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Success in Three Seconds

By Marty Nemko

My brain is so cluttered that no matter how good an idea I hear about, if it’s more than a mouthful long, I’ll probably forget it. In case any of you are like me, here are my favorite work-related things you can say in three seconds or less.

For job seekers

Imagine a respected friend told you about a great employee who would soon be available. If you were an employer, mightn’t you interview him? So, in your job search, tell every well-connected person you know, “Would you tell a few people I’m available?”

In an interview, tell a prospective employer: “Here are my strengths and here are my weaknesses. (List them.) Should I be working here?” The wrong employer will say no. The right one will say yes.

If you’d really like to land a particular job, don’t be afraid to use emotional sentences like, “I love the idea of working for you.” or “I’m really excited at the prospect of working here.”

In a negotiation, say, “Here are my non-negotiables." You’re more likely to get what you want if you ask for it, straight up.

For everyone

Often, people work diligently on things that aren’t most important. So, when in doubt, ask yourself or your boss, “What’s top priority?”

The best time-saving tip I can give you is to always ask yourself, “What’s the most time-effective way to do this?” Perhaps you can take a shortcut that wouldn’t matter much, or decide to spend less time on the fun but non-essential part, or find someone to help you with the hard part. If you don’t know the most time-effective way, ask someone.

Ask for what you want: “I’d really like: (insert the reasonable thing you want.)” You probably can survive a no unless you were doing poorly on a job and decided to ask for a raise. That could get you fired.

Whether you’re employed by others or are self-employed, you have customers. Put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself, “What does my customer (really) want? If you don’t know ask them.

So often, we proceed in blithe oblivion to our failings. So ask respected people, “I’d appreciate some honest feedback.”

Everyone loves to be asked, “What do you think?” Here’s a variation to use in a meeting, “Having listened to all of you, I’m wondering whether (insert your idea.) What do you think?”

“What would Jesus do? (Feel free to insert Moses, Mohammed, Buddha, the Wise Secular Humanist, etc.) So often, we are tempted to do the unethical thing. Or aren’t even sure what the right thing to do is. You could do worse than to use any of the above as a consultant.

These days, you can’t poke fun at women and certainly not at minorities. But men, especially white men are fair game. If you don’t think that’s fair, consider asking the teller of a male-bashing joke, “Would you make such a statement about women? Minorities?” If you’re shy about doing that, remember that one of the first ways women and minorities let it be known that they deserved to be treated with respect was to politely insist that sexist or racist jokes were verboten. White males deserve no less.

“I really appreciate that.” Telling that to someone is great. Even better, put it in a handwritten note.

So many women have a thing about shoes. So, especially right before you’re asking something of a woman who wears nice shoes, it couldn’t hurt to say, “Great shoes!”

When you’re criticized or fired, it’s easy to get furious and then curl up in a ball and cry. If you can muster the courage, channel any anger into, “I’ll show that sonofabitch!”

I’ve found myself, in a number of work interactions, feeling a close bond with a person, purely platonic. I’ve found that saying “I love you,” even abetted with a platonic hug can be wonderful for both parties. If you’re worried about a sexual harassment suit, offer a clarifier, something like, “Of course, I don’t mean this in an inappropriate way, but I love you.”

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