How to deal with difficult customers

Just hearing the words “customer service” can make retailers and consumers cringe. Yet providing quality customer care is often what differentiates a company from its rivals. And when you have an angry customer, your skills (and patience) are put to the test. Time to pass that test with flying colors.

“With the digital disruption we’re having today, customer loyalty is really dropping for a lot of businesses,” says John DiJulius, a customer service consultant and author of The Relationship Economy: Building Stronger Customer Connections in the Digital Age. “The best differentiator you can make is to form an emotional connection with your customer. And when you think about the great customer service giants that are out there—[companies like] Disney, Southwest, Nordstrom, Apple—those companies do drop the ball on occasion, but when they make a mistake they make it right for their customers.”

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Reconnect with your professional network

Professional networking is key to career development, but there are only so many hours in the day you can devote to it. Ideally, you’d keep in regular contact with your entire network so that your connections are on tap when you need them for, say, a reference or a job lead. But, alas, we’re all human, and things can get in the way of our even best laid plans.

“Keeping in touch with professionals in your sphere is a great thing to do, but more urgent tasks, like a pressing deadline, often take precedent,” says Devora Zack, CEO of Only Connect Consulting and author of Networking for People Who Hate Networking. “A lot of times, staying connected with people falls to the bottom of your to-do list.”

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How to tell if job cuts are coming

Getting handed a pink slip and being told to pack up your desk and exit your office is a terrible experience, no doubt—but it happens. Companies have job cuts for a number of reasons, and oftentimes these layoffs aren’t a reflection of a worker’s performance, which means there’s little you can do to prevent the inevitable. The people who land on their feet, though, are the ones who can spot a layoff before it happens.

So, how can you tell if your job might be in jeopardy? Check out some clues that a pink slip may have your name on it in the near future—and what you can do to keep your career moving forward.

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How to answer the job interview question: Describe your ideal work environment

Job seekers and employers alike care a lot about cultural fit, so when you’re asked in a job interview to describe your ideal work environment, you can be sure everyone in the room is interested in what you have to say. According to one survey, 88% of recruiters said cultural fit is important when assessing job candidates. Likewise, job seekers want to find a work environment that suits their personality and work preferences, says executive coach and HR consultant Paul Thallner. In fact, 73% of respondents to a recent Monster survey said they have left at least one job that wasn’t the right fit for them.

Knowing the type of work environment that allows you to thrive is half the battle. You also have to know how to answer the question without unintentionally knocking yourself out of the running for the job. Take these steps to prepare a well-crafted answer.

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How to explain why you’ve been job hopping

Job hopping can be a strategic way to move up in your career, but prospective employers might look at your resume with one eyebrow raised. After all, they want to hire someone who will commit to their company, and if you’ve switched jobs a few times in a few years, well, that will surely be something you must be prepared to talk about.

You’re not the only job-hopping candidate out there. According to the most recent statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, wage and salary workers had been with their current employer for a median of 4.2 years in January 2018. The tenure of workers ages 55 to 64 was 10.1 years, more than three times that of workers ages 25 to 34 (2.8 years). That indicates a generational shift in attitude with regards to just how long it’s appropriate to remain in a job.

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Illegal interview questions that employers shouldn’t ask you

Job interviews can make even the most prepared candidates uncomfortable. But although the hiring manager is in the driver’s seat, there’s a chance they’ll make a wrong turn and ask a question that is off limits—a question that you don’t have to answer, and sometimes definitely shouldn’t. That’s why you need to be able to spot illegal interview questions.

“Even trained hiring managers and recruiters sometimes ask illegal questions,” says Charles Krugel, an HR attorney in Chicago.

The Civil Rights Act of l964 “prohibits employment discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex and national origin.” As a job seeker, you want to be able to spot red flags that could indicate you’re not being treated fairly. These five interview questions are illegal for potential employers to ask you.

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How to handle five types of toxic co-workers

Like toxic waste, toxic co-workers have to be handled with care. And it’s not healthy to have prolonged exposure to either.

“Whether it’s chronic backstabbing, extreme defensiveness, narcissism, cruelty, bias, discrimination or other forms of mistreatment or misbehavior that they demonstrate, [toxic co-workers] are intolerable to work with or be around for an extended period,” says Kathy Caprino, founder of Connecticut-based career-coaching firm Ellia Communications. “They’re toxic because they’re like a poison to your system and to the organization’s ecosystem, making it hard to maintain your own well-being, professionalism, and collaborative spirit when you’re around them.”

Worse yet, working with a toxic co-worker can negatively impact your job performance and even derail your career if they’re allowed to continue their behavior.

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