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Three “Mom-ism’s” that Can Keep Your Career Cooking

Posted on: May 12, 2017

Category: Career Advice

Three “Mom-ism’s” that Can Keep Your Career Cooking

By Greg Whitesell, Marketing Director

“A little birdie” once told me that “mother knows best”.  Odds are, the little birdie probably told you and I the same thing – probably more than a few times, but I digress.  While we might not have realized it then, these life lessons, delivered in the form of poignant expressions we’ll call “mom-ism’s,” were essentially spoon feeding us with knowledge to help us grow and learn.  Like your mom, we “only want what’s best for you,” so we’ve put a professional spin on a few of our favorite mom-ism’s just in time for Mother’s Day.  In these cases, it turns out mom was right (but the jury is still out on whether we really needed to keep our room clean). 

Without further ado, we give you our first mom-ism:  

You cannot leave the house looking like that.”

Think your appearance isn’t important to your professional life?  Think again.  Let’s start with an interview.  Before you even open your mouth, an interviewer has made a first impression based on your appearance – including dress, hygiene, accessories and possibly other features like visible tattoos and hairstyle.  A recent narrative from the Bureau of Labor Statistics cautions job seekers to not “let your appearance distract the interviewer from your qualifications.”   But looking the part doesn’t just pertain to interviews.  How you present yourself can affect career advancement.  Who hasn’t heard the expression “dress for the job you want”?  A recent piece by career coach Kaylene Matthews compares work attire and appearance to packaging in the consumer goods industry.  Why does your workplace packaging matter?  According to Matthews, there are 3 major reasons.  First, executives today are strapped for time, and often have to make quick assessments and decisions.  This time crunch amplifies the importance of first impressions – if your appearance doesn’t convey that you’re worthy of their time, you missed the opportunity.  Second, dressing for success shows that you’re attentive to detail.  Show up to the office wrinkled and disheveled and you look like a slacker.  Slackers don’t tend to get promoted.  Finally, a kempt appearance conveys that you are worthy of respect.  Need proof?  Drop into a jewelry store or car lot in a suit versus your workout clothes and see how much more attentive the salesperson becomes.

Now, for mom-ism number 2:

“Am I talking to a brick wall.”

Learning to accept feedback and criticism is a vital part of personal and professional development.  Although it sounds simple and forthright, it isn’t.  In a recent BBC study by psychologist Robert Nash, he notes that “even the most useful feedback can bring out our worst sides” – referring to humans innate resistance to change and propensity for defensiveness. The resistance is more pronounced when feedback comes in the form of criticism, which, by definition is “an expression of disapproval.”  Nash maintains that receiving feedback and criticism is difficult because “none of our options really seem very appealing: failing to reach our goals makes us feel bad, but so does hearing the critique that could help us achieve those goals.”  Like mom, our supervisors most likely want to help us live up to our full potential and achieve success.  So how can one learn how to receive and process feedback and criticism to enable growth?  One strategy is to preceed feedback opportunities (such as reviews) by taking a personal inventory of strengths and successes – essentially, focus on the positive before you hear the negative.  Additionally, keep in mind that a critique is about something you are or aren’t doing, but it isn’t about you personally.  Taking comments and suggestions in stride can often help you become more efficient, effective and improve self-awareness.

And now, mom-ism three:

“Look at me when I’m talking to you.”

When engaging in business interactions, whether in the workplace, on sales calls, at networking events or even during interviews, mastering the art of eye contact is vital.  Effective eye contact can convey genuineness, confidence, trustworthiness, attentiveness, respect and much more.  Conversely, individuals who aren’t adept at the gift of gaze are often viewed as nervous, uninterested or worse, shady.  Mom was right to encourage you to master this art.  In her article “Why You Don’t Get Noticed at Networking Events and She Does,” career expert Kara Ronin suggests drawing an imaginary upside down triangle on the other person’s face around their eyes and mouth.  Throughout the conversation, shift your gaze to a different point along the triangle about every 5 to 10 seconds.  This method helps you appear interested, and, when coupled with nods and other cues, conveys interest to the speaker.  Word of caution – be sure you aren’t so focused on your eye contact that you aren’t paying attention and be sure to look away at various intervals to keep your attentive gaze from becoming a creepy stare.

We could go on about the how the lessons we learned from our moms or mother figures have served us in our professional lives.  When it comes to the workplace and your professional persona, it’s always best to err on the side of etiquette and remember that you weren’t “raised in a barn”.  By taking to heart the lessons presented here, you can keep your career cooking (and we won’t judge if you lick a spatula or two along the way).

And don’t forget, when you’re looking to hire talent or make your next career move, we’d love to share our expertise (and possibly more mom-ism’s) with you.


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