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How to decline requests for professional help

professional meet up for a coffee

One answer: be empathetic.

It’s a privilege to have someone reach out to you in a professional capacity for advice, guidance or to share ideas. It shows that you’ve proven you’re an expert in something. They think they can learn something from you. Enjoy the feeling. Let it get to your head if you want but don’t let it end there.

LinkedIn message

No need to treat people like they’re a bother. In the photo above, my friend reached out to someone twice and that was the person’s response. A few weeks after the first message. If you’ve seen the message and know you’re going to have the decline to meet up, for example, don’t wait two weeks to send your reply. It’s unfair and unnecessary.

He wasn’t about to ask for a mentor as such. It was more of an idea sharing session that he wanted. That response would have been fine if it, say, went on to offer the name of someone else who might have been able to help my friend or asked him to write to her again in X number of months when she may be less busy. My friend made it clear exactly what he wanted to discuss with her but in a case where you’re unsure what someone wants to professionally meet up for, don’t be afraid to ask them to explain or specify. Let them know that should you manage to meet or mentor them, it will help you prepare useful answers for their questions. You can then use their reply to decide whether you want to accept their invitation.

One thing you mustn’t do in these circumstances is to say an outright no and leave someone with nothing but a shutdown. For a lot of people, it takes courage to reach out like this. At the very least, close off the message with some encouraging words and no, “all the best with your entrepreneurial activities” is not good enough.

Oh, and if it’s someone of the opposite sex reaching out to you on a site like LinkedIn as it was in this case, don’t make the mistake of assuming that the message is anything but professional. There are people who use LinkedIn as a dating site but I’m sure the majority of people are there to make career connections.

While this person owes my friend nothing, I still find it very disappointing. What do you think?

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How to be taken seriously at work

Despite what some people may say, being a woman in the corporate world can be challenging. I could tell you some horror stories of colleagues and friends being treated in the most outrageous ways in the workplace. They were usually left wondering what they might have done or said to make people think they were easy targets. Unfortunately, it doesn’t take much for people to think they can disregard anyone but it’s important to handle it especially well in the workplace.

As I said in a previous post, I’ve moved around quite a bit. This means that I’ve had the opportunity to observe the way that women – including myself – are viewed in the various places I’ve worked in. I’ve learned a few lessons about how to attempt to be taken seriously.

Things you should avoid
  • Sucking up. To some extent, asserting yourself at work can look like sucking up but there’s a big difference. While this may get into the good books of a certain kind of boss, the more emotionally intelligent individual may well be put off by it. Some of your colleagues, even if they’re amused by it, will also probably find you annoying because of it. Even if they’re doing it too. It can be very easy to see when someone is being false to get in their boss’s good books.
  • Mixing business with pleasure. Certainly it’s important for team building to get to know your colleagues on a bit more than a superficial level. Yet, you have to draw a line! Don’t get drunk with your colleagues if you can help it and absolutely don’t go sleeping with anyone you know you’ll have to see at the desk next to you at 9am tomorrow morning! Unless you’re already married to them…
  • Saying yes to everything. People will respect you more if you’re able to respectfully but firmly decline tasks that mean you overbook yourself. It’s all part of time management and prioritisation. As much as it feels good to agree to help everyone with everything, it’s also unrealistic. Also, be willing to ask for help when you feel overwhelmed.
  • Excessive displays of emotion. Okay so this is very subjective. I’m a bit cautious with this one because I’m against anyone stifling their feelings. I’m especially against women stifling their emotions for any reason. Perhaps the key is rather to be careful with how you communicate your emotions.
  • Gossiping. It’s so easy to get drawn into this. Especially if you like a bit of chin wag or are genuinely chatting with people in small groups in an effort to figure out the dynamics of a new job or team. It helps to keep in mind that if they’ll gossip with you, they’ll gossip about you! If you have issues with anyone, take it up with them directly and privately.

Things you should do

  • Speak up about inappropriate behaviour towards you. If you are certain it is inappropriate. Use your common sense and be discerning but don’t be afraid to let people know if you don’t appreciate some attitudes or actions towards you. Stand up for yourself.
  • Please don’t be that chatterbox at work who goes on about each and every thought that enters your head. Honestly, I’ve found such people entertaining at work but not everyone does. You’ll gain more respect if you speak more when you have something valuable to say. Watch what you say and who you’re saying it to.
  • Be quick to take up any opportunities for employee development. It shows your possible dedication to the organisation and makes you a valuable employee as you’re constantly building on your skillset.
  • Look professional. Even on a dress down day, don’t go to work looking like you just got out of bed.
  • Find a mentor. Look for someone who’s at thee level that you want to get to and figure out how they got there. Better yet, get them to teach you how.

Do you have any additional tips? Or have you had any experience with not being taken seriously at work? What happened and what steps did you take to change things?

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Job hopping: is it such a bad thing?

I’m getting my CV and my mind ready to get back into the job market. Looking over my CV, I’m reminded of how many jobs I’ve had and how unmotivated I was to stay in any of those roles for very long. Infact, except for one of them, I really couldn’t get out fast enough! I haven’t been in any job for up to two years before *shock…horror*. Pretty sure that makes me a job hopper.

I was doing a bit of reading and it looks like women are more likely to be job hoppers than men. That makes sense as women can go through a variety of life changes that makes it necessary for us to redefine our lives. Pregnancy and childbirth being prime examples, as I would well know. According to Robert Half, 64% of employees think job hopping is a good thing. I don’t know who was surveyed (where they were based, how many there were and which generation they were from).

I haven’t gone into any role planning to leave but I have looked forward to leave a few roles shortly after starting. Thinking about it really hard, I’ve always had the problem of knowing how bored and unmotivated I will be in the job that I’m going into but hope it will be a while before I reach that stage. I’ve also moved because I didn’t like my working environment and once, for more money. Unfortunately, the money didn’t stop me disliking the role any less than I did. I’m sure that last one is the reason for most job hopping.

Why do people job hop?

  • Better money. Like in my case, it was an easier way to get a higher salary. I took the experience I’d gained with me and slotted myself into another role that required the skills I had but paid more. Sometimes this is quicker than waiting it out for 3-5 in one role in the hope of promotion or getting a pay rise.
  • No feeling of loyalty to your employer. Millenials are probably most guilty of this. Seeing the economic crash and being aware of how easily employees were let go after dedicating lifetimes to their employers may have taught us that no employee is indispensable to a company. You have to look out for your own career first. Your own livelihood. We’re generally different from the generations before us who saw value in starting and growing with an employer for twenty plus years of their lives. Then again, maybe employers are less loyal to their employees now than they used to be back then.
  • When the economic situation is good, it doesn’t take you being an expert in a niche field for your skills and experience to be in high demand. It’s in those good times that searching on sites like monster.com and indeed.co.uk will bring back a thousand results regardless of your field. You might start to wonder why you’re staying in this job you started six months ago when there are many of the same opportunities out there that will pay you almost twice your current salary.
  • Disenchantment. After being in a role for 3-6 months and getting to grips with the basic structure of the company and the role itself, it’s not difficult to become disenchanted, disillusioned with the tasks that may now feel mundane.

Moving around so much not be to your benefit, as you can imagine, and here are a few reasons why:

  1. Employers will undoubtedly question why you’ve moved around so much. That might lead them to wonder if the training they will provide you, should they employ you, is worth their time and money. They might not even get past your CV because they may not think an interview is worth their time.
  2. How secure will your job be? In the event of any job cuts, I’d say employers are more likely to get rid of the person who’s there 9 months and hasn’t stayed at any previous job longer than a year or two. Surely it’d be him/her over the employee who does a mediocre job but has been at the company for seven years…? I suppose that’s only true if you think companies are loyal.
  3. You won’t get the opportunity to be put forward for promotions or make use of any employee development programmes. Such programmes make you more valuable to the company but also contribute to your own growth and employability.

Despite the three points above, I do think that a bit of hopping about is absolutely necessary in extreme circumstances where your management treats you badly, for example. I really do think that it can even be a good thing. I believe it largely worked in my favour in the past because I was gaining a fairly varied set of skills but focused within a specific section of the industry I’ve worked in. It can also be a good thing because it gives you the opportunity to expand your network. Also, it’s not just better money you might get elsewhere. It’s also better benefits or a better job title. A better job title as manager or team leader, for example, would stand you in good stead for your next role.

Job hoppers like myself would typically be advised to take a step back to evaluate what we want out of a career, where our passions truly lie. Argh. I must say I struggle to think of ways to live comfortably off my passions. Honestly. And well, you know, I have responsibilities. Do I just say, life is too short to be miserable or just okay in a job or do I chase what makes me happy and hope I can survive off it? How happy can you really be if you’re broke? I imagine these are questions that most 9-5ers have battled with.

There is a lot less to consider by way of loyalty, etc. if you own your own business…but entrepreneurship is not for the faint-hearted.

Okay. I’ve written way more than I planned to. It’s just all my thoughts on this issue tumbling out here as I try to sort them out.

Sources

https://www.nbcnews.com/better/business/job-hopping-rise-should-you-consider-switching-roles-make-more-ncna868641

https://www.themuse.com/advice/heres-the-truth-about-how-jobhopping-affects-your-career

https://www.fastcompany.com/3058996/why-women-job-hop-more-than-men,

https://www.publicnewsservice.org/2017-04-04/livable-wages-working-families/gender-pay-gap-could-lead-to-job-hopping-for-ore-women/a57119-1

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Marriage with a newborn

Has having a newborn been tough on your relationship?

Having a newborn has been really tough on our relationship. With a tired recovering body and demanding newborn who refused to sleep in her cot for the most part, you tend to feel exhausted for those first three months. Breastfeeding makes you feel like your body is no longer yours and it takes some getting used to.
If you haven't dragged your other half to antenatal classes or had a serious chat about each others' expectations before they arrive, it can be a plethora of disagreements and surprises. Be it dummy, no dummy, Co sleeping, breastfeeding versus formula or just who is expected to do the dishes, I had many surprises and ended up arguing a lot with my partner. Then the jealousy kicked in that I wasn't working and despite me feeling exhausted, to him, it seemed like a holiday. I didn't feel like that at 3am trying to get a baby to sleep.

What advice would you give a first time mum who’s worried about her relationship making it through? Or do you think you don’t know the answer to that yet? 

I would say to do a few things that I didn't manage.
Sit down before baby arrives and talk through your expectations with each other includes household chores, finances, mat [maternity] leave, going back to work hours, and importantly, parenting styles.
At least this way, you can try to agree on some things before the baby is thrown into the mix. If this doesn't work, try to lean on whoever you can for support - siblings, parents, etc. to get you through those first few months.

Has having a newborn been tough on your relationship?

Having a newborn has been really tough on our relationship. With a tired recovering body and demanding newborn who refused to sleep in her cot for the most part, you tend to feel exhausted for those first three months. Breastfeeding makes you feel like your body is no longer yours and it takes some getting used to.
If you haven't dragged your other half to antenatal classes or had a serious chat about each others' expectations before they arrive, it can be a plethora of disagreements and surprises. Be it dummy, no dummy, Co sleeping, breastfeeding versus formula or just who is expected to do the dishes, I had many surprises and ended up arguing a lot with my partner. Then the jealousy kicked in that I wasn't working and despite me feeling exhausted, to him, it seemed like a holiday. I didn't feel like that at 3am trying to get a baby to sleep.

What advice would you give a first time mum who’s worried about her relationship making it through? Or do you think you don’t know the answer to that yet? 

I would say to do a few things that I didn't manage.
Sit down before baby arrives and talk through your expectations with each other includes household chores, finances, mat [maternity] leave, going back to work hours, and importantly, parenting styles.
At least this way, you can try to agree on some things before the baby is thrown into the mix. If this doesn't work, try to lean on whoever you can for support - siblings, parents, etc. to get you through those first few months.

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