The Young Professional’s Guide to Surviving a Terrible Week

The day started so well. Sunny skies. Light traffic on my morning commute. The debut, during a lovely luncheon, of a nonprofit video I’d written. My mood soared as I arrived back home that evening.

Then, like falling dominoes, one piece of bad news after another crashed down on my perfect little day.

Affixed to the door of my newly rented townhouse was a notice informing me the previous tenants hadn’t paid the mortgage. The home had been bought in a foreclosure auction. Not good.

Before I could fully grasp the implications of that, my husband arrived home with news of his own: he had lost his job. Really not good.

Later that night, I learned about family members facing major troubles—loved ones falling ill and friends deciding to divorce.

Image: Thinkstock

It’s going to get better. Follow these simple steps.

It felt like some sort of cosmic joke. Surely so much could not go wrong in such a short period of time. I spent a sleepless night full of so many worries I barely knew which stress to focus on.

I was a wreck the next day. How could I possibly work while it felt like the world was crashing around me? Exhaustion and stress consumed me, but I couldn’t miss the day.

If you have to face a catastrophic week, here’s how to work through it:

Read the rest at Black Enterprise

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How To Brag At Work (Without Sounding Like A Jerk)

When it comes to having a successful career, there is no substitute for hard work. But on the other hand, hard work won’t do you any good if your accomplishments are going unnoticed.

If you’re anything like me, you probably believe your work should speak for itself, and that the idea of tooting your own horn sounds, well, obnoxious. But waiting around hoping your good work will catch the boss’s eye could be preventing you from getting the recognition—and possibly the promotions—you deserve at work.

But how do you let people know about your good work without sounding like a jerk? Here are a few techniques I’ve found successful.

Track Your Successes Two women shaking hands

If someone were to ask you, “What did you do this month at work that you are most proud of?” would you be able to answer? Maybe not—it’s very easy to get stuck in the day-to-day grind of work and forget to take note of all the great things you do for the company.

So, make a plan for how you’re going to stay on top of them. While this won’t necessarily get your successes noticed, it will help you be more aware of them so you can know what to share with other people.

Find out how to do this at Forbes

Dominate At Your Next Conference.

photo-4Today I had the chance to attend The Economist Africa Summit featuring influential speakers who discussed the next generation of African innovation and leadership. Conferences such as these offer a great opportunity to meet key people in your field and gain insight on emerging trends.

Over the years I’ve attended dozens of conferences and for the most part I didn’t really enjoy them. I never left feeling energized or got any great contacts but this time was different. I finally understood what people had been saying all those years about the usefulness of conferences. For the first time I felt like I was in the zone and making meaningful connections. With Social Media Week coming to Lagos in just a couple of weeks and Blogging Ghana hosting their second annual Blog Camp for bloggers and social media users, there are two great opportunities to learn more about digital marketing and social media regardless of career field and develop relationships.

Conferences can be exciting, rewarding, and lead to your next business opportunity so follow these four tips to help you dominate at your next conference:

Decide In Advance What You Want To Get Out Of the Conference.

Do you want to meet a particular speaker? Are you looking to get on the radar of a sponsoring organization? Fully taking the time to review the schedule and bios of the speakers will help you understand what you can do to best take advantage of the conference. Once you’ve set a goal of whom you’d like to meet and when, feel free to reach out to them in advance by sending an email or tweet on Twitter. Introducing yourself in advance gives you the chance to start to build a relationship before you meet or to even set up a one-on-one meeting during the conference.

Use Social Media To Get Noticed.

Most conferences are now actively encouraging participants to take the conversation out of the meeting rooms and share it with the online community. This is a great opportunity for you to interact and speak with other conference participants before and after the conference. If you’re on Twitter use the official conference hashtag and share your experiences on Facebook and LinkedIn.

Smile and Mingle 🙂

If you attend a conference by yourself you may be tempted to sit in the corner by yourself but that is the exact opposite of what you should be doing. Go find a group of people you don’t know and sit by them. During breaks, smile and say hello to everyone that passes you. Sometimes we make networking harder than it has to be but at its core its all about getting to know people and making friends. The first step to doing that is often just a smile and a hello.

Be Brave And Ask Questions.

When speakers and panels leave time for questions they are sincere in their interest to dialogue with attendees and hear new perspectives. If you had a question or concern with something you heard here is your chance to get that question answered and to distinguish yourself in the eyes of the speakers. It may be nervous or scary to stand up in front of an audience but this is great practice in public speaking and leadership. Speak clearly, announce your name, and keep it simple and short.

Follow Up and Keep The Conversation Going.

When making connections at events, exchanging business cards or emails is a great way to remember the people you’ve met and begin developing relationships. But don’t just throw those cards in the corner and forget everyone you’ve met. Use this opportunity to follow up with the person within 2-3 days after the event. Don’t just send a quick email but take the time to mention and share something you discussed and also even connect with them on LinkedIn or Twitter. Be careful to not include those emails in your general friend list because you don’t want to tarnish your professional image by forwarding messages only meant for your closest mates.

Please stop forwarding those silly chain messages.

Chain EmailsLast night I received a What’s App message from a young women I have been mentoring during her quest to start her own business. I immediately deleted it but it went something like this: “Would you stay with your boyfriend even if you didn’t trust that he was faithful? Trust and believe that it will all work out if you keep the faith. Forward this to other young women and don’t break the chain.”

Well I did break the chain because I don’t think that was an appropriate message for her to send me. I hate chain emails but when my mother forwards me messages from her prayer circles I don’t get upset because that is my mother and she created me. A person that I have a professional relationship with is a totally different story.  I expect people that I have a professional relationship with to keep our communications strictly to business and when that person doesn’t it not only annoys me but leads me to question their level of business etiquette. If they feel it is okay to send me a message like that who knows if they also would do the same with their supervisor or boss or even worse an important client.

That is one of the many unspoken rules about business: even when you’re not on duty or in the office, you are still being evaluated as an employee, teammate and potential leader of the company. This rule applies to the silliest of things including emails and text messages. The same language that we use with our friends is not appropriate for work colleagues and even if you are quickly responding to an email or read a funny SMS and want to share it.

Am I going to stop working with the young lady that sent me the message? No I won’t because it isn’t that serious to me and I can just ask her not to include me in those messages but I do encourage other young women out there to be mindful of how they interact with their colleagues or professional relationships out of work or online.

I don’t care too much but the next person might care a whole lot.

In service,

Afua

Leave Those Limp Hands At The Door: Shaking Hands With Confidence.

Two women shaking hands

It’s really quite simple: if you want to be taken seriously as a business professional you need to come prepared for business. That starts as soon as you walk in the door. Laiza showed us her favorite work looks and we’ve shown natural hair styles you can wear in the workplace. Now we’re talking about walking in a room with grace and confidence.

First impressions matter and the way you shake hands sends a message about your personality and confidence level. In business, you can use your handshake to set the right tone for a meeting, interview, or negotiation. Here are 7 tips to make sure you are shaking hands like a pro.

1. Start With A Strong Introduction.

There is nothing worse than meeting someone and then realizing that you never got their name. As soon as you extend your hand towards the other person, clearly state your first and last name.

2. Shake Your Hand Only 2-3 Times

Keep your handshake short and to the point. That’s all we have to say about that.

3. Try To Avoid Hand Wrestling Anyone

Handshakes are not competitions, so keep it friendly and respectful. No one wants an uncomfortable or painful handshake so pretend that you are opening a door handle and use that same level of pressure.

4. Stay Away From The “Fish Hand”

This is a business handshake and you are a professional: limp weak hands are not welcome. That’s all we have to say about that too.

5. Forget The Lady Shake

This is not a date or a church picnic, this is business. If you want to be viewed as an equal in the workplace, act like one and that begins by not offering fingers only for a handshake.

6. Ending a Handshake

After 3-4 seconds, the hand shake is done so don’t let it move into that awkward territory. Remove your hand and start the beginning of your meeting so it stays more professional and less like hand holding.

7. Everyone Makes Mistakes

We’ve all had sweaty palms or held on to a handshake for too long. It happens but that doesn’t mean you need to panic or worry. Quickly move on by making a quick compliment about your surroundings or asking a question. Showing that you are quick on your feet and can easily adapt to challenging situations is a great way to make a good impression on a potential boss or client.

What do you all think? Do you have any handshake horror stories?

3 Ways To Improve Your Public Speaking Skills.

For many of us, speaking in front of a crowd is one of the scariest things we can do. But if you want to move forward in your career being able to speak in public with confidence and poise is an important must have skill.

Ask questions during meetings and events: If you’re one of those people that never talks during meetings, start asking questions and speaking up. When you speak during meetings, practice speaking loud and clear and concisely. Not only will your colleagues and supervisor begin noticing your presence, you will also become comfortable speaking in front of others.

Practice, Practice, Practice: The only way to truly improve your public speaking skills is to be serious about it. The first step is to practice before giving public presentations. Practice in front of a mirror or in front of your friends. Join groups like Toastmasters that have local chapters in Accra and Lagos. The sooner you start to get more comfortable, the better you will be in expressing your ideas clearly and confidently.

Watch clips of great speakers: YouTube has examples of tons of great speakers giving inspiring speeches and talks. Not only do these talks share a great message, they are also great examples of how to have a good presence on stage and speak clearly. Check out the page of the African Leadership Network or TEDx for African speakers discussing important issues about our communities. Two great examples are Chimamanda Adichie and Dr. Ngozi Okonjo-Iweala.

What are some of the ways you have improved your public speaking skills? Are there any websites or blogs you have used to get better in presenting your ideas?