THE BRIEF: Grow BIG by Thinking Small

February 14th, 2017

THE BRIEF
Success, one idea at a time

Grow BIG By Thinking small
It’s easy to set a goal and not accomplish it. That’s what most of us do. It’s not that we don’t appreciate how great it would be to set and achieve goals, but this little thing called human nature stands in our way, pretty consistently. The idea of reaching for something “great” ahead can be consumed by fear and intimidation as soon as we realize there are 52 steps between us and our intended destination. (Exaggerating of course, unless you are climbing the pyramid at Chitzen Itza, then we’re talking 91 steps to the top.)

Why It’s Important to Think Small

“Nothing is particularly hard if you divide it into small jobs” – Henry Ford

Success is contingent on the ability to think small. We are talking increments. Steps. Stages. Tiers. Henry Ford was a success story, not because he was immune to feelings of discouragement or fear. He is an icon of business innovation and success because he recognized the challenge to stick to his goals and did something about it. He dreamed of the big picture, and focused on the smaller steps to get there.

How We Grow Big By Thinking Small
Growing big means success. From the moment children can speak, they often refer to their size and desire to “get big”. They recognize that with both physical stature and ability, the world is their oyster. Where do we want to “get big”? Where do we want to improve and grow? In both our personal and professional lives, the possibilities are endless. Like Henry Ford, our success is dependent on our ability to think small. Here’s how you do it:

Focus on one step. Own it. The completion of one step will prepare you for the next.

Looking to bring physical order to your office space? Don’t think the entire space. Think: 1 file to close, 1 corner of the room to organize, 1 item to eliminate. Looking to make headway on a passion project? Don’t think building a company. Think: 1 inspiring conversation, 1 phone call to a potential client, draft 1 email to someone you want to join your network. Think about your big picture goal and break it down into steps you can complete on a daily, weekly or monthly basis. Start each morning with a mindful question: What can I accomplish today that will bring me one step closer to my goal?

If accomplishing one step feels too simplistic, think of it another way: There is more joy in accomplishing a small step, versus the joy of dreaming of a lofty goal and never reaching it.

Growing big is all about the journey. Each step is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves, what we want out of life. Each step allow us to build relationships, boost confidence and add to the dynamics of who we are. Instead of focusing on the sum of the steps ahead (like the 91 to the top of the pyramid), think about the 1 step you are on. What will this step teach me? How will this one step get me closer to where I want to be? How can I expand my way of thinking so as to be open to new ideas?
Asking ourselves simple questions is a great way to start. Consider your answers to be your first small steps to growing big. You got this!

Lenore Braun, Placement Specialist

It’s Time to Move On–How to Give Notice

February 7th, 2017

Have you ever been in a job where you’ve really just hit the wall and think that maybe it’s time to go? You’ve talked to supervisors about your options, done coaching, thought about internal job opportunities (if any are available) and parting ways is still the best option. We’ve all been there at some point. Now, what really separates amateurs from professionals is how you handle the next steps. Let’s ensure you remain on the path of the professional!

Accept a job that’s the right match
This part is really important. Sometimes, it can be tempting to just take whatever you can get for the sake of getting out of your current position. It can seem like a good idea at the time because it accomplishes your goals, but we want to make sure you stay happy in your new job for a long, long time. Some self-reflection can save the day!

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First, really understand why it is that you’re looking for something new. Let’s say you’re feeling micromanaged at work and would like to find something that gives you more independence. In that case, applying to a call center may not be the best choice since those environments are often very structured. Or if you’re finding that there isn’t room to advance because the company is too small, applying to a mom-and-pop shop may be something to avoid. Making the job change may seem great for 6 months or so, but you likely will end up back in the same predicament because the new job and old job share similar characteristics.

Also, know your limitations when it comes to pay, commute, etc. Being in an unhappy job situation is definitely stressful, but changing to a job that doesn’t pay enough brings a new kind of stress into your life. No one wants that! And with commute, an extra 20 or 30 minutes each way can extend your daily work routine by 45-60 minutes. For anyone leasing a car, adding an extra 25 miles per day to your commute could jeopardize your plan to stay within the miles on your contract.

Ultimately, what we want to help you avoid is early burnout in a job and the consequent desire to leave the new job within 6 months or a year. It’s tough on you because of the stress, and it can be a real hindrance to your career.

Give notice
When the time does come, it’s always important to give notice. Two weeks is the standard. But with that said, I’ve certainly had times where I’ve given more, depending on what my role was. Giving notice allows your current employer the chance to get the ball rolling on their staffing needs, and it also ensures that you’re leaving on good terms. When you’ve invested years of your life and career with a company and people, it’s always a shame to burn that bridge and lose out on positive references.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter

Stand Out on Job Boards–The Good Way!

February 2nd, 2017

Of the many job search resources out there, the job boards (Indeed, CareerBuilder, Monster, etc.) are certainly some of the most popular. We see dozens of resumes coming from these sources everyday, and they are a great way to get your resume out to several employers with one click of the mouse. So with that said, we have a few observations to share with you so you can ensure you’re really putting your best foot forward on those websites.

Keep your data-entry clean
While some of this may go without saying, it’s actually very easy to make these mistakes if you don’t have the big picture of how these sites format information. In your profile, much of the information about work, experience, skills, etc. is something employers can view. So when completing those textboxes, treat that information as if it were your resume (and it actually might become your resume, but we’ll get to that part in just a bit). Ensure you do not have typographical errors and also watch how you format. For example, if you’re typing a list of skills and would normally use a separate line for each skill, format that accordingly in your textbox as well.

Admittedly, all of this can seem quite tedious, especially considering most applicants go through this process on multiple websites everyday as part of their job search. The trouble, however, is simply that employers will see all of this information, making it a direct reflection of your level of attention to detail and also a gauge for how seriously you’re taking this search. I have also heard of many companies that use this application process as a test; those who haven’t put in the time and effort to get it perfect have essentially screened themselves out of the process. But regardless of a company’s approach on that matter, the attention to detail certainly can make a difference as to whether or not an employer contacts you to set up an interview.

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Job boards often create a resume for you
On some websites, what you type into these textboxes actually becomes your resume for that job board; the website takes all the information from each section and pastes it together to create a resume that is searchable and viewable by employers (in addition to being the resume that you send when you apply to jobs). As you can imagine, little care with the data-entry in this process translates into a resume that is riddled with typos and poorly formatted information. What’s helpful on most job board sites is that you do have the option to view your resume and profile so you can see what employers will see. If you don’t like what you see, simply go back and edit the information until everything is just right.

And last, if you end up attaching a resume from your computer, also remember that employers see the name of your file. It’s not necessarily a crucial piece of the equation, but it certainly can’t hurt to make sure that your file name doesn’t pigeonhole you in some way (for example, applying to an executive administrative assistant job with a resume file that’s named call_center_resume).

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter

How to Ensure Your Hiring Process Stinks!

January 24th, 2017

How to Ensure Your Hiring Process Stinks!
Obviously, no one wants to have a hiring process that stinks or provides less than stellar hires. But if you are not getting the quality of hires you are ultimately seeking, please take an honest look at this list to make sure you are NOT doing any of these things.

To ensure your hiring process stinks, please carefully follow all the following steps.

  1. Write a super boring job description that only discusses the skills and experience the right candidate must have before they walk in the door.
  2. Take forever to review resumes to ensure you have collected all the possible applications before you make any decisions about scheduling interviews.
  3. Save time when scheduling interviews by simply sending an email to each chosen candidate to coordinate the interview date and time. Don’t bother to follow-up to confirm the interview, but if you must, send a form letter email that provides minimal details – the date, time, and address are all they need to be able to show up.
  4. Make sure all the interviewers know not to talk at all about company, team, culture, promotion prospects, learning opportunities or anything that gives the impression your company may be a fun place to work.
  5. Take your time after the interview, as much time as you need, to arrive at a group consensus about who should move forward in the process.
  6. Reach out to those who made the cut to schedule a second interview. Don’t worry about telling those who didn’t make the cut, they will figure it out eventually.
  7. Make sure the second interview is long and tedious. The candidate should meet any and all people they may ever work with.
  8. Even if you are feeling confident about your choice, take the time to schedule a third, fourth or even a fifth interview to guarantee the candidate has answered every question you could imagine.
  9. When it comes time to make an offer, take it slow. Try to figure out the lowest possible salary you think will be accepted. No need to waste any money!
  10. After the offer is accepted, definitely don’t let them know you are happy, do NOT congratulate them, and certainly do not give them any guidance on what to do and how to prepare for the first day of work. Consider your work done.

It is easy to get caught up in the process and not realize one piece of your hiring process is off. A simple tweak could make all the difference in the quality of hires going forward.

~ Written by Tiffany Appleton

Cover Letters Demystified

January 17th, 2017

One of the biggest benefits of a well written cover letter is its ability to connect the dots for a reader. In other words, the resume lists the skills you have, but it’s the cover letter that really explains to the employer why you are a good match for a specific role. To accomplish this, you simply need to select some key items from the job description and illustrate how expertise gained from past positions enables you to meet and exceed the prospective employer’s expectations.

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Admittedly, this part of the process is time-consuming because it forces you to customize the letter as opposed to simply sending the same exact letter for each application. However, this approach can have a huge positive impact on your likelihood of securing an interview. When you close the gap between the job description and your background, employers can instantly see you as a top candidate.

When you apply to jobs and craft multiple cover letters, save each one. As your collection grows, you’ll likely find that customization becomes faster and faster because many of the roles you apply to have similar requirements and responsibilities. And on another positive note, saving cover letters is a somewhat informal method of tracking the positions you have submitted resumes to. This is very helpful when you start receiving call-backs but can’t remember all the places you have applied.

And one last note about using templates and reusing old cover letters. You’ll always want to double check to make sure that you update the employer name, address, etc. on the letter. We have received cover letters accidentally addressed to other companies or that express interest in a specific position that isn’t available through our service. This proofreading step may seems obvious, but it’s actually a very easy mistake to make.

Other ways a cover letter can work in your favor
Aside from having great marketing potential, cover letters are also a perfect way to explain any possible oddities that your resume could reflect. For example, perhaps you just moved to a new part of the country so all your experience is miles away. You can quickly mention that you have officially relocated and are already in the area available for work. This would ease any concerns a resume reviewer could have in terms of your current physical location and readiness to interview or begin a new job.

Or perhaps this role would be a career change and you need to explain why you are choosing a new direction. In situations like that, you’ll want to explain the why but then also illustrate how your skills translate. If you end up applying to jobs that an employer could perceive as being a step down (i.e. you could be over qualified), they may want to know why you have interest in this position.

In any situations like these, the purpose of a cover letter is simply to make it less likely that your resume gets screened out based on assumptions the reader could make (i.e. applicant doesn’t live here, this is a step down for the candidate so clearly not a match, this job isn’t in line with this candidate’s career path, etc.).

New Year’s Resolution: Making It Stick

January 3rd, 2017

The New Year is frequently a time for new beginnings. For many, it’s a fresh start for health and wellness, careers, and mindfulness, just to name a few of the common areas in which we often hope to achieve growth and improvement.

And yet sometimes, we find that despite even our highest of ambitions, things somehow find their way back to old habits. Does this indicate that New Year’s resolutions are a waste of time that inevitably end up failing? No, not really. Taking a moment to create a fresh start for oneself is never a waste of time. The flaw tends to lay more with a tendency we have to make unreasonable goals (but with the best possible intentions, of course). Luckily, there is a fairly easy fix!

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For example, take a look at those making a major fitness commitment. For someone not working out weekly, a new commitment of just 3 days a week is actually a major change to one’s routine and lifestyle. But for most of us, 3 days per week doesn’t seem terribly ambitious (especially after copious amounts of holiday treats), so we all tend to gravitate more to the extreme and decide that 5-6 days per week should be reasonable enough. In reality, such a drastic change to one’s routine typically turns out to be rather difficult to maintain in the long-term, especially when we factor in full-time careers, school, children, family obligations, etc. So when our goals are unreasonable, they typically don’t work out quite the way we had hoped.

The simple reality is that no major changes ever take hold in one’s life unless allowed to become a habit. There are differing opinions out there as to how long that really takes, but sources seem to agree that it’s at least more than a month, with many claiming that it could be as long as 2-3 months. So if you go all-out 5 days per week, you may max out the honeymoon stage of your life change before a habit officially forms. It’s not impossible to create the habit after the honeymoon is over, but it certainly does take a lot more discipline. What often ends up happening is that frustration and stress set in and we end up abandoning our goal altogether—until the following New Year, at least.

On the other hand, a more reasonable approach could be to ease into a new life change more gradually. In the case of the gym, let’s try 3-4 days per week and see how it works. Have fun; enjoy the honeymoon stage. Let your new lifestyle become habit before you lose your steam. Once it’s habit, everything comes easier. And if 3-4 days per week is a cinch, you can always add more days!

In any event, that’s just one example. The same concept really applies to any big change. Ambition and zeal are good things; they get the fire started. But if the fire burns too hard and too fast, it burns up all the fuel within a short period of time. So whether you’re looking to get back into shape, find a brilliant new career, or simply become a more positive person in the New Year, just focus on baby steps. They’ll get you to your goal.

And if you have a set-back, you can always regroup and try again. There’s no rule that obligates you to get it right the first time. And there’s no rule saying you have to wait for the new year to have a fresh start. Every day is a new day and a chance to make positive change in your life.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter

A Common Interviewing Mistake You Must Avoid

December 13th, 2016

We understand. Sometimes the interview is intimidating! And in some cases, it would just feel better and easier if you could connect with the interviewer on a more personal level so the whole process just flows easily like a conversation. In many ways, that approach works! However, it can become problematic if one attempts to form that connection using topics that fall into the conversation danger zone. Let’s look a bit closer at what these subject areas are and why it’s best to just avoid them altogether.

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The classic controversies to avoid
We all know that we aren’t supposed to talk about things like religion or politics during interviews—or really in many of our daily casual interactions with others. The most obvious reason is simply the fact that you wouldn’t want to offend the person with whom you are speaking, especially since you’re hoping to receive a job offer! So needless to say, if you offend your interviewer with controversial talk, the odds of getting hired will begin to stack up against you.

However, it actually gets a bit more complex than just offensiveness. In fact, it’s quite possible for the interviewer to actually genuinely agree with your viewpoints but still consider this conversation to count against you as an applicant. That may seem counterintuitive, so let’s break it down.

If you were working for this company, you would automatically be a representative of the organization in all your interactions with the public. And with interviews in general, interviewers consider this to be a moment where you are putting forth your best professional self. If your most polished professional self is already breaking the rules here, interviewers may have doubts about your ability to stay diplomatic with customers, clients, etc. So while he or she could be comfortably chatting with you about their similar viewpoint, they actually could be wondering why you brought this up and what it means about your interpersonal skills.

None of this is to say that you shouldn’t engage in ANY personal conversations with interviewers! When trying to form the connection and make this a conversation, it’s important to find the balance; certainly form a personal connection, but you’ll want to do so while also maintaining the professional connection that is equally important. We are all human and enjoy interactions more when we can have meaningful conversations with others. It’s certainly acceptable to be yourself, make conversation, and form a connection. But with conversations that are also a business transaction of sorts, it’s just always advisable to use a bit of a filter and make sure none of those controversial conversations sneak in.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter

The Value in Job Searching During the Holidays

December 6th, 2016

The holiday season has begun! In terms of the job search, this is typically a time of year when candidates step back a bit and focus their attention in other directions. Reasons for that vary, but frequently this happens due to the assumption that no one is really hiring during the holidays. If your life during this time of year gets so overwhelming that it really does command your full attention, then by all means, maintain that focus and set the job search on the back burner until January! However, if you’re taking a break from the search because you feel that employers aren’t hiring, you may be missing out on a chance to really gain some traction in the candidate market.

First, it’s of course true that some employers aren’t hiring this time of year. In some cases, it could be the end of the fiscal year, so hiring is on hold while everything is finalized. And then in other situations, there could be so many folks on vacations and out of the office that it just makes sense to hold off until things go back to normal in January.

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But with that said, the hiring activity does not completely die off; there are still employers out there in need of top candidates to fill valuable positions within their organization. That’s the first key point here. But there is a great advantage that may seem less obvious. As we’ve already mentioned, many applicants stop applying for jobs during the holidays. So for whatever jobs that do become available, there is likely going to be a lower volume of incoming applications and less competition for those that do choose to apply. The holiday season could be a great opportunity for your resume to stand out even more than it would otherwise.

And last, the other reason to keep the ball rolling right now is that your competition will likely surge after the holidays are over. Once the New Year arrives, it’s a time when many are focused on new beginnings and a fresh start in several aspects of life. As a result, we typically see a huge influx of new applications during the month of January—making it the polar opposite of the volume that we see now. So if you have a little time this holiday season to keep the applications flowing, we encourage you to go for it! By grabbing every chance you have to stand out as a star candidate, you’re boosting your chances of starting off the New Year on a very positive note.

Adam Lafield, Recruiter

Habit 6: Synergize®

November 30th, 2016

SERIES: The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
(Author Stephen Covey)

Habit 6: Synergize®

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Aristotle

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“Synergize”
The Merriam-Webster dictionary definition of synergize is “to cooperate with another or others, especially to remedy something”. From a medical perspective, it means “to increase the activity of (a substance)”. From a business perspective, synergy can be the life blood of a company that relies on a team to get the job done. The process of cooperating with others in an open and creative way can bring about results superior to those achieved by an individual.

How does this apply to my personal and professional life?
For those of us who work in a team environment, we know that it comes with its benefits and challenges. We each bring our own unique experiences, ideas, values, and personalities to the group. Working in a synergistic way with our colleagues requires a genuine openness to the insights of others. It is a willingness to suspend our own track of thought or set way of doing things.

At the heart of synergy is valuing what makes us different. Unity can exist even amongst the most diverse group of people. A diverse team is exciting, dynamic, and successful…If the members of the team value the unique attributes of one another. Synergy in a business environment can act much like it does in the medical world. It can “increase the activity of” a unit. When ideas, questions, visions, and even criticism can flow freely within a group, the natural outcome is greater productivity. A continual exchange of information and opinions will free minds to work incessantly at planning and improving.

What can I do?
Take a moment to look at the team you work with every day. What does each person bring to the group that you yourself do not? Does someone have expertise in a particular field that allows them insight into certain industries? Does someone else have a very logical mind and provide structure to complicated projects? Find a way to make note of and value the unique contributions of each person. Then seek out those individuals for their advice and thoughts on a regular basis. As individuals, we are capable of only so much. By tapping into the pools of talent around us and letting them flow into our minds and methods, we can achieve things beyond our own abilities.

~Erin Counter~

The Secret of Asking Questions During Interviews

November 22nd, 2016

You’re in an interview and it’s going great! You told them about yourself, discussed strengths and weaknesses with ease and tact, and you even aced the behavioral-based questions with applicable examples from your past employment. Phew! You’re just about to give yourself a well deserved pat on the back when out comes a question you weren’t prepared for. “What questions do you have for me?”

We’ve all had that panic moment. Actually, I had an interview once where I had finished speaking with the executive director and thought (with fairly good reason) that I was done. And then, surprise! I was suddenly having an impromptu meeting with a director of a completely different department and had absolutely no questions ready for this individual. Well, the good news was that I still got the job! So it’s not necessarily true that not having questions is an automatic disqualification. But with that said, it’s still certainly ideal to have something ready to go!

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When it comes to questions, it’s always better to have too many—-mostly because some of your questions will be answered during the course of the interview conversation. Also, don’t stress yourself out by trying to remember the questions. It’s more than acceptable for you to have a notebook and pen to not only jot down items of importance but also so you have your questions written down and won’t forget them in the heat of the moment. Furthermore, writing notes as the interviewer answers your questions shows that you do actually care about the responses and the information you’re receiving.

Great things to ask during an interview
What do you love most about the company you work for?
What does a typical day in this position look like?
What are you looking for in a candidate?

Things to avoid during the initial interview(s)
Basic questions about the company
Doing so implies that you haven’t done any research on the company, which makes interviewers wonder why you have interest in a company that you don’t know much about. Instead, do some research on the company and then ask questions based on the information you found.

Salary, benefits, paid time off, etc.
If the interviewer brings it up, then certainly discuss it. But if they don’t mention it, it’s best saved for a later part in the process and let this interview be all about the opportunity itself.

How long before you can bid on other jobs?
It’s great to be excited about the chance to grow with an organization! In an interview, it’s a good idea to ask about the advancement opportunities. When wording your question, just avoid asking for specifics about how long you have to stay in the current role. It can make an interviewer feel like you don’t really have interest in the job and want out as quickly as possible.

In short, the best questions are those that show you have interest in the company and that you’re very interested in learning more. And it’s ideal if those questions show that you have done your homework on the company and have really given a lot of thought to this position and the opportunities. The ideas given here certainly are just the beginning. Good luck and happy interviewing!

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter