6 Tips for Your Professional Development

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Let’s talk about advancing your professional development, and how to do so continuously. Steps you can take to make noticeable changes in your professional life, which ultimately flows into all other areas of your life as well.

Below are best practices we have discovered to be helpful in propelling you on your journey.

1) Self-Assessment

Look in the mirror and assess your internal intelligence. There are plenty of tests and quizzes you can take that will give you insight into who you are, your mindset, what makes you tick, etc. Even some of the Buzzfeed quizzes can shed some light, though we wouldn’t put much stock into the credibility.

Self-assessments can benefit you because sometimes you are not aware of blinders that are in your way.

2) Genuine Feedback

Find a mentor or ask a trusted friend you know will give it to you straight. You don’t need sugar-coating.  

3) Tangible Goals (hard skills)

What skills can you enhance that will make you an expert in your field? Excel spreadsheets, grammar, speech, and even attire; all of these are things you can physically make improvements on and see progression.

4) Intangible Goals (soft skills)

Goals that might not be so apparent are also important. These are called “soft skills” and they are just as important as hard skills. Below are some of the soft skills we have found to be major game changers:

  • Confidence
  • Empathy
  • Verbal and non-verbal communication
  • Attitude
  • Teamwork
  • Listening
  • Discipline and focus
  • Professionalism
  • Networking
  • Public speaking
  • Stress management/Emotional Intelligence

5) Reading & Podcasts

Knowledge is power.

Read anything you can get your hands on that will grow your mind and read for fun. You need both. Commit to this daily practice. Yes, daily. Even if it is only for 10 minutes. (Twitter does not count.)

Podcasts. This is free information sent to your ears, no hands required. Do this while driving, working out, cooking. You literally have nothing to lose.

6) Courses/Webinars/Seminars

Another great thing about the Internet, there are thousands of free courses to take. Ask others what they would recommend. Be in a continual state of learning and development.

Seminars are extraordinary to attend. Not only are you learning, but you are surrounded by individuals who are there for the same reason. The networking that can happen is invaluable.  

Bottom line – grow, learn, develop.

Continually evolving. Continually at your best.


 

Trust Your Creativity

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TOO MUCH – YOU MUST CONFORM

I have been told more than once to tone it down. To be myself but not too much. To be calm. That I am too loud. To limit myself. To fit into some sort of societal mold. I am sure I am not the only one who has been told to conform. “Be creative but do it this way.” Hmmm. That’s stifling. Where does one draw the line? And who gets to decide what you do and do not get to expose? Ultimately you are the one who gets to make that decision, however it can come at a cost.

AT WORK

As a quick side note, there are situations that require you to be methodical and these are usually in the workplace. There is a fine line between creative and improper. I have found that if I wonder “is this appropriate?” I might want to rethink a couple of things. In a work environment use your creativity professionally. Find your method but remember your position and audience.

CREATIVITY

Art can take on many forms and creativity can be seen everywhere. Have you ever made something uninhibited that you wanted to show to the world not for attention but merely to stimulate – and the reaction was well received? Didn’t that feel great? You weren’t seeking glory, you were merely wanting to inspire. No limits were set. You were free to be creative. I believe that is where you need to tap in.

I saw a post the other day on Instagram. It read “trust your creativity.” That struck a chord. Hard core. I felt like I needed to high-five someone. Those three words hit hard and deep and I felt as if a weight had been lifted. That is exactly what I have felt for so long. That was it!

Do not limit your creativity. Find your method. Develop it. Edit. You are not stuck. You can continually evolve. Trust your creativity.


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Feeling Flat? How to Wear Flats and Still Rock the Look!

Nude and black flats and high heels

Have you Googled “executive women” lately?

There are a lot of high heels out there. Plenty of options. Now, Google “women’s shoes”. Your options are high heels or slippers. Thanks.

Flats are flat out more comfortable.

If that statement above weren’t true, everyone would be in heels. Sport players would be donning stilettos. Jeff Bezos would be strutting around in sky-high Louboutins.

But do flats look better than high heels in the C-suite? Want to be real for a moment? Yes, high heels do look better. There, we said it.

Now that the obvious is out-of-the-way, let’s get on with it.

Women often ask, “can I wear flats and still be seen as professional?”

Yes, you can. You just need to know how to pick the right kind. You also need to be aware of your image. We are referring to your posture, your confidence, your professional presence. All of this is part of your personal and professional image.

That is why we are here. We want to help you feel and act continually at your best. When you feel confident, you act confident.

So, let’s get to it then shall we?

Here is how to add a bit of flair to your flats and a few to stay away from.

Black patent leather loafer with tassels

Loafers

Loafers can be a hit or miss. Select carefully. We highly suggest one with a bit of a heel. Extra details such as a tassel or buckle over the tip adds more design to a somewhat slipper looking shoe.

But loafers are great for a few reasons. One, they are very much in style right now, so they are available pretty much anywhere you go. Two, since they are so in style at the moment, they are more accepted at work, which is great, because they are so comfortable! Make sure when selecting the right loafer, you do not compromise comfort for professionalism.

Black brogue

Brogues

The brogue is a nice, clean look. It is a step above the loafer. You cannot go wrong with a brogue. The details are what makes this shoe even more put together than the loafer or mules.

Cut out black brogues

Cut Outs

We love the cut out. It takes an everyday shoe and adds a bit of edge. One thing to keep in mind with cut out shoes, they can be borderline unprofessional if there is too much left out. Keep it sharp.

Hit or Miss

Peach mule with studs

Mules

We do not suggest flat mules for work. No matter how fancy the front, no matter how much they cost, flat mules are slide on shoes and slide on shoes have no place in the boardroom.

3 shoes with bows

Bows

We also suggest staying away from bows. There are a few that look decent but bows give off a oh so cutesy look. Do you want to be seen as cute or do you want to be seen as a woman who knows her business and is capable of crushing it when necessary?

Snake skin ballet flats with black toe

Ballet flats

Ballet flats have a similar effect as bows. They are dainty. Do not wear them in your next business proposal presentation. They are a good backup for driving in though.

And a few side notes:

  • Choose the material wisely as well. Certain materials on shoes can look too casual.
  • Embellishments, when done right add to the shoe. When done wrong, are an eyesore.
  • A pop of color is great. Obnoxious is not. Know the difference.
  • Just because they are expensive doesn’t make them appropriate.
  • Just because they are popular doesn’t make them appropriate.

To see more ideas, over to our Tip Sheets or click here and let us know how we can help!


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The Dos and Don’ts of Making Mistakes

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Another mistake…Whoops.

A mistake has been made. What’s your immediate reaction because there are plenty to choose from.

Common reactions:

  1. Don’ts (negative): make excuses, blame someone else, become defensive
  2. Dos (positive): accept responsibility, change your behavior, keep going

Everyone makes mistakes, what sets the skillful apart is how they choose to respond.

Don’ts: Excuses. Blame. Defense.

Someone who is constantly making excuses and blaming others creates an atmosphere of negativity. People cannot trust someone who is not reliable.

If you are constantly defensive, others will not want to confront you for fear of conflict. You make yourself unapproachable if you are unable to take responsibility for mistakes made.

Those who seek professional and personal growth must learn how to handle mistakes because no matter who you are, you are going to make them.

We are not going to spend too much time on the don’ts of making excuses, so for further insight on that topic, here is a great article by S.J. Scott titled 13 Steps to Stop Making Excuses and Get Results in Your Life.

Dos: Accept. Change. Keep Going.

What we are going to spend time on is the positive way to respond to mistakes. Learning effective responses to mistakes will help you be proactive in future decisions.

Accept responsibility.

Own up to your mistake. Why? First, others expect it, and need it. Taking responsibility acts like a reset button. You are acknowledging an error and once that is out in the open, everyone can begin to move on.

Note I did not say full responsibility. We will discuss that next.

If an error needs explanation, there is a time and a place for that, but in the midst of addressing your mistake, the reasoning (if any) should not be in the same sentence. Do not try to explain “your side of the story”.

Also, do not take full responsibility if you do not need to. It is wise to take responsibility, but being the person who always takes blame, that is not good either. Clarify.

Should you need to make any sort of clarification, stick to the actual events that happened and leave all feelings out of it. Discuss what happened, be open to feedback and work out the kinks so you can handle yourself better next time.

Change.

What will you do differently going forward? What did you learn so you do not repeat the same mistakes?

Mistakes are great lessons, as long as you learn from them.

Keep Going.

Mistakes are going to happen.

Don’t spend too much time focusing on the error. When you stay stuck in a negative mindset, there is little room for transformation. Reflect on it long enough to learn and mature.

It’s not how we make mistakes, but how we correct them that defines us. -Rachel Wolchin


Contact us at TheClarks.Consulting@gmail.com for more tips and suggestions. We look forward to hearing from you.

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Destructive Behavior is Destructive – It’s Time for a Change

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Image consulting is a professional field that aims to improve the image of the client personally or professionally through appearance, behavior, and communication. It is the process of evaluating the effect of a person’s appearance on their professional image.

Let’s talk about behavior.

Part of image consulting deals with behavior and how that can affect a person’s image, both personally and professionally.

Behavior is so important, there are studies on it, training on it, institutes, books, lectures, seminars, you name it.

Now, let’s talk about behavior in the workplace.

Behavior in the workplace is especially important for your image. This is not to say that outside of the workplace you have a free reign to act inappropriately, but for this article, we are going to focus on workplace behavior and how it relates to your image.

Your behavior affects your image. Your behavior affects your personal brand. Your behavior affects others, and in turn, your behavior will affect you. 

Being someone who others can approach is a desirable quality. It is a skill. It makes the environment in which you work more effective. Opposite of effective behavior is destructive behavior.

You might not be aware of destructive behavior patterns in your day-to-day life. Recognizing them is a step in the right direction.

Common destructive behaviors:

  1. Negative mindset
  2. Defensive
  3. Argumentative
  4. Drama

When someone is curt with you, how does that influence your reaction? How does that affect the way you think about that individual? What is your perception of their image?

We all have some form of one or more than one of these behaviors. And keep in mind, in moderation, it is good to be a little defensive right? In moderation.

People see how you behave and relate that to who you are. 

Making proper changes.

How can you correct these behaviors? Start making changes now.

  • Identify what you need to change
  • Commit to improve
  • Be consistent
  • Seek advice, a mentor, or a career coach
  • Speak with a supervisor or someone who can give you constructive criticism

Break your plan into small, achievable, manageable steps. Set goals and timelines and don’t forget to look back on your progress.

Your beliefs don’t make you a better person, your behavior does. -Sukhraj S. Dhillon


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What Really is a Career Coach?

What does a career coach actually do?

Well, pretty much the same thing all other coaches do – coach!

What do coaches do? They help their players improve. They work with each individual to get better in an area or areas of deficiency and then equip them to continue the process with skill and competence.

Career coaches have a wide range of areas they are proficient in. Overall, career coaches should be able to give insight and “coaching” to those who have hired them. A trained eye to see where there is a gap in performance.

Who can benefit from services?

Anyone.

We all want to be the best we can be right? A career coach is great to be able to support someone who is in the workforce either at the beginning of their career, in the middle, or rising to the top.

What to expect from a career coach.

Sessions

If you do decide to hire a coach, don’t expect it to be a one session and done sort of deal. It will take a minimum of 8 hours, or 4 sessions total to get some groundwork. Do not lured in by quick fixes and unrealistic promises.

You should expect to be confronted with a series questions and interviews. Your coach will need to get to know you.

  • What are your frustrations?
  • What is your current situation and why are you dissatisfied?
  • What are your goals?
  • What do you hope to gain from a career coach?

Questions

Expect to answer some tough questions and give honest answers. Don’t tell your coach what sounds good or what you think they want to hear, give them information that will be helpful to you and your future. And have some questions ready yourself. Ask questions that can’t be answered by Google; questions that will help guide your coach and you in the right direction.

Homework

Just as athletic coaches require their students to exercise and run drills, so does a career coach, maybe just not as physically demanding. Simply put, if your actions were producing positive results, you wouldn’t need a coach. You hired them to help you work through challenges, so expect them to push you. Expect to get uncomfortable but also, expect great things to come.

What will the results be?

Motivation. Confidence. Skills.

Your coach isn’t going to get you the job you want, only you can do that. What your coach will do is equip you with the motivation, confidence, and direction to go out there and achieve your goals.

The time spent with your coach will help you understand your strengths and how to use them for your career and your future aspirations. You will be equipped with the correct tools to follow a path that leads to fulfillment.

Remember, this isn’t a one-time event. Along the way you might need to revisit what you learned with your coach or reach back out for further guidance. Never feel like you can’t make a change.


We are here to help. Contact us at TheClarks.Consulting@gmail.com.

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Hiring an Image Consultant and Why You Should

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What is an image consultant?

Image consulting is a professional field which aims to improve the image of the client personally or professionally through appearance, behavior and communication.

Why Hire an Image Consultant?

Image consultants help individuals with more than just personal appearance. As stated in the definition, an image consultant helps in the areas such as appearance, body language, behavior, and communication. They are there to help evaluate, improve, and/or enhance.

Clarks Consulting elevates our clients to the next level. We provide the tools needed to make effective improvements often overlooked or missed.

Common areas that are often overlooked:

  • Professional appearance
  • Body language
  • Inconsistent behavior
  • Effective communication
  • Online presence

Most people are unaware of these how these areas can affect their image, but the good news is they are all coachable. Recognizing one or more than one of these areas needing improvement is a great step in the right direction, but what next?

What are the Next Steps?

First you must find the right consultant.

You want to select a consultant that understands your goals but also one that you enjoy working with.

Most consultants offer a complimentary meeting which usually is 30 minutes and consists of the basic questions that help them get to know you better.

  1. Concerns you have and what you would like to accomplish
  2. Answer any questions you might have
  3. Review of services and fees
  4. What you can expect and next steps

Remember, you are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Make sure you ask the right questions – for you and your business.

Next is the contract agreement.

Once you have found the right consultant, you will need to discuss the contract agreement.

Thoroughly read through the entire contract agreement and ask any questions you have.  Make sure you understand all verbiage and expectations.

Consulting timeline.

The timeline goes together with the agreement.

A skilled consultant knows how to map out a reasonable timeline. Do not be fooled by unrealistic promises or quick fixes.

Based on the timeline presented, this should give you a good understanding of what to expect and the process.

There is no one size fits all, so making sure you are both in agreement of what the expectations are and a time frame in which to achieve those is important.

What to Expect from Your Image Consultant?

What you can expect from your consultant is a thorough gathering of information based on your needs and wants. This is usually in the form of a questionnaire or profile evaluation so the consultant can get a better idea of who you are.

Next is a list of recommendations that will fit your lifestyle. Your consultant will go through what is working and what needs to be altered.

Based on the area you hired a consultant for, they should develop a plan that you can easily follow and the tools to continue with confidence.


We would love to work with you. You can contact us at TheClarks.Consulting@gmail.com.

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Personal Branding Matters

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Personal branding is the practice of people marketing themselves and their careers as brands. While previous self-help management techniques were about self-improvement, the personal-branding concept suggests instead that success comes from self-packaging.

What does that mean?

So, we gave you the definition from Wikipedia, but what does that really mean?

Note the word “practice.” This means that personal branding is ongoing, continually evolving. You do not need to change who you are, but you do need to evolve. The difference – change suggests becoming something entirely different whereas evolve means to develop.

You should always be wanting to improve – to always be evolving.

And how does personal branding fit into all of this?

As you progress through life and your career, you will always have with you your core values, but, through the process of evolving, you will enhance those values and become a brand.

What is your brand?

Do you wonder what your personal brand is?

Ask yourself a few of these questions:

  • What makes you stand out from the rest?
  • Can people trust you?
  • What do you think people say about you when you are not in the room?
  • What you stand for? What are your values?
  • What your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What are your goals?
  • What’s your story?

These are questions you can ask yourself and come up with answers on your own. A more complex experiment of discovering your personal brand is to seek feedback from those around you.

Alex Freund, author at Personal Branding Blog, sent a request to some of his friends asking them to send him three words that came to mind when they thought of him. This a good idea, but make sure you allow others to feel comfortable giving you candid feedback AND you are open to listening to it all.

Building your personal brand.

You are a brand. A walking advertisement.

You know that saying, “fake it till you make it”? Be very careful here. Do not replace fake with authentic. There is some truth to “faking” confidence or optimism. Some people can create a turnaround in their lives and truly become confident and optimistic. But faking for the sake of being an imposter is not suggested. Eventually the truth comes out.

If you want to be perceived in a certain way, discover ways to make that happen.

  1. Be intentional.
  2. Educate yourself, constantly.
  3. Find your niche.
  4. Become the expert in your field so that when others think of whom to call, you are top of that list.
  5. Build credibility.
  6. Be authentic.
  7. Consistency!

Was this helpful for you? How can we help? Contact us at TheClarks.Consulting@gmail.com or connect with us on social media! We look forward to hearing from you.

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Women, Master Your Confidence!

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Why do so many women lack confidence?

If you ask those around you, you might find similar answers to that question. They feel like frauds, like they aren’t good enough, they don’t possess the skills and abilities, they are they compare, they are perfectionists.

Everyone is different and all facing unique challenges, but as a whole, why do women let their confidence sink so drastically?

From authors Claire Shipman and Katty Kay of The Confidence Code:

For years, we women have kept our heads down and played by the rules. We’ve been certain that with enough hard work, our natural talents would be recognized and rewarded.

Would you say you can relate to that statement?

The problem is, keeping your head down and always playing by the rules leaves little room for standing up in the boardroom presenting your ideas. Meek does not command a room.

Women need to start taking action and changing what has been ingrained in them for so long.

First let’s address 3 vocabulary no nos.

Stop saying “sorry,” “can’t,” and “just.”

“I’m Sorry.” We wrote an article on this that you can find here. Basically, by always saying “sorry”, you portray you are not confident and unsure about your expertise. There is no need to start sentences with “I’m sorry” unless you are actually sorry for some sort of wrongdoing. Communicate with confidence.

“I can’t.” That is one quick way to diminish yourself and your abilities. Stop telling yourself it can’t be done, that you can’t accomplish x, y, and z. Replace “can’t” with the word “will” and notice your mindset change.

“Just.” This is another subtle word that undermines your confidence. It is also a filler word. It takes up space, has little value, and weakens your message. Delete this word from your messages.

The Comparison Trap.

Very dangerous territory here. Have you heard the quote, “comparison is the thief of joy”? This couldn’t be truer.

In the right context, comparison is helpful, but an unhealthy amount will only rob you of many joys, one being confidence.

Focus on your strengths. On your skills. On your successes. If there is an area you need to make improvements on, find ways to do so. Redirect the energy spent comparing yourself to others and use that time to develop yourself.

Recognize comparison triggers. Are you comparing your current professional status to a peer? Why? Do they receive recognition from others that you would like as well? Ask yourself why, then dissect your answer. Get to the root and once you have that answer, find a solution. Your coworker is constantly getting praised because of their successful business practices, so what best practices can you start incorporating?

Not Good Enough.

We hear this all too often. You might even feel it right now. That you aren’t good enough.

More than 80% of women believe they aren’t good enough. That is a high percentage.

There is usually an underlying reason. Digging to the root of that can be time-consuming, and as we have stated in previous articles, we are by no means trained in psychology, but what we can offer is our expertise in handling this feeling.

Figure out why you feel you are not good enough and write out the details. For example, let’s say you feel you are not good enough to deserve a promotion because you don’t think you have mastered all the areas of your current position to move up to the next level. Write out what the requirements are for that position you want. Next, write down what skills you currently possess. Then, evaluate the two. Chances are, your fears of not being good enough will be squashed once you see you are good enough, or better.

Change feelings of inadequacy into facts. Get real with your thoughts of doubt. Take back the control.

Stop living in not good enough. Be confident.

Quick Confidence Boosters.

Need a quick boost? Try these, because they work!

  1. Celebrate small wins
  2. Revisit past successes
  3. Power pose
  4. Dress nicely
  5. Think positive
  6. Focus on solutions
  7. Smile
  8. Exercise

For more on this, read our article on 7 Steps to Take When you Feel Like You are Lacking Confidence.

Confidence is allowed.

There are ways to take back your confidence. There are ways to have personal breakthroughs. We have seen it. We coach it.

You do not have to apologize for being a confident woman.

You are good enough.

You can.


We would love to work with you. Contact us at TheClarks.Consulting@gmail.com.
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Constructive Criticism is Great! Here is What You Can Learn.

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Constructive criticism: helping to improve; promoting further development or advancement (opposed to destructive)

Why is constructive criticism hard to hear, even when you ask for it?

Maybe because deep down, you secretly wish others would say you are perfect and doing everything right.

Being made aware of faults is tough but trust us, the alternative isn’t all that glamorous. If you aren’t being given feedback, that isn’t a sign that you’re perfect, that is a sign of much bigger problems.

Respect those who give radical candor – they want you to improve and succeed.

In an article written by Amber Shiflett, she made some great points about receiving constructive criticism. She mentioned how it increases insight and perspective and how it can cultivate a trustworthy workplace, all of which are true.

There needs to be a mindset shift. Criticism is inevitable. So instead of becoming defensive, use it as an opportunity to learn. Chances are you have received feedback before that was unpleasant but necessary. And chances are that feedback helped you make improvements. So, what can you learn now?

There is benefit in receiving feedback.

As noted above, there is benefit in receiving feedback. You gain insight and perspective you didn’t have before. You see situations with new lenses. You become stronger and more confident. When feedback in the right form is given, the opportunity for unbound development is invaluable. Think of it as adding gains to your portfolio.

What to do when you receive constructive criticism:

  1. Relax. Relax and listen respectfully. View the feedback as an opportunity for improvement. Remember, there is benefit in getting feedback.
  2. Don’t take it personally. A common reaction is to become defensive or emotional. Radical candor is meant to help, not harm. Realize those speaking with you only want you to achieve success.
  3. Take time. Allow yourself time to process the evaluation you received. Give yourself time to reflect and digest the information.
  4. Ask questions. Take notes during the conversation and follow up with questions so you can fully understand what was discussed. Ask for specifics and make sure you understand what was communicated.
  5. Thank you. Thank those individuals for taking time to discuss these items with you. Be appreciative for their time and candor.
  6. Solicit help. How do you use the information provided to make necessary improvements? Ask for recommendations on what your next steps should be.
  7. Follow up. Follow up matters. Use the suggestions given to make the necessary changes and be consistent.

What’s next?

Now it is time to put it into practice.

Have a list of the areas you need to focus on and arm yourself with tools to achieve success. For example, if you were told that your approach to email communication is lacking a respectful tone, make the necessary changes. Learn from others how they compose respectful emails. Use the power of the Internet and find examples of properly composed messages. Continue to seek feedback and guidance. Be consistent.

Knowing your strengths and areas needing change is immensely helpful. Keep a list in your planner, save notes on your hard drive, write down reminders on a sticky note, find ways that work best for you to achieve success.

This is your path, you are in control.


For more suggestions or comments, email us at TheClarks.Consulting@gmail.com. We look forward to working with you.

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