TIME Careers & Workplace

How to Ace a Video Job Interview

Looking for a job? Practice smiling, because it’s likely you’ll be on camera. A survey by staffing company OfficeTeam found that more than six out of 10 employers use video interviews “somewhat” or “very” often, and only a quarter of companies said they didn’t use video interviews at all.

So if you haven’t yet encountered a virtual interview during a job hunt, it’s likelier than not that you will sometime in the future. Here’s what human resources experts say you have to do when you’re trying to sell yourself on-screen.

Set the stage. “Choosing the wrong location for a phone or video interview can be detrimental. Take these meetings in a quiet place, making sure there aren’t barking dogs or other distractions that could make it difficult to hear,” advises Robert Hosking, executive director of OfficeTeam. “Beware of poor lighting or windows in the background that can cast dark shadows.” Check the background to make sure it’s clutter-free — you don’t want to give your prospective new boss an eyeful of your dirty gym clothes slung over the back of a chair.

Run a tech test beforehand. OfficeTeam also suggests enlisting a friend for a “dress rehearsal” before the actual interview. This will give you a chance to get acquainted with the video technology and troubleshoot any issues that pop up. Ask someone else for feedback to make sure you’re sitting at a good distance from the camera to be seen clearly, and that you’re not too close or too far away from the microphone.

Wear pants — please. Josh Tolan, CEO of video interview company Spark Hire, says you should pick an outfit — shoes, accessories and all — as if you were heading to an in-person interview. “Although, they’ll most likely be seated the whole time, wearing a complete interview outfit can help them to focus and maintain the state-of-mind needed for having a successful interview,” he says. Experts say to avoid wearing white, which can wash you out, and busy patterns, which can be distracting.

Do your homework. You might not be in the same room, but a video interview is a real interview, experts say. Make yourself familiar with both the job and the company, says Scott Dobroski, a career trend analyst at online salary and jobs company Glassdoor. “Find out what the job duties are by re-reading the job description, researching what others have to say about what it’s like to work this job title,” he says. “See how the company has been talked about in the news lately, and how it talks about itself on its own website.”

Make a visual connection. “Be aware of your tone over the phone and make eye contact,” says Amanda Augustine, job search expert at TheLadders. Curb any nervous tics or a tendency to fidget, she says. Don’t bounce your leg under the table, even if you think the interviewer can’t see it. And although it might seem most natural to look at the screen, experts say it’s important to make eye contact with your webcam. “You still need to connect with your interviewer, even if they’re not sitting in the room with you,” Augustine says.

Watch your mouth. “Avoid colloquialisms, speak slowly and clearly, and avoid your ‘likes,’ ‘ums,’ and ‘ahs,’” says Zach Lahey, a research analyst at research company Aberdeen Group‘s Human Capital Management practice. “Smile, be friendly, and show that you’re interested,” he says. Keep in mind that in a video, “Every movement and action is magnified.”

Sit up straight. “Job seekers should also be aware of their posture and body language,” Tolan says. “Slouching or leaning back in their seat may give off the vibe that the job seeker isn’t taking the interview seriously or is bored and disinterested,” he warns. Good posture will also help energize you. Conversely, don’t fold your arms over your body. “Crossing their arms should also be avoided because they will appear unapproachable and defensive,” Tolan says.

MONEY Careers

Good Ways to Deal With Bad Bosses

Micromanaging boss puppeteer
James Woodson—Getty Images

Your future advancement depends on your ability to manage the crazies above you.

The top reason people quit their jobs, according to a recent Gallup poll? A bad immediate supervisor. Bully for those who can—and want to—find another position elsewhere, but if you otherwise like the job or need it as a steppingstone, you’ll have to learn to live with that subpar superior. The right coping strategy depends on what kind of lousy your leader is.

The Micromanager

Known for: Hovering. Checking your work. Sometimes redoing it.

How to cope: Work on building trust, which is the micromanager’s Achilles’ heel. Besides making sure your work is A+-worthy, put your boss on a schedule for when she can expect status reports, says Brad Karsh, president of professional training company JB Training Solutions. Start with daily updates, then ask for permission to shift to weekly: “If your in-box is crashing from all these memos, let me know. I’d be happy to start checking in on Fridays.”

The Passive-Aggressive

Known for: Praising you in private, then slamming your ideas in public.

How to cope: “The onus is on you to learn what’s going on inside his head,” says Lynn Taylor, author of Tame Your Terrible Office Tyrant. To elicit honest feedback, appeal to the person’s expertise, says Mitchell Kusy, an Antioch University professor who studies management styles. For example, “I got the sense you didn’t like my idea. Would you mind next time sharing your constructive criticism in advance? It would really help me improve.”

The Praise Thief

Known for: Stealing credit for your work and ideas.

How to cope: Take ownership by saying, “I noticed that the project I developed has taken off with the execs. I’d love to be included in those conversations.” Still being left out? Start sending big-idea emails to your boss and your boss’s boss, saying that you want to get input from both of them, suggests Karsh.

The Hands-Off Harry

Known for: Being so laissez-faire it’s a problem. “You might be working on the wrong things, only to find out later,” says Kathleen Stinnett, founder of leadership consulting firm FutureLaunch.

How to cope: When starting a project, ask your supervisor for specifics on what she’s looking for, then send an email recapping the conversation. You’ll be on the same page and have it on record in the event that there’s a dispute later.

The Narcissist

Known for: Making you work late, calling you on vacation, and generally stealing your personal life. “His time will always be more valuable than yours,” says Gary Namie, co-author of The Bully at Work.

How to cope: Mind the ego. “Narcissists think they’re perfect and hate criticism,” says Jack Zenger, CEO of leadership consultancy Zenger Folkman. So cushion the request to reclaim your life with a compliment. “I admire your commitment to excellence and want to do the best job possible, but my work suffers when I’m fatigued. I need my weekends to recuperate.” Says Namie: “You either challenge the boss or dig your own grave.”

TIME Careers & Workplace

7 Brilliant Qualities You May Not Know You Have

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Paul Bradbury—Getty Images/OJO Images RF

Build on these personal traits to become more effective


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

By Larry Kim

What does it take to be a great leader?

Once upon a time, birth order and socioeconomic status were considered powerful determinants in who would successfully climb the ladder.

Lately, though, the focus has shifted to personal qualities.

Guiding vision, passion, and integrity are well known leadership traits. But there are lesser known leadership traits, as well–in fact, some historically have been perceived as weaknesses.

These hidden traits can be developed and nurtured to help further your career and your role as a leader, at work, in your community, or in life in general.

See if you just might have some or all of these personal qualities that lend well to leadership:

1. Empathy

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another. This is incredibly important in any workplace environment and helps you to manage conflict and relationships. However, it’s become even more important as businesses compete to better understand the needs of their customers. People don’t want to be analyzed and marketed to–they want brands to understand what they want and need. Empathetic leaders function better within the company, but can also use this trait to power the business, as well.

2. Optimism

You might think of optimism as the quality of one being hopeful, but it also indicates confidence in successful outcomes. Of course, blind optimism isn’t a good thing, but optimistic leaders can inspire and motivate teams.

3. Forgiveness

No one enjoys the boss who lords every mistake they’ve ever made over their head. There is real power in allowing employees to take calculated risks, but they have to know it’s not going to be held against them later. Doing so kills creativity and motivation–it causes people to think twice before bringing a new idea to the table, or experimenting with a new process or product. Learn how to forgive mistakes to nurture creativity and inspiration and your team will pay you back ten-fold.

4. Altruism

Altruism means you care about the welfare of others. In business, this means you want the people around you to do better, feel better, and perform better. You are not an island. You don’t need to take all of the credit for yourself. You understand that building up the people around you makes you all look better. This is an incredible leadership quality, but not one you might traditionally associate with power or strength.

5. Eloquence

The ability to speak and write persuasively has gained importance in the age of digital communications. People expect leaders to communicate and they want to be “wowed.” An eloquent speech can close a deal. An eloquent memo to staff can quell fears, dampen dissent, or inspire people to reach new heights. Practice your writing and speaking to become a more effective, persuasive leader.

6. Discernment

Discernment is the ability to judge well, whether in relation to people, situations, or business decisions. If you are discerning, you take the time to understand a problem and walk your way around various solutions to find just the right one. You don’t jump head first into every opportunity, but think critically and find the best option.

7. Modesty

No one likes to hear how awesome someone else is all the time–especially when it comes from that person. Let your work speak for itself; don’t fall into the trap of being the one who blows your horn the loudest. Confidence is a great trait, but must be tempered with modesty.

These qualities can be powerful tools for entrepreneurs and aspiring leaders who are willing to put the time and effort into developing them.

More from Inc:

The 8 Best Industries for Starting a Business

If This Guy Made $1M Wearing T-shirts and Selling his Name, What’s Holding You Back?

The Top 5 Reasons Small Businesses Fail

5 Often Quoted Tips for Powerful Presentations

7 Things Well-Liked People Always Do

MONEY Careers

Got an Awkward Workplace Problem? Get Help from a Career Expert

The office is fraught with uncomfortable situations. Does your colleague clip his nails at his desk? Should you let your office crush know you’re sweet on her? Does your boss ask you a little too much about your personal life? What do you do when your colleague takes credit for your work?

You face lots of sticky issues in the workplace, including ones that could affect your performance and pay. We’ve already tackled questions on friending your boss on Facebook, impressing your manager when you work far from HQ, applying for an in-house transfer, and getting a chatty co-worker to pipe down.

What’s your question? Write to us, and we’ll get experts to provide career advice. And maybe your nail-clipping co-worker will read the story and do the right thing.

MONEY Second Career

How to Shift From Full-time Work to a Part-Time Second Career

Choir Teacher
Nicole Hill—Getty Images

Here are proven strategies for finding both money and joy in your transition to retirement.

If you’re a boomer you may remember small “hippie” shops selling fringe jackets. Maybe you still have one of them stored in a closet. If so, your Age of Aquarius memento might have been created by Lincoln Wolfe, now 60.

In recent years, Wolfe has made the transition from full-time (high stress) manager in the craft leather business to part-time (low stress) consultant to the industry. His job duties now range from training young workers to planning factory layouts.

“I didn’t want to work full-time for anyone,” he says. “I enjoy what I am doing at a more relaxed pace. This is retirement.”

Downshifting In the Field You Love
Transitioning from a 40-hour-plus workweek to a part-time schedule in retirement that’s less of a grind, but still in the field you’ve grown to love, may be your idea of retirement, too.

Here’s how Wolfe and professional singer Fay Putnam told me they did it and what you can learn from their experiences.

Wolfe decided he was done with school at age 16 and headed for Florida where he started a business with a 24-year-old, making sand-cast castles on the beach and selling them to various outlets. A customer in New Jersey hired him about a year later, launching his career in the leather craft trade.

Wolfe worked his way up in the industry, sometimes running his own venture and other times for an employer. In the early 1990s, Coach (the high-quality leather goods designer and manufacturer) hired him to oversee the technical development of new products — moving leather goods from the designer shop into mass production.

Coach grew dramatically and the job became increasingly intense, especially when production moved offshore to India and China. But since Coach went public in 2000 and Wolfe’s shares had appreciated some 13 times by 2005, he then had enough money to retire on.

Growing a Consulting Business
When he began consulting from his home in Lambertville, N.J., Wolfe’s initial contracts were, as you might expect, from Coach. His business then expanded through referrals. These days, Wolfe works about a third of the time, usually on the road.

His “unretirement” timing was fortuitous with the revival of the American leather goods industry—mostly designer products catering to urban hipsters. In 2012, Wolfe began consulting with Shinola, the Detroit-based Made-In-America producer of handcrafted watches, leather goods and bikes.

When we talked in late July, Wolfe was in Dearborn, Mich. writing an industrial sewing curriculum for the Makers Coalition, a trade group formed to apprentice a younger workforce into artisan leather manufacturing. The program will be housed at Henry Ford Community College’s Michigan Technical Education Center.

Singing a New Song
Leather craft is an art. So is singing. Fay Putnam spent her career as a professional singer, putting long hours into her craft, mostly with choirs such as the Gregg Smith Singers and the San Francisco Symphony choir. Putnam also had a side business as a voice coach.

She moved around fairly frequently because her husband, Frank, was a U.S. Navy aviator. Now 68, Putnam has started a part-time business in Portland, Ore. as a voice and speech coach.

“I love doing it,” she says. I wouldn’t keep doing this if I didn’t love it.” Although, she concedes, she’d welcome a few more clients.

Putnam and her husband moved to a condo in downtown Portland from the San Francisco Bay Area two years ago. Their son and daughter-in-law live there; so does her husband’s brother. And their money now goes farther. Most of all, Putnam says, they were tired of the San Francisco metro area’s horrendous traffic jams.

Frank is now retired, but Fay wanted to stay engaged in her art and teach the voice and breath control techniques she learned over the years. Most of her business is helping entrepreneurs and employees polish their public-speaking presentations. She coaches some singers, too.

Takeaways From Wolfe and Putnam
Wolfe’s and Putnam’s stories highlight a number of critical aspects that others in their 50s and 60s should take into account as they mull their next chapters.

Both built their new ventures on their existing knowledge and skills, rather than shifting to unfamiliar fields. For most boomers, I don’t believe there is any reason to succumb to the lure of reinvention—the urge to embrace a radical makeover—especially if the goal is finding part-time work that offers a financial and psychic reward.

And yet, much of the late-in-life transition narrative we often hear extols the new, the different, the dramatic change.

You know the story. Someone has labored long in a cubicle, or spent hours as a road warrior, for corporate America. Now, in the last third of life, she finds her passion, somehow manages to open a winery, basks in its growing sales and gets invited to speak about reinventing yourself at global conferences.

Okay, I’m exaggerating slightly. But I wholeheartedly agree with the cautionary wisdom of Marc Freedman, founder of Encore.org, in a recent Harvard Business Review column.

He wrote: “After years studying social innovators in the second half of life — individuals who have done their greatest work after 50 — I’m convinced the most powerful pattern that emerges from their stories can be described as reintegration, not reinvention. These successful late-blooming entrepreneurs weave together accumulated knowledge with creativity, while balancing continuity with change, in crafting a new idea that’s almost always deeply rooted in earlier chapters and activities.”

What I applaud about Wolfe and Putnam is that they smartly exploited what they already knew. It’s an insight echoed in a 2010 paper by professor Barry Bluestone of Northeastern University and Mark Melnick of the Boston Redevelopment Authority. When investigating jobs that might be available for aging workers, the authors felt boomers should exploit their skills — albeit, sometimes in a different setting or even industry.

“In many cases, older workers could carry their existing skills and credentials into a new setting,” they wrote. “For example, a registered nurse might move from a major hospital to a community clinic; a computer systems analyst at a private software company might take a job in local government; a civil engineer at a private construction firm might work on a state government highway project.”

Training for the Transition
Of course, you still may have to pick up additional training or education to ease the transition.

Putnam spent her career on the creative side, so she realized she needed to know more about the practical aspects of running a small business. “Most of the time, in the training that artists get, business savvy isn’t included,” she laughs.

To wise up, Putnam took a month-long business basics class called “Better, Smarter, Richer” at Portland Community College. It was designed specifically for solopreneurs and creative entrepreneurs like herself.

The course taught Putnam how to build her website and market her services to local business groups. Best of all, she says, her classmates continue to get together, share information and cheerlead for one another.

Flexibility Is a Must
Like Wolfe and Putnam, many boomers want to continue earning an income during retirement, but put in fewer hours. Their desire for the “big job” and to climb the ladder of the “big career” lies in their past. Phyllis Moen, sociologist at the University of Minnesota, says what many boomers desire are: “not so big jobs.”

Wolfe and Putnam found it much easier to create their flexible work schedules by tapping into their backgrounds rather than attempting ambitious life overhauls. “Older workers value flexibility,” says Richard Johnson of the Urban Institute. “They don’t want to work 9 to 5, five days a week.”

Wolfe’s story reinforces the benefits of flexibility in a different way that will strike a chord with many in their 50s and 60s. He has dialed back on his consulting services recently after being diagnosed with cancer. His prostate cancer has been successfully treated, but Wolfe must now spend more time paying attention to his health, watching his diet, exercising, meditating and so on.

He still enjoys consulting, but his priorities have changed. Cancer has that effect. “I think that I would try to be more engaged than I am now if it wasn’t for the stress of travel,” he says.

Thing is, assuming their health holds up, both Wolfe and Putnam have achieved something all of us desire: Control over their destiny. They can curtail working if they want to. They can stay engaged, if the work remains interesting. It’s their choice.

Not bad for a next chapter.

Chris Farrell is senior economics contributor for American Public Media’s Marketplace and author of the forthcoming Unretirement: How Baby Boomers Are Changing the Way We Think About Work, Community, and The Good Life. He writes about Unretirement twice a month, focusing on the personal finance and entrepreneurial start-up implications and the lessons people learn as they search for meaning and income. Tell him about your experiences so he can address your questions in future columns. Send your queries to him at cfarrell@mpr.org. His twitter address is @cfarrellecon.

Related Links:

MONEY Careers

Wish Every Work Day Felt Like a Vacation? For This Guy it Is.

David Harris
"We offer a great product," says David Harris. "It was a matter of getting it in front of the right people.” Benjamin Rasmussen, wardrobe and grooming by Ashley Kelly

After toiling in the tech industry for over three decades, David Harris decided to buy an adventure travel company. Here's how he did it.

For 30 years, David Harris bounced around Silicon Valley, using his sales and marketing savvy to overhaul tech companies. But in 2011 he received a sizable payout from the sale of Tumbleweed Communications, where he had been vice president—and he was ready for a change. Though his work was highly compensated, it was also high pressure. “I wanted to continue to chal­lenge myself,” he says. “But I needed to get out of high tech for my mental health.”

Around the same time Timberline Adventure Tours, a Lafayette, Colo., company offering hiking and biking trips across the U.S. and Canada, went up for sale. Harris and his wife, Kisa, had gone on many vacations with Timberline and had even become friendly with the owners.

For Harris, it was the perfect opportunity. He was looking to do something he felt passionate about, and Timberline filled that bill. Plus, he felt the business had potential beyond its current revenue: “I knew Timberline offered a great product. It was a matter of getting it out to the right people.” While details of the purchase were still being ironed out, Harris moved with Kisa (then an aerobics instructor) and his three daughters to Louisville, Colo., where they lived off investments until he settled into his new role.

Immediately after taking over in January 2012, Harris began boost­ing Timberline’s digital presence—revamping the website and developing strategies for social media and email marketing. He used skills he’d honed in Silicon Valley, only now “product overhaul” meant testing trails and putting together a “fun puzzle of trip itineraries.”

Today Timberline offers 84 tours to about 600 clients annually. Revenues hit $1.2 million in 2013, up from $850,000 in 2011. While Harris isn’t making the big bucks he used to, he’s enjoying going to a job that doesn’t feel like work. “At the end of a trip, when clients are beaming and thanking you for making their vacation,” Harris says, “it’s just such a pleasure.”

BY THE NUMBERS

$500,000: What the company cost

Harris, who bought the business with cash from the sale of Tumbleweed, drew on his sales experience to create a valuation. The owners still cared about the company, and Harris says that made it somewhat harder to negotiate them down to the price he wanted to pay.

84%: how much less Harris earns than he used to

While his family can live off the $100,000 he and Kisa bring in (she’s the VP), they’re still adjusting to the seasonality of the business, which requires intensive budgeting. Harris credits Kisa, who is “as organized as the day is long.”

240: Target number of new clients to add in 2014

Harris is proud of Timber­line’s customer loyalty— 84% of travelers in 2012 were returning—but he’d like to grow the customer base so that 40% of clients are new. He plans to introduce more trip itineraries, and he’s working on building corporate partnerships, hoping that this will help raise revenues to $2 million by 2015.

MONEY

How To Robot-Proof Your Job

I, ROBOT, 2004.
Can one of these robots do your job? 20th Century Fox—courtesy Everett Collection

Can a machine do your job? For more of us than you'd think, the answer is probably yes. But there are ways to stay ahead of the automation curve.

If you find it hard to imagine that a robot could some day take your job, you should probably try imagining harder. A new survey finds that one in five companies has replaced workers with automation — and not just in low-wage jobs.

While 21% of companies overall say that they now use technology instead of humans for some jobs, the number is even higher — 30% — at businesses with more than 500 workers, according to a nationwide survey out today by CareerBuilder and Economic Modeling Specialists International (EMSI). And that trend is only expected to accelerate: According to the report, one-third of employers predict that jobs at their firms that are currently performed by humans will come to be performed by machines in the next decade.

“This has been a threat for a long time and there are many industries that need a lot less people to do the same jobs more efficiently or for less cost,” says Janet Elkin, CEO of Supplemental Healthcare, a company that recruits staff for healthcare organizations.

Interestingly — some might say ironically — working in a cutting-edge industry doesn’t necessarily protect you from this dynamic. In fact, according to the study, workers at information technology firms are twice as likely to see their jobs replaced with automation. Employers in financial services and manufacturing rounded out the top three areas with the largest number of employers “deskilling” workers. Other industries or sectors that will see a big impact: Customer service, accounting, assembly, production, shipping, distribution, and sales.

Several forces are at play. In many cases, technology has and continues to eliminate the need for workers who facilitate transactions by enabling customers to perform those transactions themselves. Think travel agents, customer service reps, and even store clerks. You see it directly if you do self-check out at your grocery store or have eaten at a Panera Bread restaurant that has replaced cashiers with kiosks.

It’s not just affecting lower wage jobs, however. Powerful software is taking on professional and white-collar jobs in accounting, finance, and even paralegal work. “When I talk to my favorite geeks in Silicon Valley,” said Andrew McAfee, principal research scientist at MIT’s Center for Digital Business, in a May interview in New Scientist, “they look around and say, man, the work of a financial adviser, a junior analyst at an asset management firm, a pathologist, a hamburger flipper, I can automate that.”

Still, though technology taketh away, it can also giveth. Nearly 70% of companies that have replaced workers with automation say the new technology has also required the creation of new positions in their firms, according to the CareerBuilder survey. And 35% of companies that eliminated jobs with technology said they ended up creating more jobs in their firms than they had before automation.

“While automation may eliminate some jobs, it also creates other jobs that are higher paying,” says Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder and co-author of The Talent Equation. “One of the greatest challenges the U.S. faces today is sufficiently preparing the workforce for the influx of knowledge-based jobs that will likely result from progress in robotics and other STEM-related fields.”

So how do you put yourself in line for one of those new jobs?

  • Don’t wait for your current job to become obsolete. If you see an opportunity to make your job more efficient with technology, be the person to oversee the change and train people in how the new system works. “Make sure you’re the one who understands how it all works,” says Elkin..
  • Upgrade your skill set. If you have a job that you think a robot can easily replace, consider going back to school or investing in online courses that can help you gain valued expertise. You may need to explore alternative occupations and industries that are growing and where you can transfer your skill set, says CareerBuilder’s Jennifer Grasz.
  • Pay attention to trends in your field. Is job growth in your business accelerating or decelerating? Is this related to an economic cycle or technology advancement? Research articles online on how your occupation is evolving and develop the skill sets needed to leverage new technologies.

The survey did offer one positive sign for workers who have been replaced: It found that 35% of companies that eliminated jobs with automation hired people back because the technology didn’t deliver as expected or customers wanted to interact with a live person.

“Technology is not perfect and things often go awry,”says Elkin. “When that happens, you need a human to fix them.”

MONEY Careers

How to Make Sure Your Next Raise is Bigger than 3%

Rulers in bar graph
Make sure you know how your boss measures success. Laura Flugga—Getty Images

Your year-end review isn't as far off as you might think. And if you want more money, you should think ahead toward that all-important meeting, says career coach Caroline Ceniza-Levine.

In my 20-plus years working in HR-related roles, I have never met anyone, management or staff, who looked forward to performance review season.

So, chances are, you aren’t thinking ahead to your annual year-end sit-down with the boss. It’s only July after all. There are months to go until your review, and you’ve got an overflowing list of priorities to complete before the year is over.

But you might want to put some review preparations on that to-do list—and pretty high up—if you want a promotion or a bigger-than-average raise for next year. You need time to find out what your goals should be, to create a portfolio of your accomplishments, to fill any performance gaps, and to plan for what you want from your manager. It takes time and effort to do all of these things, which is why the middle of the year is the best time to start getting yourself ready for that end-of-year review.

What to do now to make sure your review will pay off:

Confirm goals and metrics

Do you know what your company goals are, and are you working on the right things? With so many companies restructuring, it’s highly likely that strategic goals for the business have changed. If you’re not sure you’re in alignment, meet with your boss now—you don’t have to wait for an official review—to discuss what you should be working on. You also want to confirm how success will be measured. Even if you’re a salesperson, it might not just be sales dollars. The company might prioritize the number of new customers you’ve brought in, the extent to which you’ve expanded business with existing customers, how well you’ve sold a specific new offering or the profitability of each sale. Get a copy of the performance review form to give you a clearer idea of what will be measured and how.

Itemize accomplishments to date

Are you doing well on what you are working on? Calculate the results of your efforts where they can be quantified. Collect testimonials for intangible accomplishments like customer service or team collaboration. Gather supporting documents, such as recent presentations or summaries you have put together. With measurable results, referrals and recommendations, and samples of your work, you now have a portfolio to show what you specifically have contributed.

Fill in gaps

What do you need to focus on in the next 30, 60, and 90 days leading up to your year-end review? Compare your accomplishments to-date with company goals and metrics to see if you have been focusing on the things your boss and senior management value. If you have neglected something—a client, an initiative—then block out time on your calendar now to fill these gaps specifically. Of course, you want to maintain your performance in other areas, but don’t forget whole objectives and projects that may be key priorities. You want a review that shows you got all of your work done.

Plan your ask

What do you want your next steps to be? Is there a specific project or client you want? Do you want a promotion or above-average raise? Once you have made efforts to ensure that your review runs smoothly, you can start thinking about the other reason for this process—to plan for the future. Plan now what you will ask for, so you can drive the discussion towards that end goal: “…and all of this is why I deserve that 5% raise!”

Caroline Ceniza-Levine is co-founder of SixFigureStart®career coaching. She has worked with professionals from American Express, Condé Nast, Gilt, Goldman Sachs, Google, McKinsey, and other leading firms. She’s also a stand-up comic. This column will appear weekly.

Read more from Caroline Ceniza-Levine:

How to Network in Just 5 Minutes a Day

How Making a Friend in HR Can Help Your Career

10 Easy Ways to Make Yourself More Hireable

Your Career is Your Biggest Asset. 5 Ways to Protect It

TIME Careers & Workplace

3 Ways to Completely Destroy Your Reputation at Work

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Cultura RM/Jason Butcher—Getty Images/Collection Mix: Subjects RM

Here are three sure-fire methods to get a bad reputation at work


This post is in partnership with Inc., which offers useful advice, resources and insights to entrepreneurs and business owners. The article below was originally published at Inc.com.

In business, it’s easy to forgive an oversight. We all make mistakes, and few of us possess a perfect ability to complete every project on time and on budget.

You might hear some grumbling around the office about that presentation you made last month, the one where you had the sales forecast numbers mixed up with the expenditures, but most of your co-workers will forget all about it.

But what if you really screw up? In a few cases, you can create a reputation for yourself that fosters a negative vibe in the office–or even earns you a pink slip. It can be hard to recover from that. Here are the recipes for total disaster–a way to create a lasting reputation. Avoid them if you can.

1. Take credit for someone else’s work

Nothing gives you the mark of a scoundrel like taking credit for something you don’t deserve. People get fired over lesser evils. The best way to avoid earning a reputation as a credit-stealer is to carefully analyze the success. What role did you really play? Should you take credit for the pre-sales work only? Is it enough to let everyone in the office know you are happy with the overall outcome? Here’s the secret: Don’t even bother taking the credit in the first place. When you make a big sales win for the company or score that investment from a big shot across town, let the work speak for itself.

2. Cover up an error

I know someone who was fired for one infraction related to a cover-up. Call it the Lance Armstrong mistake. It was in a small business and the person made a pretty big mistake on a customer order, then tried to hide it by deleting some e-mails, lying to everyone in the office, and stuffing some paperwork in a drawer. What that person didn’t realize is that the truth always finds you. The more you’ve done to hide a mistake, the more you will be despised. The alternative? Fess up right away. The sooner you come clean about losing a signed contract or getting into a fight with a competitor, the more time everyone has to deal with the problem and take corrective action. Let the mistake stay hidden and you are setting off a time bomb. When people find out, your reputation will suffer.

3. Let your tasks slide routinely

Having a bad day is one thing. Maybe it’s an expense report you need to fill out or a summary of that last sales demo you were supposed to send in to the team. Fine. In a work setting, no one is really expecting you to be perfect and complete every task on time. The problem starts when you earn a reputation for not completing tasks because then you are making everyone in the office look bad. Slowing down one project is a problem for that specific project and your reputation will likely recover; not completing tasks on any project is going to make it seem like you can’t get anything done. The ultimate solution? If you screw up on a few tasks, work extra hard to compensate on the next project. You’ll be surprised how forgiving people can be if you start finishing up your work early.

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