by Cherylyn Harley LeBon | Featured Contributor
The start of 2014 brings a multitude of advice for those with New Year’s resolutions. The advice ranges from methods to maintain exercise goals to networking tips to ways to improve social media etiquette. While all of us stay busy juggling families and running our own businesses, we might forget about those who are just starting their careers and may eventually become our employees and mentees. In an effort to fulfill my resolution to reach out to future leaders and entrepreneurs, I offer the following advice for young career women hoping to start some new habits this year and retire some old habits from 2013.
Pick up the phone
We can all agree that we spend far too much time sending email, texts, and instant messaging our colleagues at work. I just received a voicemail from an acquaintance last week who said, “Cherylyn, my New Year’s resolution is to pick up the phone more, so I am calling you now to ask about how our group listserv works.” I had only met this gentleman once, but as soon as I heard his message, I smiled. I am ashamed to admit, however, that I responded to my acquaintance’s request with an email. Obviously, I need to work on this resolution, too!
Add a smile to someone’s face. Instead of emailing your colleague, walk down the hall or to the next floor and respond to his or her question in person.
Embrace the art of small talk
This is an undervalued gift and something I struggled with early in my career. The ability to engage in light conversation at a reception, baby shower, or over coffee and donuts after church with individuals you do not know is a finely honed skill. If you go to an event with a colleague or friend, plan to mingle apart from one another and ask your friend whether there is anyone else at the event your colleague or friend thinks you should meet. If you go to the event immediately after work, try to eat as soon as you arrive. The act of balancing a beverage, balancing food, and shaking someone’s hand at the same time is something I have not mastered. If you have, please share your tip with me.
The next time you are at the airport, engage in small talk with the person sitting next to you in the gate area. Ask them about the book they are reading or if the next leg of the flight is their final destination.. Even if it feels awkward, the feeling is temporary, since there is a high probability you will not see this person again.
Explore the horizons
Every weekend, make a plan to see a movie, take a day trip, or go to a museum.
When I was a young lawyer working in Washington, DC, I was fortunate because my best friend from childhood lived one block away. Every Saturday, we went to one of the Smithsonian museums, lounged at a bookstore, or watched a movie. She preferred dramas and comedies, while I loved action and crime. Part of the fun was negotiating which type of movie to see. Many years later, my best friend moved away and two small children moved in, but I fondly remember those Saturday afternoons.
So, find a friend to share an adventure every weekend, or go on your own adventure. It does not need to be fancy and you do not need blow your budget. The important thing is to get out and do something other than play on your iPhone or some other gadget all weekend.
Develop a reading list
It’s simple. I love to read and I truly believe it is one of the great joys of life. As the youngest of three, I had to trail behind my older siblings to endless sporting events that did not interest me: football, cheerleading, basketball, baton twirling, and a bunch more I have chosen to forget. My books became my constant companions and best friends.
Ask people for book recommendations. Find a genre that interests you: fiction, historical fiction, biographies, business success stories, or self-improvement, for example. Make a goal of turning off your electronic device 30 or 45 minutes before bed or go to the library and get an audio tape to listen during your commute or on your next trip.
Our children develop many habits from their parents. I like to think that my daughter, now nine, has developed her love from reading from me. Trust me – it’s a good habit to adopt.
In other words, find a volunteer activity that helps you develop and leverage additional skills.
I joined my first non-profit board shortly after graduating from law school. Yes, this is one situation where people like to have lawyers around! Over the years, I joined several boards of all different sizes and budgets. The one thing which was consistent is that I would serve on a committee that was outside my normal duties of my work or professional expertise at the time. For example, I am not trained in finance, but I learned about budgets and forecasting by serving on several budget and finance committees.
If you work at a consulting firm or in finance, volunteer for a non-profit board and offer to help on the marketing committee. They gain from your fresh perspective on issues and you are adding another skill to your toolkit.
Simple and Easy Tips to Share. Happy 2014.
Cherylyn Harley LeBon is a lawyer and public affairs executive with almost 20 years of experience in Washington, D.C. and is the President and CEO of KLAR Strategies. She provides grassroots/coalition development, strategic counsel, and media strategy to corporations, trade associations, and non-profits.
She has worked as senior executive in the federal government and as a Vice-President of Public Affairs for a national trade association where she directed media and communications strategy; health coalitions, and corporate partnerships. Additionally, Cherylyn served as a Senior Counsel with the U. S. Senate Judiciary Committee was responsible for judicial nominations, the Department of Justice oversight, and civil and human rights.
She writes about policy, business and legal issues for a variety of publications and serves as Co-Chair of Project 21, leadership network with the National Center for Public Policy Research. Cherylyn is a regular guest and commentator on nationally broadcast radio and television programs.
Cherylyn was a Research Guest and Lecturer at the University of Bremen Law School in Germany and has lectured across the U.S. and Europe on American business, leadership, and policy issues. She was formerly an adjunct public policy professor with the Washington Center in Washington, DC. Cherylyn is a 2013 graduate of Georgetown University’s program in Executive Leadership Coaching.
Follow her on Twitter @HarleyLeBon