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Angelica Rains

5 Tips to Thrive in a Phone Interview

By | Career Guidance, Executive Assistant, Interviews | No Comments

Phone interviews are frequently used by companies to save time by pre-qualifying your interest and expertise. They are a great opportunity for you to put your best foot forward and get noticed. The following are some recommendations to ensure your next phone interview is successful for you.

1. Isolate Yourself

Phone interviews can be challenging because you only have one tool of communication: your voice. The interviewer’s impression of you is shaped by all the sounds coming through the phone. Insulate yourself from distractions and background noises. Do not have your phone interview when you are surrounded by a lot of noise like an outdoor café at a busy intersection. If the call is on your cell phone, make sure that you have excellent reception and make sure the caller can hear you clearly as soon as you begin.

2. Stand Up

During the call stand up, walk around, and smile. Standing gives you more confidence and it really makes a difference in the tone of your voice. Smiling is like a secret weapon on a phone interview. It automatically makes your voice friendlier and calm. Both of these things make a big difference in the projection and quality of your voice.

3. Prepare Your Responses

Phone interviews follow a similar pattern of questioning with the purpose of screening people out of consideration. Below is a list of questions most phone interviewers ask. Write them down and practice your responses in advance. Make notes for your reference during the call.

  • Tell me about yourself.
  • What do you know about our company?
  • How did you learn about this position?
  • What are your compensation requirements?
  • Why are you looking for a new position?
  • What are your strengths?
  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Do you have any questions?

4. Ask Thoughtful Questions

Questions are your primary tool of influence with an interviewer. They help you direct the conversation and assess if the company is right for you. Here are some questions to ask during a phone interview.

  • What business imperatives are driving the need for this position?
  • Describe the three top challenges that I’ll face in this job.
  • What are the characteristics of people who are most successful in your company?
  • What are the key deliverables and outcomes that this position must achieve?

5. Ask Closing Questions

The end of the interview is a perfect time to finalize any additional thoughts and ask any remaining questions you have. The following are some questions you should consider asking at the end of the phone interview.

  • What additional information would you like me to provide?
  • What concerns do you have at this point?
  • What are the key things you’d like to learn about my background?
  • When is the best time to follow up with you?

At the conclusion of your phone interview, ask the interviewer about next steps and the timing of their hiring process. This will leave you with a clear idea of what to expect so you’re not left in the dark.

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Rise to the Challenge: Leadership During a Crisis

By | Career Guidance, Leadership | No Comments

Leaders show their true colors in unprecedented situations. As companies around the world struggle to deal with the biggest global health crisis of the century, leaders are rising to the occasion keeping team morale high, ensuring the safety and health of employees, providing guidance and support, and making difficult but important decisions. This is what strong leadership looks like in an emergency. Below are some of the ways you can rise to the challenge and provide strong leadership during a crisis.

Be Quick and Decisive

Leaders don’t have the luxury of indecision when the world is in the middle of a health crisis. The situation changes daily, so leaders need to react to these changes promptly. As new information is made public, leaders need to be able to make sense of the information and confidently make decisions that are in the best interest of the company and its employees. This isn’t easy because in times of uncertainty information isn’t always complete or accurate. Plus, your anxiety is likely higher than usual. It helps to continuously examine and identify the top needs of your company and identify obstacles. Once you understand what you need to succeed in the short- and long-term, it will become easier to make quick decisions.

Understand How Employees Are Feeling

Your employees likely feel anxious and afraid right now. But it is a good idea to ask your employees how they’re feeling so you have an accurate understanding of their mental state. As a leader, your job is to understand what your employees are going through and do everything you can to ease their worries by being transparent with them, and providing them with the resources they need to work from home successfully. Reassure them that you will work with them to overcome obstacles and solve problems related to COVID-19.

Keep Employees Engaged

You have to understand that your employees are working in completely different environments. They likely have more distractions and more responsibilities. This will make it harder for them to stay engaged as they work. They are also interacting less with colleagues, which can also affect engagement. You should make a point to contact your employees regularly and pay extra attention to communicating goals and priorities. Video calls can help employees feel less isolated and more connected to the team. You also should take the time to highlight positives, such as the successes of your employees or other achievements. This will help keep spirits high.

We’re experiencing a health crisis unlike any of us has ever witnessed before. While COVID-19 poses many challenges to companies around the world, this is a chance to show your team you have the ability to lead with strength and courage.

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Fostering Fear: Lead Your Team to Break Out of Their Comfort Zone

By | Career Guidance, Leadership | No Comments

“What we fear doing most is usually what we most need to do.” You may have an immediate connection to that statement, with your own delinquent “to-do’s” catapulting to the center of your attention. It was entrepreneur, author, and investor Timothy Ferriss who most recently voiced this assertion in his book The 4 Hour Workweek. However, the emphasis of this blog post is not focused on you as a culprit, but instead on you as a leader. Reflect on the statement with your focus on the individuals you have a responsibility to lead and mentor. No matter the situation, many people would agree that it is outside of a comfort zone where the most opportunity to flourish professionally, personally, and financially exists. As leaders, we are responsible for the careers and development of others. That is a significant responsibility, and we owe it to those we lead to help them understand how shedding the cozy blanket of security should become the comfort zone.

Appreciating Apprehension

How can fear become a comfort zone? It begins with cultivating the skill of being comfortable with the uncomfortable. There are many situations in which we experience pain and embrace it, like lifting weights at the gym. The burn within our muscles is not viewed as a negative, but rather that our effort is working. If it is possible for us to feel physical pain and appreciate it for what it is, why can’t that same mindset apply to other areas of pain in our life? Imagine, instead of tackling the things we fear last, we develop an aptitude to flip that fearful feeling and view it as the beneficial burn of a muscle. Instead of dreading it, we jump on the upside of what it means: our effort is working.

Start with an open discussion with those you lead. Help them understand that if you want something in life you have never had, you will likely have to do something you have never done. Additionally, acknowledge that whatever we have identified as what we know we should do, we also have identified as an essential thing to do. If you aren’t afraid of doing something, it generally means you don’t find it very important, or you would have at least some fear. Important work is inextricably linked to valuable responsibilities within a professional setting, and valuable responsibilities are what can cement an individual’s feeling of a high degree of career fulfillment.

Give them permission to flip the script and view pain as a positive. Encourage them not just to survive challenges, but to thrive in them. Inspire change by asking each individual to select a professional situation they fear most, and how they will choose to run towards that fear. Lead by example by going first.

“Change is inevitable. Growth is optional.” – John Maxwell

Understanding the Root

Knowing what needs to be done and understanding what is holding one back from doing it are two different assignments. It might be entirely evident for what the looming task or situation is. What someone may not be able to recognize immediately is why they are feeling the way they do. How can you help those you lead better understand the root cause of fear?

More than likely, it is a fear of failure or a fear of not being good enough. Simply, most paralyzing situations stem from one of those two roots. Reflect on the uncomfortable scenario you envisioned when first reading the opening paragraph of this article. Would you agree that the underlying originating fear is one of those two origins?

When we start listening to the doubts of ourselves and others, the voice in our head becomes a breeding ground for negativity. People will always have an opinion. Understanding that those people are entitled to their thoughts, yet disassociating ourselves from those opinions, is an essential step in moving past any fear of being judged. Remember, it’s not the thing itself, but rather the outcome:

  • You’re not scared of public speaking; you’re scared of being criticized by those you’re speaking to.
  • You’re not afraid of taking on a challenging project; you’re afraid of failing at it.
  • You’re not anxious about a difficult conversation; you’re anxious as to how the other person will choose to respond.
  • You’re not nervous about being vulnerable; you’re nervous about being judged for your vulnerability.
  • You don’t fear success; you fear not being worthy of it.

Teach your team to point themselves in the direction of what is most important to them, rather than being hard on themselves for feeling fear in the first place.

Off the Hook?

Although the focus of this post is around those we lead, we as leaders are not completely off the hook. How do you stay in your comfort zone? What is it you avoid doing as a leader? Difficult conversations, delivering criticism, demonstrating empathy, fostering authentic personal relationships, being fully present? Take time to analyze yourself and be your own constructive critic honestly.

Understand that you might be part of the problem, even if unintentionally. Fear is grounded in fear of judgment, and your team is likely acutely aware that the gavel you hold is what rules the courtroom. Don’t resist letting people run, trip, or fall down because you know they won’t be as good as you. You weren’t always as good as you are now. Distance yourself from the “how” of the work and focus your attention on outputs and results.

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How to Prevent Burnout When Working Remotely

By | Career Guidance, Leadership | No Comments

As the coronavirus spreads across the globe, millions of professionals have to adapt to working from home. For many workers, stress and anxiety are at an all-time high. We offer some helpful tips to prevent burnout when working remotely.

Set and Maintain Boundaries

Your mental health will benefit from strong boundaries between personal and professional life. These boundaries are more challenging to maintain when working from home. It is a good idea to set up an official workstation, dress in work clothes every morning, and stick to a schedule if possible. Create some quiet space for yourself where you won’t be interrupted. You may need to establish a quiet time for an hour or more where you cannot be interrupted by housemates or children. For those who have children and other responsibilities, it might be harder to stick to a schedule. It helps to plan your day in advance and balance professional and familial responsibilities.

Stay Active

With millions of people contending with stay at home orders, activity levels are bound to be lower. However, physical activity is essential for reducing stress and keeping concentration high. Stay active! Take short walks around the block, do some yoga, or even just stand or walk around during phone calls. Sitting at a desk all day will quickly lead to burnout. It’s easy to get lost in your work when you work remotely. Set regular reminders on your phone to stand up and move around.

Prioritize Tasks

During this time, you’re likely to be juggling more responsibilities than you normally would. While you’re still performing your regular work, there are competing concerns for housework, and potentially a spouse or housemate working from home as well. And if children are involved you’ll be feeding and entertaining kids, and helping them with their remote-schooling. With so many things going on at home during a quarantine, focus on high-priority tasks. Homes are full of distractions. During this unique time, you may not be able to work as many hours. With all of your other responsibilities and these added distractions, you may only be truly productive for 4 to 6 hours a day, so make sure you focus on completing your highest priority tasks.

Most people in C-Level support are not used to working from home full-time, and even the ones who have experience working remotely aren’t used to having children and spouses at home with them or having the added stress of coping with an international health crisis. Be proactive to maintain your mental and physical health during these difficult times, so you don’t end up burning out.

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How to Outsmart Your Job-Seeking Competitors

By | Career Guidance, Leadership | No Comments

Job hunting in the area of C-Suite support can be challenging. The employment market is more competitive than ever before, and expectations are high. If you want to land the job that is right for you, you need to set yourself apart from the rest and make sure employers take notice of you. Here’s how to outsmart your job-seeking competitors.

Make Your Resume Stand Out

Given the number of resumes hiring managers read, it’s important to find ways to make your resume unique. When they get to the end of a pile, you want your resume to be the one they remember. First, design a resume that is eye-catching. Second, tailor the resume to the specific job for which you are applying. So many candidates submit generic resumes without taking the time to customize them to the role. Don’t make that mistake. Your resume should tell a story and showcase quantifiable ways your skills can benefit the employer.

Nail the First Impression

Managers make dozens of decisions and assumptions about you within the first minute of meeting you. You need to think about how you present yourself. Not only do you need to dress the part, you also need to have the right posture and attitude. Although entirely unfair, women are even more likely to be judged on appearances. In any case, you want people to see you and immediately think you’re professional, serious, and confident. If you show up late with your shoulders slumped, the employer will have a hard time envisioning you as a member of their team.

Think About the Questions You Ask

Don’t focus questions on pay, benefits, perks, etc. Ask questions that show you are genuinely interested in the company and want to bring value to the employer. Your questions should focus on company culture, company objectives, desired leadership qualities, career development, and performance expectations. If you focus on how the job will benefit you, the employer may question your motives.

Follow Up

Many of your job-seeking competitors will follow-up with the hiring manager after the interview by sending an email. You can help yourself standout by sending a handwritten note instead. A handwritten thank you note will feel more personal, while also sending a clear message to employers that you want the job. Plus, handwritten follow-ups are more memorable and will help you improve the overall impression the hiring manager has of you.

In a competitive job market, your goal should be to stand out from your job-seeking competitors. Make your resume memorable, your first impression positive, and intentions clear. You want the employer to know you are serious about working for them and that you have skills and qualities that will provide real value to the organization.

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The Most Pervasive Problems for Women in the Workforce

By | Career Guidance, Leadership | No Comments

Although major steps have been made toward gender equality over the past decade, women still face many obstacles in their professional lives. Women make up half of the workforce, yet it’s harder for them to find employment, earn raises, and land promotions. This is true in many fields and industries. Here are some of the most pervasive problems for women in the workforce.

Hiring Biases

A joint study by professors at Columbia University, Northwestern University, and the University of Chicago revealed that two-thirds of hiring managers in the tech industry chose male candidates even if the female candidates performed the same or better than the male candidates. Similar studies showed the same bias is present in the sciences and in the corporate world. People of all genders have an unconscious bias toward men, assuming men are more competent than women even when they have no evidence to back it up.

Promotions

One of the biggest problems women face in the workplace is recognition. Female employees have to work harder than their male counterparts for their managers to publicly praise them. They are also overlooked for promotions. Many female professionals feel like they don’t have a fair opportunity to earn promotions, having noticed that their male colleagues often received promotions before them even if they have less experience.

Gender Pay Gap

On average, men are paid more than women for the same work, even when they have the same educational and professional background, work the same hours, and have the same responsibilities. Since men are often more likely to receive raises, the pay gap experienced often increases over time. A study by the WAGE Project suggests the average woman with a BA will receive a third of what a man with the same degree makes over the course of his career.

What Can Organizations Do?

First and foremost, companies should actively work on making their processes for hiring and promotions objective and unbiased. Many managers are unaware of the biases they have, so the best way to approach decisions is to leave no room for subjectivity. Companies can also establish mentorship programs for women in the workplace and be proactive in hiring women for leadership positions. Organizations with more diversity in their leadership tend to perform better, so it is a win-win situation.

Gender inequality is a huge challenge in contemporary work culture. In most fields, women are less likely than men to be hired or promoted. They also tend to receive less money than men for the same work. If companies want to attract and retain the best talent, they need to rethink their approach to gender equality and take clear steps to reduce bias in their practices.

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The Stress Test

By | Career Guidance, Leadership | No Comments

Countless articles have addressed one of the most important tasks given to senior leadership within any organization: the ability to identify the next generation of future leaders within the firm. We look for passionate individuals who wake up each day craving success and can channel that passion into actions and results. We seek out creative thinkers who are intensely curious, identifying those who naturally crave answers and alternative ways of approaching problems. The trait of true grit is valued within an organization. We respect those who have the strength to learn why they failed, what to do in the future to succeed, and the willpower to get back on the horse and try again.

Research on the topic reveals another crucial attribute as it relates to identifying future leaders: the stress test. Great leaders always seem to have the ability, at least in appearance, to remain calm during situations that make most of the general population fall to pieces.

Why the Stress Test?

Drama in the workplace is the enemy of productivity. Incessant venting can create an emotionally exhausting experience for all involved. Individuals who react, instead of respond, typically do not endear themselves to others within the team.

Alternatively, good leaders can keep cool even when the situation provokes an emotional reaction. But great leaders also help everyone else stay calm and contribute to the imminent situation and impending objectives. There is a difference between managing one’s self and managing the reactions of others, and the two don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

Within the workplace it is common for individuals to achieve promotions based on their commitment to personal success early in their careers. As individual contributors, they can produce more simply by doing more. They can choose to work harder and longer, and to be more productive. There is a tremendous amount of control and correlation with the relationship between effort and outcomes. When promoted into leadership, one suddenly becomes responsible for the work and success of others. Leaders’ efforts alone are often insufficient to achieve results, especially if they lack the coaching ability to adequately influence others. Thus, the stress test is relevant not only for one’s capacity to manage personal emotions, but also to transform the dynamic of the entire workplace.

Screening for Stress

It is commonly known that individuals put their best foot forward throughout the interviewing process – both applicants and hiring managers alike. When do you really get to know what is underneath the surface? What combination of behavioral-based interviewing questions and situational scenarios should we use in order to see a candidate’s true colors under stress? The subject of engaging a candidate in awkward situations in an interview is not widely accepted, likely for good reason. Sighing or interrupting candidates while they are talking, acting aloof and not paying attention, or repeating questions to see if someone gets frustrated doesn’t lend itself to an attraction-based recruitment strategy. Consider some of the following questions to evaluate aptitude:

  • It doesn’t seem as though you have enough experience for this role. Tell me why you believe we should hire you, or why I’m wrong in my assessment.
  • I don’t think I understand your answer. Can you please explain it differently?
  • How would you handle putting in a couple hours of overtime after a busy, stressful day?
  • Tell me about a time when you didn’t reach a goal. What happened, and what did you learn?
  • How do you prevent a situation from getting too stressful to manage?
  • What advice would you give to calm down a colleague who is stressed out about a deadline?
  • How would you deal with frequent changes at work? Client expectations change, a deadline gets moved up, new inexperienced individuals joining the team, etc.
  • How do you ensure that stressful situations in your personal life don’t affect your work performance?

Also worth noting is the dynamic between a personality type and the ability to cope comfortably with change or pressure. Some individuals are wired to embrace bold new ideas and the bigger picture, believing that risks are worth taking and love a challenge. Others are pragmatic, drawn by data and facts, and to whom details matter. Although the former may be naturally wired to deal with stress easier than the latter, it is possible to teach a key component of stress management: detachment. Teach individuals to avoid negative self-talk, the “what if” rabbit holes, and to slow down and breathe. It is possible to coach emotional stability, allowing employees to understand how to view a situation with a healthy level of detachment, process what is happening around them, and take helpful and purposeful action.

On the Brink of Burnout

Improving stress management capabilities is one thing but bringing employees to the brink of burnout is another. Create a healthy balance between high achievement and high enjoyment. Be spontaneous. This could be as simple as rearranging office furniture or hosting an impromptu casual lunch gathering. Instead of your next brainstorming meeting being conducted in the office, take a walk instead. You may be surprised as to how the creative moments can flow in a more relaxed setting. Ask individuals what they think. You do not always need to implement their input, but people want the opportunity to be heard. Know their personal and professional goals for the year and take responsibility for helping them achieve at least one or two of them yourself. Make progress on helping uncover the future potential of each player on your team. They put their careers in your hands and it is a responsibility, as a leader, that we should take seriously.

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Tips to Improve Your Time Management Skills

By | Career Guidance, Leadership | No Comments

When it comes to C-level support, time management is critical to performing at a consistent high level. It improves organization, focus, and productivity. Effective time management can help minimize work-related stress and anxiety. The following tips will help you improve your time management skills.

Quit Multitasking

Many people feel like they accomplish more when they multitask, but this is rarely true. Study after study shows that most people perform best when they devote their full attention to a single task. When we stop trying to multitask, we perform tasks faster, which makes it easier to meet deadlines.

Delegate

People often find it difficult to delegate tasks. They either feel like they’re shirking responsibilities, or they have a compulsion to be in control. Sometimes people just don’t want to take the time to train someone else how to do the particular task. Yet delegation is critical to time management. There is only so much any one person can do on their own. The key is to understand your skills and assets and those of your team members. This allows you to play on your strengths and those of the people around you.

Prioritize

Start each day by listing everything you need to achieve before the workday ends. Then organize each entry on the list by urgency. This will help you start your day with a clear mind and ensure that you complete all the important tasks that you need to complete. Usually our to-do lists are longer than the hours in the day, so you should always focus on the most urgent tasks first.

Avoid Distractions

We all procrastinate from time to time, but procrastination is the biggest obstacle to successful time management. If you have a difficult assignment, turn off push notifications on your phone, close your email, and forward calls to voicemail. If you surf the web when you want to avoid tasks, you can even set up software that will keep you from using your web browser during work hours.

Wake Up Earlier

People with great time management skills usually wake up bright and early. When you start the day early, you have time to sit down with a cup of coffee and plan your day. When you wake up at the last minute, you are in a rush to get ready. By the time you arrive at work, you are likely to be in a state of anxiety and disorder.

As a C-level support professional, executives depend on you to be organized and on top of deadlines. This requires well developed time management skills. The better you can manage your time, the more productive you will be.

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Make Self-Care a Priority for a Better Work-Life Balance

By | Career Guidance, Leadership | No Comments

Professionals in C-level support are so used to taking care of everyone else they often forget to take care of themselves. But with such a challenging job, you need to make self-care a top priority, or you will likely experience burnout. Here’s how to make self-care a priority and incorporate it into your daily routine.

Make a List of Your Needs

Start by making list of what you need to stay healthy. This includes physical needs like water, nutrients, sleep, and exercise, as well as psychological needs like mindfulness, community, and quiet time. The most common excuse people use to explain not practicing self-care is time. By making a list of your basic needs, you can more easily organize your schedule to incorporate healthy practices. Periodically reevaluate your needs. They change depending on what’s going on in your life at any given time.

Take Small Steps

Most people will find it difficult to completely change their behavior and lifestyle. Committing to self-care can be overwhelming at first, so start with baby steps. For example, start by drinking more water, then carve out time to start meditating or exercise. Eventually, you can address other issues like diet or sleep schedule. Don’t try to do it all at once. Eventually, you will turn these healthy behaviors into habits.

Be Kind to Yourself

Another reason many people struggle with self-care is that they believe they can’t do it. Society has trained us to concede defeat at the first sign of failure. For example, if you set a goal of meditating every day, you may feel defeated if you miss several days early on. You have to adjust your mindset. It takes time to turn behaviors into habit, so be kind to yourself and don’t agonize over every misstep. Everyone has the ability to practice self-care.

Remember Why You Practice Self-Care

As you work on making self-care a priority, always remember the why. You want to improve your health, reduce stress, and enhance your performance at work. Don’t rely too heavily on goal setting, schedules, and to-do lists. You also have to think about what you need in the moment. If you schedule in a hot shower in the evening as part of your self-care for the day, but you get home from work and can barely keep your eyes open, go to sleep. In that moment, sleep is more important to your self-care than a shower.

When you practice self-care, you develop better relationships with yourself, as well as your co-workers. You will also develop a more positive attitude, reduce your stress levels, improve your overall health, and increase engagement and focus. Take the first step and commit to making self-care a priority.

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African American Women Are Overcoming Barriers to Leadership

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As is true in many fields, there is a lack of diversity in leadership, especially when it comes to African American women. Still, some women of color are overcoming the barriers to leadership. These women know what it takes to succeed in today’s employment environment, and they share their unique insights.

Developing High Emotional Intelligence

Minority groups face a higher number of obstacles and barriers, so their resilience often becomes a driving force to succeed. This entails developing high emotional intelligence. When constantly judged by gender or skin color, it’s natural to feel anger and animosity. The key is to learn how to control your reactions and establish a strong understanding of who you are.

The women who are overcoming barriers learned to convey self-assurance even when people doubted them. In addition, when facing adversity, it starts to become easier to read people and situations. They learn to distinguish people who are prejudicial or close-minded from those who want to see them succeed. One leader who serves as chief financial officer says, “You have to seek out messages and people who affirm your identity.”

Understand Stereotypes

Society expects strong leaders to be autonomous, confident, capable, resolute, and ambitious. These are all traits stereotypically associated with men. Even though leadership styles can take many forms and gender stereotypes are inaccurate, these stereotypes create a bias that often works against women in the workplace. African American women have an even greater challenge because they also have to contend with stereotypes and biases associated with race. Once you understand the biases you face, you are in a much better position to counteract them.

Many professionals may be the only African American employee at their company, so they have an added attention put on them. The vice chair of an investment firm put it this way, “There are so many rooms I’ve gone into in my life where I was the only black person, and I immediately started to see that as an advantage. Because they’re going to look, they’re going to listen….They’re wondering how I got into the room, so I have an opportunity to get their attention. All I have to do is deliver into that space.”

Stay Genuine

One trait that most women and African American leaders share is sincerity. They know who they are and embrace it. They don’t change to please other people. It is systemically even more difficult for African American women to be honest about their professional and education background, because they are often judged more sharply than their peers. Despite this difficulty, it is always important to be candid about who you are and what you want. People respect honesty and frankness.

Overcoming barriers to leadership starts with establishing a strong sense of identity. At the C-suite level, women of color often make some of the best leaders. Even though they face more challenges than their competitors, their demonstrated resilience, high emotional intelligence, confidence, decisiveness, and sincerity drive them to succeed. As we slowly move into an era of more diversity in leadership positions, expect to see more women of color rise to the top.

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