Are You THAT Co-Worker?

We are part way through the winter season, and for most of us, that means we are trapped in the office due to inclement weather. This can make annoying co-workers even more of a nuisance when you cannot go outside to escape them for awhile. Don’t be THAT co-worker, the one that everyone complains about. Here are some of the more annoying office behaviors you should avoid:

*Being a space invader. Open work spaces promote people moving about and collaborating on work projects. However, it can also feel like an invitation to drop unannounced into a co-worker’s cubicle, to rearrange their stuff or to borrow their scissors because they have “the best pair.” I had a co-worker who used to chew on his fingers until they bled, and then he would type on my computer. In a case like this, you need to be polite, but firm. There are some behaviors you just cannot put up with and your co-worker needs to be put on notice.

*When Febreeze just isn’t enough. Air handling systems in office buildings sometimes aren’t what they should be, and odors can get trapped in an open office space. Rules for using the office microwave should be posted, and you should not be microwaving smelly salmon at lunchtime. Make sure you throw away leftover lunch items in the office kitchen area. Even fast food wrappers start to smell when they are thrown away in a waste basket near a heater.

*Extraneous or loud noises. Gum-cracking, sniffing, snorting, pulling at your lip or picking your teeth all create noises that seem to get amplified by a quiet office. They are even worse when you are on a conference call. Use the mute button for conference calls, and keep the noise down when everyone is busy working.

*I can still see you and you are gross. Some people think that sitting in a cubicle hides their gross behaviors such as passing gas, picking their noses, leaving used kleenex and dental floss on the desk, chewing and discarding fingernails –and a real hot button– swiping a co-worker’s favorite coffee mug, using it and then “just rinsing it out” and putting it back. People walking by or peering over the group of cubicles get treated to a view of all of these things.

*Can you hear me now? Really? How about now? Cell phones are a big distraction at work — not just the calls, but co-workers fiddling with the mp3 player to bring up that playlist that they just cannot seem to find. The alarm going off that they forgot they set or the annoying ringtones that are different for each caller can drive everyone one in the office crazy. The worst offenders are the people who bring their cellphones into the shared office bathroom. Your caller does not need to hear others using the restroom, and the users really do not want to hear your “personal” conversations.

*Now hear this. Now a word about the speakerphone. The speakerphone feature on your office phone is a convenient feature when you need several people nearby to hear the full conversation. However, dialing a number on speakerphone and then making the whole office listen to the answering machine message on the other end replete with disco music is plain obnoxious.

Watching for and eliminating these annoying office behaviors may prevent you from becoming THAT co-worker who is talked about around the water cooler. And if you have a co-worker who is driving you crazy, don’t worry. Spring is just (hopefully) around the corner.

What to Do When a Layoff Looms

Depending on who you believe and where you live, unemployment claims are rising, declining or staying the same. In any case, hiring in the U.S. is still very sluggish, and I have talked to several people who are fearful that layoffs are ahead for them. Planning ahead is key if you think you are about to get that pink slip. Here are a few things to make this difficult transition a bit less scary:

*Save some money. This is a hard one when you are stretching every paycheck to pay the bills. However, 6-12 months of savings will help you feel more in control if you do get laid off. It gives you breathing room while looking for another job.

*Update your resume. While you need to take the time to tailor your resume to each job for which you will apply, updating it makes it easier to start the process of getting your resume out there to different employers.

*Change up your thinking. We are becoming a contract nation, one where people have temporary gigs rather than full-time jobs. Create a plan for how you will survive as a contractor if you need to. This includes investigating recruiters in your field and the benefits packages they may provide.

*Define your marketable skills. Be honest. Skills like speaking Spanish or installing software are no longer that rare. There are many more native Spanish speakers in the US now, and most people can install their own computer software.

*Investigate career fields where you can transfer some or all of your current skills to broaden your number of job leads.

*Stay current with your professional network. Reach out to those people to whom you have not spoken in awhile. Have a frank conversation with them, and let them know you are worried about a future layoff. Ask for job leads and resources. Make sure you return the favor to those in your network when you can.

*Invest in life-long learning. Take a computer class or pursue a certification that would have been next to impossible to obtain while you were working full-time.

*Figure out how to manage stress. A different routine after being laid off is enough to send most of us spiraling into depression. Set up a plan for what a day after a layoff may look like, with scheduled time for job search activities and fun activities that can relieve stress.

*Recognize that a layoff is not a permanent, forced escort out of the job sector. It is a second chance to define who you are, to discover a new career or to start your dream business. It is just one step in your career development process.

Why Social Media Could Land Your Next Job

You tell people a great deal about yourself when you use social media on a regular basis. You are creating the story of you, rather than just presenting the generic listing of skills and accomplishments you have on your resume. Why not use social media to further your career? Hiring managers and recruiters are turning to sites such as Facebook, Reddit, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Pinterest to find out more about their job candidates than they can from the landslide of resumes they get for each job posting. What do you want potential employers to know about you? It is up to you to use social media wisely so that employers learn the key things about you that will make you a good employee.

Decide which social media sites you will use for personal communication and for your job search. For example, I try to keep up with Facebook’s privacy rules (no easy task) because I have family pictures on my status update and profile pages that I do not want just anyone to look at. So Facebook probably won’t land me a new job. However, when I interviewed for a career counseling position at Parson’s, my Pinterest page came in handy. I did not have a design portfolio, so my Pinterest boards showcased my eye for design, my knowledge of fashion brands and designers and my dedication to higher education.

Play to your strengths. Are you a master Tweeter? If so, use your tweets to show your knowledge of your career field and to air your opinions. The more informed you show yourself to be, the more likely it is that you can set yourself up as a KOL (known opinion leader) and garner more followers.

Follow the leader. Whichever social media you use, find the people you should be following to promote your career. These include people who trend spot, who inform succinctly and who are willing to dialogue with you.

Hook up your blog. If you don’t already blog, start one and keep it fresh. Just about every social media outlet has a way to hook your blog to it, and it is usually free.

You will probably still need a resume for your job search. However, new resume formats include a section on social media where you can list sites that highlight your written communication skills and that can act as a free, on-line portfolio for your design, photography or advertising work.