Saturday, April 9, 2011

How to Make a Good First Impression at Work

So you've landed a new job, congrats! Now you need to figure out what to do to make a good new impression with your boss and coworkers. Here are a few tips to get you started.

Be On Time

Sounds simple, doesn't it? But you'd be amazed at how many people leave on time and get to work late. Or they get there on time or with a few minutes to spare, yet forget/didn't know that they have to check in, sign paperwork, get a picture taken for photo ID and so forth. Get up 30 minutes earlier than you should. This gives you enough time to make sure that your clothes are taken care of, you shower/cleanse yourself, your car starts and you have ample time to fill out any paperwork. Be at work 15-20 minutes early and present yourself; worst thing they can say is you'd have to wait, but at least it shows that you take this job seriously.

Wear Nice Clothes

You'd be surprised what people wear to work. Make sure you know (or ask if you don't) what your company's dress policy is. If it's business casual, make sure you wear a nice clean polo or dress shirt (sans tie) with clean shoes and nice dress socks. That's right, clean your shoes and wear dress socks. White socks won't cut it in a corporate environment because they make you look like you don't take pride in your outfit or your new job. If you don't know what is acceptable, go with caution. It's better to be a little overdressed than a little under-dressed. Shining your shoes may seem unnecessary, but studies show that over 40% of managers look at a job candidate's shoes when they walk through their door.

Don't know how to shine your shoes? This is a great link-Shine Your Shoes

Keep Your Mouth Shut

Sounds harsh, but just like mama said - I'm only doing this for your own good. Don't burn bridges when you first get to work. Don't talk much, ask questions when you need to and pay attention. Many people love to talk yet few actually know how to listen well. Don't interrupt when someone is explaining something; wait until the end and then ask what questions you have. Also, stay away from the forbidden topics at work- religion and politics. You just never know when someone (maybe even your boss) may be a devout Catholic and you put down your own Catholic heritage. Sounds simple but trust me, it goes a long way.


Everywhere you go, be nice no matter what. Be nice to your boss (obviously), co-workers, other people you see around the office that you don't know and even the maintenance people. That maintenance worker may  best friends with your boss and then ask your boss who that new jerk is that he saw in the coffee room today. Be nice to everyone, say nice things and remember- if you don't have anything good to say about someone, don't say anything at all.

Take Meticulous Notes

Either in college or high school, you needed to learn how to take good notes. Bring a notebook to keep all of your notes in and mark off sections designated to key topics. Ask questions a lot. Ask anything from how to do X to what's the most important aspect of your job. Another thing that would help is asking if there are additional training sessions you can take regarding new skills you may need to learn to advance in your work. Co-workers like giving you extra info that you don't need but definitely benefit from, such as what place has the best food or what do they think is important to learn about this job.

Get the Legal Stuff Done

Sign up for a 401K with matching contributions (CRUCIAL), sign up for your dental/health/vision plans and your life insurance. Life insurance through work may be worth it. For me, I pay an extra $4 a month to receive an additional 40% of my salary if I become disabled due to a work-related incident. $4 a month is $48 a year, big deal. If I slip in the parking lot and become disabled that $48 a year I "didn't think I'd need" now turns into hundreds of dollars a MONTH that I've lost out on. Don't be foolish, especially if you have a family or other loved ones you need to care for.

401K is necessary at work because if your work covers up to 5% of your matching, that's extra $$$ in your pocket at retirement. It's tax-free money! Even if you don't think you can afford it, you can. I HIGHLY recommend this book-

David Bach's book is amazing. Even if you don't think you can afford to set aside any money, you can. Setting aside even 5% of your salary is huge for you down the road.

Let's assume you make 25K. 5% of 25K (tax-free of course) is $1,250. Put that in a retirement fund at 8% growth annually (average) and in 30 years without even having an employer contribution you would have $ $209,585.26! Think about it...all from 5% of money that you wouldn't even miss. Bottom line? Automate it so you won't even miss it but put something aside!

Join LinkedIn

As one article I read put it, "If you're a professional, you need to be on this site". Networking at its best. You may find a guy you haven't talked to since high school who's not on Facebook who is an investment guru or law or some other field which you may need help with down the road. Or you may find someone you know who works at your new employer. Either way, the idea is to link up with people that you know, work with on a regular basis or may be key contacts. Maybe you come to find out that you have the same interest as they do and you get to be best buds, who knows?

The main thing to take away from this all is be professional. Be nice to everyone you come in contact with, show that you want to be there and show that you want to grow both within the company and as an individual. First impressions are key with everything in life but none more important than at work. Following my advice will definitely reap you continuing rewards.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

The 3 P's of a 5K

This morning I just completed a 5K (3.1 miles) run for charity. As I rounded the 1.5 mile mark, I thought "Only halfway there....gotta push through it". As tired as I was I knew I had to keep going, if not for my own dignity but also for fear of losing the playful smack talk that I had with a fellow coworker (for the record, I beat his time by over 2 minutes).

Much like there is a way to take a test, there is also a way to run a race. Experts have lots of test-taking strategies such as only spend so much time on one question, cancelling out the wrong answers if it's multiple choice to get to the correct answer and so on. A race has its own strategies which I like to call the three P's-  Preparing, Pacing and Priming.

Preparation is key with anything but even moreso with running. I like to get a good, long 20-minute stretch in the night before the race. This consists of 30-second stretches for all of my running muscles- hamstrings, thighs, calves, hips, heels, back and even feet. I use Static stretching, which is when you hold a stretch for a certain length of time (usually 20 seconds). 

During this time that I'm stretching I'll put on a TV show and relax whilst watching it or just zone out and visually prepare for the race. Studies have shown that visualization is a key to achieving higher goals in a lot of areas, from sports to work to life in general. I ate a light dinner so as not to have my stomach trying to digest it all the next morning. By the way, carbo-loading doesn't work in the sense that everyone thinks it should. It's OK for marathons and longer events but practically does nil for anything under 30 minutes.

The next morning I'll get up early, do some static stretching and then dome dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is active movements, such as knee bends back and forth and running in place with the knees high in the air. I grab a breakfast bar and some OJ, again keeping it light. At the race I'll run in place a bit, do more knee high running and dynamic stretching.

The Pacing starts at the beginning. As you start your run, go at a consistent pace. Some people will shoot ahead, some will shoot ahead and fall back shortly and others just stay back. After the mile mark, take note of who is around you. Try to pick someone in your group slightly ahead of you, so long as you're not going to collapse from not pacing and try to catch up to them and run 5-10 feet behind them. If you notice them slowing, go around them and pick someone else. The idea is to maintain a consistent pace which you can gauge at each mile mark with your wristwatch.

I go at this pace until the 2.5 mile mark. Once that hits the Priming comes into play. I throw on my best finishing music on my iPod (1-2 songs) and pick up the pace just a little. When I'm about 1/4 mile out from the finish line I go all out. I have a great kick, which is the ability to finish a race. Steve Prefontaine, the great runner who died tragically in his mid-20's, had a great kick. He would be at the head of the race then all of a sudden at the last 1/2 mile or so, he would turn it on and leave everyone in the dust.

At the end, hold yourself up. Don't grab your knees and bend over trying to suck in air- this collapses the lungs. Keep your body upright and breathe in at a consistent pace while sipping water or juice. Walk around for a few minutes to cool down. Usually races have registration buildings/tents that you can go to where they have juice and food. I HIGHLY recommend going here to cool off and get some refreshments to re-charge. 

Also while there, make sure you stretch for a good 15 minutes, much like I did the night before. Stretching after a race is even more important than stretching before the race. This is because your muscles are tight from running and if you don't stretch them properly and soon after the race you run the risk of injuring yourself or being sore the rest of the afternoon. Plus it's nice to get some food, recoup, stretch and chat with friends or just to zone out and visualize the race in your head.

While running a 5K is taxing, it is still supposed to be something enjoyable. You might hate running in the first place but running is a great way to keep you in good shape, give you great endurance and keep your weight maintained. This might not seem like much but the reward of finishing and everyone congratulating themselves is definitely worth it in the end.

Friday, April 1, 2011

What does it take?

Welcome to the website!

As you can see, I'm still getting this site set up so any feedback you can provide would be greatly appreciated as both you and I would benefit from this.

So here's the main question we need to ask ourselves about self-improvement - What does it take? 

I believe you need three things to become better- a desire to improve, a firm and stated commitment and the tools to get you there. Let's look at each one in-depth.


I can give you all the tools needed to change yourself but I can't push you to do so. Only you are the one who can change and only you can make yourself change. As much as I'd love to force you to change, only you can do it for yourself; this is where desire comes in.

This can be applied in all phases of self-improvement, whether you're overcoming an addiction, trying to conquer a fear or just learn a tough skill or ability. The main driving force through this is desire; the desire to push through when you're ready to quit, the desire to learn more and above all the desire to see the end goal and know where you're going.

So how do you fuel this desire? Keep your end goal in mind. Reward yourself as you go along. Recording your progress.

Let's use an exercise DVD for our example. This exercise DVD is 45 minutes long and consists of cardio and body movements. You may start out wanting to lose 20 lbs, but after the first 15 minutes you start to think this isn't worth it, you're wasting your time, I'd rather keep the 20 lbs than put up with this. Your desire is fading and you need to inspire yourself to keep this desire going. You can do this by hanging a picture of yourself next to some fit, athletic models or celebrities to remind you of how you compare to them. This can be an excellent motivator as it forces you to intently look at the problem (your weight) and then focus on the tools needed to change this problem (exercise DVD). You work through the DVD, minute by minute, day by day. Soon, 2 weeks pass by and you notice your pants fit a bit better. Maybe you're not so out of breath walking up the stairs or trying to chase your kids around.

Here you have both the reward and recording your progress that I stated above working in your favor. You're rewarding yourself not only by being a better physically fit human being but also because this increase in physical skills boosts your confidence and makes you feel better about yourself. Most, if not all, workout DVDs or exercise programs have a workout sheet that you use to chart your progress. Maybe you could only do 5 push-ups but now, 2 weeks into it, you can do 15. This may not seem like much but you've just increased your push-ups by 200%! You stick with it because you see the results as you progress and become more confident, physically fit and it soon becomes a part of you.

This builds into our second point- Have a Firm Goal

Before you have this DVD, you need a goal to aim for. Without a goal, you can't get anywhere. You can't just buy a DVD and hope for the best without knowing what type of workout you want to do. You need to come up with a clear and firm goal, the firmer the better as this prevents you from straying off path. If you say "My goal is to lose 20 lbs" then after 2 weeks of doing this DVD you might say "I have 4 months until summer, I'll be fine". Guess what? Before you know it, summer is 2 weeks away, you've lost 2 lbs and your post-workout treat is pizza. Many people fail because their goals are not firm enough, just like New Years Resolutions. If you started with "I want to lose 20 lbs in 4 months" you'd be much more likely to stick with this program and your diet because a) you set a firm goal of the weight you want to lose and b) you have a time frame in mind, not just "someday".

Write this goal down. Tell all of your friends about it. Post it on your Facebook/Twitter accounts. Write yourself motivation messages to display on the wall. The more people who know about it, the more they're going to support you (and if they don't support you, DITCH THEM. They're not really your friends!) You need to have this goal properly stated and spelled out so every time you pop in that DVD, your goal comes in mind as you see it in a text message from your friend cheering you on or from all of those motivational posters on the wall with your goal weight written down.This not only fuels your desire but keeps reminding you of what your specific goal is.

Having a clear and specific goal in mind also keeps you on track and prevents anything from throwing you off course. What if you want to buy a car? Would you just walk up and pick any car out there? No- you need a specific goal in mind when it comes to buying that car. How many seats, SUV/Truck/Car, MPG, mileage, reliability, price, color, etc. This goal keeps all of the sales ads and the clutter out of your way and keeps you focused on what exactly you need. You avoid the hassle and go directly for what you want without letting everything distract you.


So what tools are needed to ensure that we complete our goals? Well for $199.99....just kidding. There are tons of resources out there that you can just google and 100,000+ results will come up. Anything from public speaking, conquering a fear or even how to install new brakes on your vehicle. You name it, Google's got it. We live in an age where anything we want help with can be found easily through Google, Youtube, eHow, libraries, articles, even certain magazines which are designed for a certain skill (cooking, cars, weight lifting).

Google and Youtube are one of the best tools to use to find out information about a certain skill or task which you learn to do. Youtube is the best because it's visual, step-by-step and you can stop and rewind if you're unfamiliar about a certain step of the process. Google is also great because you can find anything from Youtube results, eHow, custom websites for those particular skills/abilities you want to get better at (public speaking, writing, building a website). It's also a lot easier and more convenient to type in "Public Speaking fears" on a Google search than going to a library, trying to see if the library has that book in stock, how good the content of each book is and then read the whole book. Instead, you can plug a search phrase into Google and search twenty websites in the same time as it would take you to find one good book at the library.

Libraries are still great though because one whole book is usually dedicated to your topic of choice. If you're looking for public speaking for example, there are tons and tons of books out there on JUST public speaking and everything about it - fears, tips, composure, dress, tone of voice, preparating notes, how to introduce keynote speakers, on and on.

However, the best tool you can use is getting a mentor. A mentor can be a coach, a guide, a teacher, a co-worker or just someone with great experience in that particular field. They can show you the ins and outs, explain procedures and methods in detail and are far better than any other resource out there. You can ask them questions directly instead of skimming over articles or Google searches to find your answers and because of their experience they can usually give you little tips and tricks that will make learning and perfecting that skill much easier with less effort.

All three tools are needed in order for you to become a better person. If you don't have A and B, C won't help you, much like a recipe. This recipe needs all three elements in order to work; if not, you might end up with a bad cake (or in this case, an unfulfilled ability).