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Have You Lost Your Edge? Three Ways to be Sharper on the Job

Have You Lost Your Edge? Three Ways to be Sharper on the Job

By Vicky Oliver

Have you lost your edge? When you can’t get organized, higher-ups seem to look past you, and you seem to be falling behind the pack, it’s time to wake up and take action.

Here are three ways to sharpen your workplace performance —- before someone decides to ship you out.

Problem #1: Deadlines pass you up.
In team meetings, you hear dates and deadlines, but they go in one ear and out the other. Later, when your team leader asks how the project is coming along, you get flustered and give the impression of someone who’s supremely clueless and disorganized.

Solution: Buy a weekly appointment book —- yes, a paper calendar! —- and write every deadline in the book. You can use different-colored pens —- red for urgent, blue for long-term, green for projects requiring special attention. Once you’ve completed each project, mark it off the calendar. Open up your calendar every morning first thing, and review it. Deadlines will never be a problem if you make this a habit. If you’re hooked on your e-calendar, that’s fine too. Whichever system of appointments you use, stick with it, be committed to it, and refer to it/add to it every single day.

Problem #2: You can’t remember names or faces.
You’ve never been good with names —- or faces, for that matter. You know it’s an important business skill, but you figure it’s just a weakness you have. Nevertheless, it’s embarrassing not to remember clients’ names —- and your coworker, who seems to know everyone, is getting all the attention lately.

Solution: Anyone can master the most basic skill of name and face recognition. Here’s how. The very first time you meet someone, repeat the person’s name as you shake his hand. “Hi, Jason. Very pleased to meet you.” Then repeat his name in conversation, such as, “Are you enjoying the conference, Jason?” Finally, make up a mnemonic —- a way to associate his name with something else. For example, he’s a big, burly guy so you think “Jason the Mason.” If you do this, you are unlikely to forget his name next time. If he’s slight, you could think, “Jason NOT the Mason.”

Problem #3: You’ve become invisible.
You call ten clients, and none of them call you back. People in your office form small groups to talk about a new project, but you’re on the other side of the room and can’t hear what they’re saying. When you speak up in meetings, no one comments on your great idea. What’s worse, your performance review is in four weeks and you’re starting to feel paranoid about your sales numbers.

Solution: When you have a track record of zero, obviously you need to make a change. Ask someone in your office, someone you admire, if he or she would be willing to critique your sales call to clients or your most recent team presentation. Take notes. Also, force yourself to contact one or two clients who turned you down, and ask them why. If you deal with vendors and suppliers, get their feedback too. The more you open yourself up for criticism, the better you’ll be able to self-correct.

Vicky Oliver is a Manhattan-based job interview consultant, and the bestselling author of 301 Smart Answers to Tough Interview Questions.

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