Saturday, June 20, 2015

What They See

This self-help guide promises that first impressions count in the workforce, and yearns to give advice on how to leave a positive impression in the workplace. Author Jennifer Swanson reflects upon her skills in the fields of communication and human relations, her intended target audience including students, graduates, job seekers, and anyone that seeks to fulfill professional ambitions. Fellow self-help author Sandy Chernoff lauds the book, noting its ease to follow, while Dr. Jennifer Newman notes the book is light-hearted and easy-to-follow, promising advice on things such as how to recover from mistakes.

Within the book’s introductory pages is a disclaiming indicating that readers who follow the guide agree that the author and publisher won’t be held responsible for possible negative effects the book may have in the workplace. Swanson dedicates the book to Katie and Ben for bringing joy into the author’s life, Scott for his endless support, Emma and Sarah for their enthusiasm, Bruce for his humor, her mother for being a cheerleader, and to Little Bandit, likely a pet, for keeping her feet warm while writing the book.

Before the main text as well is an acknowledgements section where Swanson notes that numerous people inspired the production of the book, such as regular readers and podcast participants for their interest in better communications relationships. She thanks gurus whom she follows regularly, the Podcast Mastermind Alumni for technical help and guidance, a women’s club for friendship and learning opportunities, Sandy Chernoff’s mentorship, various teaching and ministry colleagues, her proofreaders, and various friends and family.

In the introduction, Swanson supposes that her hypothetical readers come from various categories, such as those that graduated and are ready to enter the workforce, the writer noting herself a jenny of all trades, one of her occupations being a healthcare class professor at a community college. She assumes things such as the reader seeking quick tips they can put into place immediately, and assures her audience the definition of professionalism and how to be a professional promptly when entering a new occupation.

Chapter One focuses on what to do upon receiving employment, bringing up the expression that job seekers have only seven seconds to make a good impression, the author reducing this to a tenth of one, and that there are things beyond and within an employee’s control. She suggests new jobholders to ask questions during their probationary period of employment, and that in most occupations employees can be professional, highlighting an example of working in a sandwich shop. The writer notes eleven professional attributes such as a positive attitude, nine skills an employer wants such as organization, and things workers receive in professionalism.

Chapter Two highlights attitude, with a simple suggestion to remain positive in the workplace and various consequences of positive and negative emotions. Swanson gives a checklist for pessimists with relation to their jobs, one of the questions being whether they like their current occupation or not. She emphasizes humility as well, suggesting that workers not think that they’re better than everyone else, and gives characteristics of humbleness. Gratitude proves important as well, with little things such as thanking employers and fellow employees going a long way. Mentions of how to be gratuitous, generosity, and a willingness to learn conclude the second chapter.

Chapter Three focuses on clothing, Swanson noting that many jobseekers will ask what they’re supposed to wear and what their attire says about them. She suggests a step-by-step experiment where readers go out without doing things such as wearing makeup or aftershave, note their consequential treatment, and frequent the same places again while dressing formally and indicating the difference in their reception. The author states that jobseekers should note their working environment, the dress code of their workplaces, and their target audiences, highlighting various parts of dress codes such as hats, sometimes a necessity depending upon an occupation, and that personal hygiene is a must.

Chapter Four focuses on what Swanson terms paralanguage, which is defined as everything around words themselves, including one’s voice and speech speed. She provides another experiment where readers say a phrase with various emotions, suggesting occasional “non-stock” responses to wake the listener out of the mundane. The author provides a poem she wrote back in 2010, after which comes a discussion on spatial conversation, giving a list on how to tell if an employee is making a fellow worker feel uncomfortable. Then comes a talk about nonverbal communication, which some suggest can account for three-fourths of communication, and concludes with other topics such as social media sites, cellphones, and chewing gum.

Chapter Five provides a detailed discussion on verbal communication, with a list of advice such as using “I” language that emphasizes an employee’s thoughts about a situation without using terms such as “they.” She further advises practicing active listening, acknowledging its potential difficulty, and provides pointers on how to improve skills in this area. Then comes a discussion on closed and open questions, the former seeking quick response and the latter more detailed replies. Concluding the section is a discussion on voice and tips on how to improve one’s skills in the area.

Chapter Six discusses the importance of wise word choice, suggesting an aversion to slang since odds are some listeners might not understand the speaker. Swanson further presents a list of common clich├ęs such as “better late than never,” and discussions things such as colloquialisms more commonly spoken than written, jargon specific to a particular field,, and filler words, providing a list of these.  Concluding the chapter is an advisement for employees not to pad their speech, and to say what they wish in as few words as possible.

Chapter Seven touches upon work ethic, providing readers a list of questions to ask themselves, and follows with tips on time management. Swanson emphasizes the importance of punctuality and prioritization, and urges employees to be mindful of their break time and not abuse it, providing a list of what workers should do when they respect break time. She follows with a discussion on cliques more present in larger businesses, giving a brief list of what to watch for, and again emphasizes the need to choose words carefully given the potential for gossip to arise within the workplace.

Chapter Eight emphasizes accountability, Swanson suggesting that it can be more important than accuracy and that it’s a professional quality, and noting a mistake she made in a healthcare job. She gives a list of what to do if one messes up at work, and notes the importance of learning from mistakes, following with an analogy of the common aspects of Silly Putty, the Slinky, chocolate chip cookies, and Scotchgard. After this is advice on how to fail gracefully and learn from mistakes, and gives steps for things such as consequences of not achieving goals and what an employee will do now if he or she doesn’t get ahead as planned. Concluding the chapter are the good, bad, and ugly aspects of giving and receiving feedback.

Chapter Nine deals with stress management, opening with a checklist of indicators, which mention that stress can ultimately lead to chronic ailments. She discusses how to manage stress with things such as speaking little and listening more. Chapter Ten moves on to management and reduction of conflict in the workplace, discussing the various styles such as avoiding and competing. Swanson highlights a situation where an employee might refuse a request, and that producing various stories for the fellow employee’s response might produce conflict later. She gives various steps on how to avoid conflict while simultaneously being assertive without coming across as rude.

Swanson concludes her self-help guide with a story of a hotdog salesman, and follows with a bonus chapter involving the potential benefits of taking particular risks such as not doing the same things repeatedly; she ends with a bibliography and personal biography. Ultimately, this is an excellent resource for those seeking to be shining examples of employees, and this reviewer, as one who has had both positive and negative experience in the workplace, would have definitely appreciated its advice were he still in the market for a job, and highly recommends this helpful, detailed guide.

Author's Bio:

Jennifer Swanson has been teaching Communication and Human Relation skills since 1993 to college students entering the medical field. She is also the creator/host of the Communication Diva Podcast, which has an international audience and helps people in deepening workplace and personal relationships through more effective communication. In addition to teaching young adults, Swanson is an ordained minister in the United Church of Canada, has worked in the Youth and Family Ministry for 3 years, has a Master's Degree in Public and Pastoral Leadership, and is a certified conflict coach and Master NLP Practitioner. She is also a mother and step-mother to two young adults and two teens. Swanson draws upon years of expertise as she shares her passion for inspiring others to reach their full potential with readers and audiences worldwide.

Connect with Jennifer:     Website  ~  Facebook  ~   Twitter 

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