You're in charge

by Aldric Chau

Do you have what it takes to achieve higher goals in times of difficulties?

Peter Chew
motivation specialist
Best International Training & Seminars Ltd
Photos: Wallace Chan

With the end of the economic downturn yet to be in sight, companies across the board are continuing to retrench staff, bringing the unemployment rate to 5.3 per cent at the end of April. With such pressure on the labour market, this is a good time for employees to assess their skills repertoire so as to keep their jobs and move forward in these challenging times.

Speaking at a recent Career Times seminar on Marvellous Ways to Sell Yourself, motivation specialist Peter Chew and image consultant and socialite Mary Cheung addressed a large audience.

Right attitude

Mr Chew, a renowned motivation specialist and business consultant of Best International Training & Seminars Ltd, kicked off the seminar by stressing the importance of having the right attitude as a first step towards career success. Years of experience have taught him that attitude towards failure is what distinguishes winners from losers.

Using the analogy of a child learning to walk, Mr Chew advised the audience to remain positive and to view every mistake as an opportunity for growth. "Parents nowadays tend to be either too strict or too protective. This limits their children's chances of learning and improving themselves through mistakes," he said.

He also explained the value of being able to view things from different perspectives, advising, "When the going gets tough, the tough should get going optimistically."

While it is normal to, at times, wake up dreading the day, people who are able to appreciate and be passionate about the good things in their lives are in a better position to control their emotions. "It's the power of choice. You can choose your mood, just like you can pick your favourite outfit for the day," stated Mr Chew.

Realistic goals

Perseverance is the next step in the quest for success. This is particularly important for a younger generation growing up in an over-protective and materialistic society.

"While many of my clients plan their careers systematically, unfortunately a greater number tend to give up too soon and too easily," Mr Chew noted, adding that he has seen people putting in place plans for postgraduate studies, new career pursuits or short-term milestones such as promotion only to end up with none of their goals achieved because of procrastination and a lack of persistence.

"The only route to persistence is to be certain of your mission in life," he emphasised. This mission — what people ultimately look to achieve in life — can be anything from wealth and social status to social contribution and self-actualisation.

He told the audience that once they have identified their goal in life, they will be motivated to cross their daily hurdles. In the work context, he advised seminar goers to set themselves realistic goals to pursue.

As a practical example, he recommended that all working professionals find themselves a role model. This could be anyone that they admire. Such a role model serves as a concrete example of how one would like to be, and what one strives towards.

He explained that picking the right role model could be the most effective route towards winning at work and in life, since what one learns from such a person are often deep values and a positive outlook on life. "This takes time, but is well worth it," he said.

Dress to impress

Mary Cheung, managing director and founder
Mary Cheung & Associates (International) Limited
The impression people create determines how far they get in developing a relationship with others. "First impressions are very important and more often than not we don't get a second chance," Ms Cheung told the audience.

Managing director and founder of Mary Cheung & Associates (International) Limited, Ms Cheung has heard from numerous job candidates how they ruined their chances by arriving late, being nervous, or saying inappropriate things. In the same way, new recruits sometimes ruin their first sales call or fail to interact sensibly with new acquaintances at social gatherings.

In fact, there are a number of things they can do to create a great first impression, Ms Cheung said. These include greeting people sincerely with a warm smile and shaking hands in an engaging manner.

She pointed out that there are many rules to follow in order to execute all these details perfectly, but the key is to always treat people exactly as you would like to be treated. "This should give you a good idea of how firm your handshake should be," she noted.

People sometimes judge others by their appearance even before starting a conversation. Beauty quotient (BQ) complements IQ and emotional intelligence when it comes to communication, she said.

While professional grooming is a vast topic, Ms Cheung offered a few quick tips. Rule number one is to always dress "tone on tone". In other words, choose a shirt, trousers, tie, shoes and briefcase from a similar colour palette.

She added that it is important to limit the number of colourful additions in an outfit to a maximum of three shades. She also cautioned the audience to never wear newly purchased clothes on an important day. This is not only a precaution for those careless about removing price tags, but because it is always advisable to first try out new clothes to feel how they fit when you are standing, sitting or walking around.

Ms Cheung also advised the audience to respect dress codes specified by the organisers of social and networking events and to always keep an extra tie, accessories or jacket handy for a last-minute change.

People may interpret the "smart casual" dress code specified on an invitation in different ways and in some cases, it may be necessary to put on that emergency tie, scarf or jacket in order not to look out of place.

Appropriate dress can also be a matter of personal preference. "You will never be fully confident if you don't like the clothes you're wearing," remarked Ms Cheung, who worked as a grooming consultant for former Legislative Council member Regina Ip during her election campaign last year.

She explained that she started off by browsing through Mrs Ip's wardrobe to get to know her preferences before picking the best colours and designs, helping her to dress comfortably, professionally, and confidently during the campaign.

The positive change in public perception towards Mrs Ip's image showed how tailoring and grooming, together with other public relations tactics, can effectively communicate a person's character and personal values.

Inner beauty

Even people who are outwardly attractive sometimes neglect their inner beauty, which is equally significant and reflects fundamental friendliness and sincerity, Ms Cheung pointed out. The way people talk, their choice of words and gestures may affect how others perceive them. But importantly, she noted that people should behave consistently and sincerely.

She cautioned, "This essentially affect one's long-term perception of you and how much they trust you, which determines the ultimate success of the relationship." According to Ms Cheung, people must also take into consideration an array of social and business manners. "The right etiquette helps them to get along better with people they meet in their daily lives," she said.

Examples of decent business etiquette include standing up when someone comes to your seat and speaks to you, and presenting your business card in such a manner that your name can be easily read.

Ms Cheung suggested that the audience observe how others handle delicate issues professionally, so that they can familiarise themselves with small gestures and actions that can go a long way.

Since building successful long-term relationships is an important skill, Ms Cheung provided the audience with a handy acronym for the core principles of effective communication: SAFETY. This stands for "space", "affirmation", "forgiveness", "edification", "trust" and "you".

Grooming, good manners and skills in relationship management do not develop overnight, Ms Cheung stressed. Just as one visit to the gym cannot bring the same results as a long-term exercise regime, people cannot do it all at the last minute.

Taken from Career Times 29 May 2009, p. B6
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