Keeping Your Career on Track–The Easy Way

March 23rd, 2017

Keeping Your Career on Track–The Easy Way
Part 2

This week, we continue our career path topic and delve into the slightly more complicated subject of what to do when you either don’t have career growth options with the current company or you have options but no mentorship infrastructure to help guide you on your way.

Your current employer isn’t in line with your ultimate goal
This scenario can exist if there are no positions to grow into, if there is no turnover that would allow growth, or if your current employer is not the industry you’re interested in pursuing. Nearly every situation adds value of some kind to your experience and to your skillset, so this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to jump ship right away. Depending on your situation, you may want to have a talk with your current manager to let them know where you are. The open approach is ideal but not always an option, depending on your individual situation and the type of manager/supervisor you have.

But either way, start thinking about companies and opportunities that could be a good next step. Since you have a job and income to pay your bills, you can take some time to evaluate options and the next steps that will best serve your ultimate goal. Try to find companies that offer lots of room for growth so you don’t have to jump around too much to make steps up the ladder. And in larger companies, you would likely have a manager to assist you in reaching your goals.

You’re working with a difficult manager
Let’s say you’re working for a company that does have opportunities for growth, which we discussed in last week’s post; however, what should you do if your manager is not someone who is going to help you grow?

The most effective leaders get to know their employees, their strengths, and their interests. And with that information, they work with the employee to create goals and assist that individual through the career process. When this happens, the employee is happy, and the company is successful. It creates a win-win scenario. But what do you do if your manager will not be of assistance when it comes to your career? There are several possible outcomes, and there is no one blog that can really tell you what to do. But with that said, we can at least try to give you some ideas of where to start.

You may be in a situation where you can still grow within the company but will need to do so of your own volition. In this scenario, you would be responsible for learning more about the opportunities available, the process, and also setting yourself up with goals and a path.

In some cases, you may find HR to be helpful. They may be able to offer information about possible career options or even refer you to other contacts in the company who could help. Or within your department, maybe there’s another coworker who has gone through the growth process and can give you some helpful feedback. Mentorship comes in many forms!

The last (and most unfortunate possibility) is that you may have to find another job. While I don’t like to encourage a dramatic course of action like this, it’s also important to realize that your career path and career planning are a very big deal. If you don’t have a way to set yourself up for success, it will make the process significantly more challenging and will reduce your chance of reaching your goals. Don’t jump to this conclusion too quickly, but also don’t underestimate the value of your path.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

Keeping Your Career on Track–The Easy Way

March 14th, 2017

Keeping Your Career on Track–The Easy Way
Part 1

Feeling good about how your career is progressing? If so, then right on! Keep up the good work. But if you’re feeling like you’ve strayed from the path a bit, that’s ok! It’s actually really easy to get caught up in what I would call the daily operations routine, immersed in the small picture of day-to-day life. But when that happens, it can pull us away from accomplishing our career goals. There’s no time like the present, however, to step back and look at the big picture for the sake of some strategic career planning.

First step
Where do you want to be in your career? Are you dreaming of becoming a digital marketing manager, a senior accountant, or an HR administrator? As you can imagine, they all have drastically different paths. At the big-picture level, try simply to get an idea of where you want to be. And it’s totally ok for that goal to fluctuate over time as you grow. We’re not looking to etch anything in stone right now; we just need a starting point.

Once you have that goal in mind, let’s take a look at your current situation to see how well it aligns you with your career path.

1. What type of company are you working in?
2. Is your company in the industry that you want?
3. What types of opportunities do they have that could help you on your path?
4. And if they have positions that are conducive to your path, how likely is it that you could get one of those jobs? For example, if there is no turnover in those roles, it may be difficult to find your way in.
5. Or maybe your company simply doesn’t have opportunities. What do you do then?

For this week, we’re focused on the scenario where you have options with your current company. In the next installment, we’ll look at other scenarios, so check back soon to get the full scoop!

What’s next?
It’s time to have an open conversation with your supervisor/manager, if you haven’t done so already. This is where you set the scene with a mentor who will help with your path. When your manager has the big picture of where you hope to go, he or she can start setting the stage for you and guide you all the way to the top.

During this talk, ask about the steps and what the progression looks like. Take notes. Set up an actual game plan so you know what to do on a daily basis to keep the process going. They give you the tools, but you’re ultimately the one who’s responsible for actually making it happen. So moving forward, you’ll want to have regular meetings to check in and make sure everything is on track. This way, you’re maintaining the big-picture focus while also ensuring that daily, weekly, and monthly steps are happening.

And along the way, you’ll receive coaching and all the help you need to keep honing skills that will make you marketable for the next position within your path. This process of reflection and mentorship are things you’ll do all the way up the ladder. And someday, you may have the chance to pay it forward by coaching a junior employee with similar aspirations!

~ Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

Handle that Next Job Fair Like a Pro!

March 7th, 2017

Ready to amp up your job search? Spring is just around the corner! In the world of job searches, that can only mean one thing—-time for job fairs! Let’s look at some simple ways to shine at jobs fairs and also brief you on how job fairs can be a helpful resource.


Attire
As always, our suggestion is to put your best foot forward. The rule of thumb? Dress for success! A typical job fair will feel like a series of very short interviews, so why not wear interview attire? That day, the job fair folks you speak to are going to chat with a large number of potential applicants, making it easy for them to forget their interaction with you. Interview attire can be a great way to really stand out from the pack-—in a good way. And conversely, it’s quite possible to stand out in the not-so-good way if you show up dressed extremely casually.

Expectations
When it comes to expectations, it’s best not to have any. That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your homework or prepare. Certainly, check out the employers ahead of time and make a list of your must-meet representatives. But going into the actual fair, expect to plant a lot of seeds having no idea which ones will grow.

By that I simply mean that a job fair isn’t necessarily a place where you find a specific job you would like to apply to. In your conversations, you can check with the rep to see what they have for current jobs, but a better investment of this opportunity is to have a conversation. The question about open jobs seems productive at first, but any job listings a rep has could change so quickly that you could spend time pursuing a specific role that ends up no longer available by the time you complete the application process. Or on the other extreme, you may skip over a company due to lack of interesting opportunities at the fair and then miss out a few weeks later if they suddenly have a job opening that would have been perfect for you. It’s impossible to see exactly what lies ahead, so the best approach is to assume that everyone you meet could be your next stepping stone into a great career.

What do I say?
Talk to everyone! As we mentioned in the above section, target your must-meet vendors but also stop by and visit with the other reps because you never know who will be able to help you. Ask them about their company, the culture, the types of roles they typically see come up, etc. And in having that conversation, you’re forming a relationship with the rep and letting them know that you’re not looking for a job; you’re looking for a career. So if something does come up on their website after the fair, you can apply for the job but then also contact that rep directly and improve your chances of getting in the door for the interview.

Written by Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

How to Interview Like a Boss–The Candidate Edition

February 28th, 2017

Interviews tend to take one of two approaches: conversational or structured. In the structured model, the candidate faces a focused series of questions, sort of like an interrogation. And as the name implies, the conversational option is a natural discourse where questions are asked, but most of the information is gathered through what feels like a relaxed interaction. Since one has no way to know which method an interviewer will take, it’s important to be prepared for either.

The structured method
For most candidates, it seems like structured is not their first choice. Admittedly, it can seem stiff and rigid. And in most cases, it doesn’t easily allow a candidate many opportunities to bring his/her personality into the mix, but there are still some redeeming qualities. First, this method is very direct and straightforward; one doesn’t usually find a lot of surprises here, so it’s very easy to prepare. And second, you can still find ways to let your personality shine! The questions may be delivered a bit systematically, but your response can still be complete and something that reflects your unique personality. Some interviewers won’t outwardly respond to your personalization efforts; some won’t even crack a smile. That doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t find ways to add your personal touch.

Also, it can be challenging to maintain a steady pace with answering. Since the interview tends to feel quicker without the small talk, candidates often rush their answers. The good news: there is absolutely no rule that requires you to rush. After the question, it’s still ok to reflect for a few moments to formulate your response. And when you deliver your answer, you aren’t required to give a rapid-fire answer. Take your time to deliver a thorough and intelligent response, and again, let your personality shine!

The conversational method
As candidates, why do we all love this one so much? It makes us feel comfortable! The reality is that interviews can be stressful, and it seems less painful if we can at least relax and be ourselves, right? This is true, but it can have a way of hurting us if we’re not careful.

By getting candidates in a more relaxed state of mind, interviewers can oftentimes get a less filtered response. All of this can be a very good thing for candidates unless we become so comfortable that we stop choosing words thoughtfully. For example, let’s say you have a great way to explain why your manager was the reason you left your last job. However, if you feel overly comfortable with your interviewer, you may casually mention that you left because your supervisor was nothing more than a paper-pushing middle manager with a Napoleon complex. That doesn’t sound quite as nice as the explanation that involved work/life balance issues and concerns with a management style that would occasionally feel like micromanagement.

Final thoughts
In short, neither of these methods is right or wrong, and both are effective at capturing information, despite their opposing approaches. With a little self-reflection and some planning, you can easily be a success regardless of your interviewer’s approach.

~ Adam Lafield, Recruiter & Marketing Specialist

How to Interview Like a Boss

February 22nd, 2017

Have you ever thought about why you interview the way you do? Is it because of training you received, or maybe it is a result of the comfort level you felt while on the other side of the interview table. Very few hiring managers have ever received formal training on how to successfully conduct interviews when looking for new team members. Since hiring the right people is an essential part of company success, choosing the right interview style is also essential.

There are many different ways to conduct an interview, but from a fundamental standpoint, you will use either a conversational or structured format.

Structured Interview:
The structured interview is more formal, and as it sounds – structured in format. For this type of interview you will have a prepared list of questions for the interviewee. To the candidate, this type of interview may feel like they are a contestant on a quiz show. The structured interview is great for digging into technical skills, subject matter knowledge, and details on prior work experience. At times, this interview can be more stressful for the candidate and can provide you with some insight into how they may perform under pressure. The downside to the quiz show method is the limited ability to get insight into the candidate’s personality and feel for cultural fit within the team.

Conversational Interview:
The conversational format is typically more free-flowing, informal, and may feel more like you are having a conversation with a friend over a cup of coffee. Usually the interview starts with reviewing the resume and follow-up questions naturally flow based upon the answers provided. This type of interview is typically more comfortable for the interviewee and allows them to open up and share more of their personality allowing you some insight into a potential team fit. Sometimes the candidate may overshare and tell you things you need to disregard as part of the hiring decision process because the topics are off-limits from a legal standpoint, like health issues, marital and family status, age, etc. As a possible downside, you may realize after the interview you didn’t ask some key questions you intended to ask because the conversation took a different direction. This can make the decision how to proceed forward with the candidate more challenging.

How should you pick which method to use? Well, it depends on a few things. First, the method that appeals most to your personality might be the most comfortable for you and therefore yield the best results. Sometimes it may be situational. If you want to really learn more about their technical skills, knowledge and experience, you may need to default to a structured interview. On the other hand, maybe you are on the second interview and feel confident the skills are there and need to determine cultural fit, so a conversational format may be ideal.

Preparing for an interview requires some preplanning and choosing your interview style is one key ingredient in the recipe for hiring the right talent.

~ Written by Tiffany Appleton

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!

image-leaving-your-job

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.

job-board-blog-pic

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.

Cover Letters Pic

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!

new-year-blog-pic

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