share the richness of our new businesses. The biggest mistake you can make in the growth of a company is hiring people who are poorly qualified to assume crucial roles and responsibilities. The fact that a friend graduated with an accounting degree, does not mean he should be your CFO.

It is essential to the success of our companies hire people to compensate for our deficiencies. For example, if creativity is not your strength, try to find the best creative director. Most likely it’s not your sister.

They have overconfidence.

As Charles Darwin said: “Ignorance breeds confidence more often than knowledge”. When you find success at an early age, there is a tendency to develop an ego.

They look around and see that the market doubles the average age competitors to do business. It is a mistake that tend to do when you are sitting quite some time among the competition. Do not let your own arrogance in the way. Remember, there will always be a larger, more successful company than yours.

It is important to learn from those around you, do not throw them. Building credibility is critical to the success of your business. I am aware of the mistakes you’ve easily avoided and that can undermine your authority.

As Steve Jobs said, “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations. “

Do not let your age define your work, let your work speak for itself.

SOURCE: www.entrepreneur.com

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HOW TO LAND A JOB BEFORE GRADUATION

According to the New York Federal Reserve, 86% of students choose to go to college to improve their job prospects, but 44% of graduates are underemployed. And student debt makes the need to get a job upon graduation even more important. According to Student Loan Hero, Americans owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 43 million borrowers. The average 2015 graduate had over $35,000 in student debt.

That puts a lot of pressure on students in their final year of school. And the pressure mounts as graduation day approaches. Here are some activities that will help you land that ideal job faster. In fact, if you take action before graduation, you’ll be ahead of the pack. Students who wait until June to start applying face more competition from all the other May grads.

According to the New York Federal Reserve, 86% of students choose to go to college to improve their job prospects, but 44% of graduates are underemployed. And student debt makes the need to get a job upon graduation even more important. According to Student Loan Hero, Americans owe nearly $1.3 trillion in student loan debt, spread out among about 43 million borrowers. The average 2015 graduate had over $35,000 in student debt.

That puts a lot of pressure on students in their final year of school. And the pressure mounts as graduation day approaches. Here are some activities that will help you land that ideal job faster. In fact, if you take action before graduation, you’ll be ahead of the pack. Students who wait until June to start applying face more competition from all the other May grads.

1.Get clear on your goals. Don’t seek a job, pursue the right job for you. If you aren’t focused and clear, you will seem almost good enough for a lot of potential roles but perfect for none. Although it seems counterintuitive, the more you focus, the more opportunities you will have and the easier it will be to search for and find that perfect gig. Put strategy before action!

  1. Get your digital house in order.This helps jobs find you. When you build a stellar profile with all the right keywords, you can be found by hiring managers seeking to fill jobs you don’t even know exist. In addition, when hiring managers are pursuing you, your online profile will be evaluated. If it isn’t compelling and differentiated, it will likely eliminate you from the running – even if you are the perfect candidate. To make your virtual brand shine, follow these steps:
  • Evaluate your current online profile. Google yourself and see what comes up. Make sure it positions you for the role you seek and doesn’t do anything to turn off hiring managers and recruiters. Remove all digital dirt – unflattering, inappropriate or irrelevant content. Try to keep your online search results 80% professional, 20% personal.
  • Build or refine your LinkedIn profile. Use a quality headshot (no selfies!), a compelling headline (include all the keywords you want to be associated with) and an authentic and differentiated summary (use as many of the 2,000 characters as you need to tell your story and capture the interest of the reader). Use the Experience section to highlight proof of the skills and accomplishments you tout in your Summary.
  1. Network like crazy.There’s truth to the phrase “Life is who you know.” Most hires are made through a network connection. Make building and nurturing your network a priority. Here are some actions to take:
  • Join relevant professional associations and attend live functions. Get to know as many people as you can. Volunteer so you have access to more members. Be prepared to talk about who you are and what you want.
  • Connect on LinkedIn with all your fellow students, professors, internship managers, etc. Don’t leave school without a complete set of connections. Start to use LinkedIn as your single contact management system.
  • Join LinkedIn groups focused on the type of role you are seeking. This is a way to network with tens or hundreds of thousands of relevant connections.
  • Follow thought-leaders in your area of expertise on Twitter. Get to know them. Find a mentor who can help you with your job search.
  • Follow target companies that interest you on LinkedIn and pay attention to what they are publishing on their company page.
  1. Take action.Do some job searching every day. You may be preparing for finals and moving out of your dorm, but effective job searching takes a consistent and steadfast effort. Do something every day that will help you land that all-important first job. Put job searching at the top of your daily do list.

Perhaps the most exciting opportunity has come along at just the right time for members of the Class of 2016 – the LinkedIn Students app. LinkedIn took insights from their database of 400+ million members to help job seekers discover jobs that are a best fit for them (matching the student’s major with companies that tend to hire from the soon-to-be alma mater, and drawing on career paths of recent alumni with similar degrees). LinkedIn calls it “your personal job exploration guide, providing tailored jobs related recommendations based on real data from the career paths of hundreds of millions of successful professionals.” This tool is something you can access daily, and it will help you take regular steps toward securing your ideal job. Learn more about it here: https://blog.linkedin.com/topic/linkedin-for-students

Landing your first job is pivotal moment in your career. Good luck as you embark on the journey of a lifetime!

SOURCE: www.forbes.com
CONTRIBUTOR: William Arruda

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