Managing Your Career

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Assembling Your Personal Board of Advisors

The notion that one mentor can meet all of an individual’s developmental needs is increasingly outdated. Instead, many people now draw from a "personal board of advisors," which can encompass a range of individuals, from friends or family who provide emotional support to role models the person may not personally know. The authors identify six types of personal advisors who, together, provide a broad combination of psychosocial support and career support.

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The New World of Work

Advanced digital technologies are swiftly changing the kinds of skills that jobs require. Researchers Frank MacCrory, George Westerman and Erik Brynjolfsson from the MIT Sloan School of Management and Yousef Alhammadi of the Masdar Institute studied the changes in skill requirements over the 2006-2014 time period. While demand has clearly grown for computer skills, it has grown for interpersonal skills, too. The authors advise people in all lines of work to be flexible about acquiring new talents.

Image courtesy of Flickr user chris riebschlager. https://www.flickr.com/photos/riebschlager/343600611
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Beware the Winning Streak

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How well do people factor past performance into their expectations for the future? Not very. In one study, for instance, students playing darts who did well in the first round bet that they would beat the improvement goals of those who did worse. They generally were wrong: the better the participants’ score in the first round, the less likely they were to improve as much as other participants in the second.

Image courtesy of Flickr user Keoni Cabral. https://www.flickr.com/photos/keoni101/7221666136
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Does Deciding to Seek Advice Signal Weakness?

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It’s common for people to worry that reaching out for advice will make them appear less competent, according to research from Harvard Business School and the Wharton School. But if the task is seen as difficult, the advice-seeker is actually viewed as more competent. In addition to establishing a connection between people’s willingness to ask for advice and others’ perceptions of their competence, the authors found that whom people ask for advice makes a difference in how they are viewed.

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The Dark Side of Information Technology

All of our wonderful mobile devices don’t always make us good at managing what we do with them. Handling information flows can take a toll on employee well-being, with some employees experiencing “technostress” from the pressure to multitask and to respond to Emails quickly. But there are steps executives can take to counter the negative effects of IT use. These steps encourage employees to step back and examine their personal relationships with IT.

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Image courtesy of Flickr user Rik Panganiban. https://www.flickr.com/photos/rikomatic/7508427970
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Would You Wear Red Sneakers to Work? Should You?

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Being a little quirky in clothing choices leads to positive inferences of status, confidence and competence — when observers think the choices are made with deliberateness. From a psychological standpoint, intentional deviance can signal that one has the autonomy to act according to one’s own inclinations, write the authors, who are all affiliated with Harvard Business School. On the other hand, nonconformists do risk not having a comfort zone and “the benefits of following the crowd.”

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Own Your Time, Boost Your Productivity

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MIT Sloan’s Robert Pozen has an array of strategies to make work time more productive. In a session on “Maximizing Your Personal Productivity” at MIT Sloan Executive Education, Pozen explained that people often don’t articulate their biggest goals and don’t have the right tools to make them true priorities. “You’re unlikely to achieve your top goals if you haven’t written them down,” said Pozen. “If they’re vague and in your head, you haven’t crystallized things.”

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The Surprising Benefits of Nonconformity

New research finds that under certain circumstances, people who deviate from a dress code or other norms in appearance are perceived as having higher status and greater competence. Studies found that nonconformity leads to positive inferences when it is associated with deliberateness and intentionality. On the other hand, nonconformance due to lack of awareness does not lead to positive inferences from others. And nonconformance is risky: It comes at the cost of abandoning a comfort zone.

Image from an 1864 manual of gymnastic exercises for the school-room and the parlor courtesy of Flickr user CircaSassy.
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How to Build More Personal Power

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Executives who find themselves experiencing a power deficit have two strategies for overcoming it: they can either play the existing game more effectively or they can change the game. “Career counselors often advise people to shore up weaknesses, but the secret to becoming indispensable is consolidating strengths,” write Jean-Louis Barsoux and Cyril Bouquet.

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How to Overcome a Power Deficit

Many factors can cause a talented executive to be ignored or sidelined within an organization. “The fact that I was right didn’t matter,” said one manager whose recommendations went unheeded. “What I hadn’t done was build sufficient internal credibility.” Fortunately, power deficits in legitimacy, critical resources and/or networks can almost always be overcome. Research looking at 179 executives found two basic strategies that worked: “playing the game” more effectively or ”changing the game.”

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Is It Really Lonely at the Top?

There’s a business relationship that’s often overlooked: the relationships in between friends and allies — in other words, business relationships with people you enjoy being with. This article defines these people as chums and asserts that their importance too often goes unnoticed. Dale Carnegie’s How To Win Friends & Influence People is a practical classic on the art of cultivating chums — of inviting business allies into your courtyard while keeping them out of your kitchen.

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Clay Christensen Asks: How Will You Measure Your Life?

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In May, 2012, the New Yorker published an 11-page profile of Clayton Christensen, the Harvard Business School professor. The article details his fascination with low-end disruptive products (articulated in his 1997 book The Innovator’s Dilemma), his Mormon faith, and how good people, like good companies, can lose their way in life. That last topic is the subject of Christensen’s book How Will You Measure Your Life? and his TED talk of the same name.

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Why Showing Your Face at Work Matters

Working from home or other remote work arrangements can be beneficial to both employees and companies. However, these nontraditional arrangements also have hidden pitfalls. Employees who work remotely may end up getting lower performance evaluations, smaller raises and fewer promotions than their colleagues in the office — even if they work just as hard and just as long. The difference is something called “passive face time” -- the simple act of merely being seen in the workplace.

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What You Wear Can Influence How You Perform

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New research suggests that clothing can have an effect on our behavior if that clothing has a symbolic meaning and if we have the physical experience of wearing the clothes. Researchers at the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University call this “enclothed cognition.”

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Is Your Information Diet Full of Junk Food?

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Clay Johnson’s new book “The Information Diet: A Case for Conscious Consumption” makes the case that “much as a poor diet gives us a variety of diseases, poor information diets give us new forms of ignorance — ignorance that comes not from a lack of information, but from overconsumption of it.”

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