Your Best Job-Search Resource: Staffing Services De-Mystified

July 17th, 2014

In other posts, we’ve talked about the benefits of a staffing service, the flexibility of temporary work, and all the opportunities one can find through a service. However, we really never defined some key staffing service lingo or explained how all this works! So here it goes.

Temporary (AKA contract)
Just as the name implies, these assignments have a specific end date. There may be someone on medical/maternity leave, a seasonal increase in business, or a special project. These are just some of the possible reasons a client may have need for a temporary employee. The timeframe varies rather widely. Some assignments are just one day or a couple weeks, and others could be for as long as a year! On average, they tend to be around 2-3 months long.

And a quick note about some other terms that can be rather confusing. The labels full-time and part-time really refer more to number of hours worked per week; it’s not an indication as to whether a job is temporary or permanent. Actually, it’s quite possible to have a full-time job that’s temporary or a direct-hire position that is part-time.

Temp-to-hire (AKA temp-to-perm)
In the temp-to-hire scenario, the client is looking to fill this position on a permanent basis. And while this trial period allows them to see if things work out from their end, it’s also a fabulous chance for you to test out the job and see what you think. If at the end of the trial period both you and the client are happy with the match, then the job offer would typically follow. The length of time for this trial period varies. But overall, it usually averages out to about 3 months or so if you’re working full-time hours. So it actually functions very similarly to the 90-day probationary period that many employers use.

Direct hire
In this scenario, the company is using the staffing service to help with the sourcing and interviewing of applicants. But when the client selects someone for the position, that individual is an employee of the client company from the very first day on the job.

The process and what to expect

While it varies a bit from one staffing service to the next, the process typically unfolds like this:

  1. Get started with the application, which is often found at the staffing service website. Be sure to submit your resume!
  2. Interview in-person with the staffing service. You can talk a bit more about your background, skills, preferences, etc. This conversation is crucial; it paints the picture of what you’re looking for!
  3. The process may include computer evaluations and reference checks

That should give you an idea of the basic language you’ll encounter in the world of staffing services. And during this process, a really great staffing service will take the time to get to know you just as thoroughly as they know their business partners. And from there, they can match you with jobs that meet your needs while also meeting the needs of the companies they work with, resulting in a wonderful win-win situation. So now that you’re an expert, get started and find the path to your dream job!

Put Your Best Foot Forward–And Get Your Dream Job! (Part 2)

June 26th, 2014

In the last posting, we talked about ways to put your best foot forward and stand out to employers in the resume/application process. The next step is the interview. If you have received an invitation to interview, this means you must be doing great things in the application/resume department. Excellent work! So with that said, how do you go about continuing with the positive impression you have made thus far?

It’s simply a matter of handling yourself professionally. For phone interviews, here are some ideas for you to keep in mind:

  • Be sure you block your schedule for that time so you will be uninterrupted and free from distraction
  • Prepare by practicing some classic interview questions and also some behavioral-based questions
  • Review your resume and really be able to elaborate on any section or bullet point
  • If possible, do the call on a landline. Cell phone service can be unpredictable. You don’t want to lose the call or struggle with interference
  • This is not the time for multi-tasking. Focus on your call. No driving while interviewing!
  • As always, use your professional voice, smile, and say please/thank you
  • And just as you would with an in-person interview, have some questions ready for the interviewer(s)

Not surprisingly, some of the same concepts apply to an in-person interview. But in this case, you also want to make sure that you totally look the part. Be the whole package deal, and employers will be thoroughly impressed with your professionalism and poise! Before the in-person interview, consider doing all of the following:

  • Have resumes printed out on formal paper
  • Select what you’re going to wear and have it ready the night before
  • Definitely eat your regular meals that day but avoid restaurants or coffee shops that will leave a strong aroma in your clothing
  • Give yourself time to get ready at a deliberate, leisurely pace
  • Pop a breath mint in your mouth and walk in the door 10 minutes before your interview time.

When you do arrive for the interview, bring your A-game. Shake hands, make eye contact, smile, and say please/thank you. As we said in the last posting, so many of these suggestions seem like common sense, but there are many applicants out there who aren’t putting this level of detail into the process. So it really stands out in a very positive way!

The great thing about all this prep work is that it will leave you feeling less stressed because you’ll have all your ducks in a row, so to speak. Preparation is the very best way to help minimize nerves in just about any type of stressful situation. While no set of steps is a formula that leads directly to a job offer, following the advice in these blogs will help you to really stand out as a professional. And in some cases, it’s the little things that end up being the tie-breaker between you and another candidate.

Put Your Best Foot Forward–And Get Your Dream Job! (Part 1)

June 12th, 2014

The economy is definitely showing positive signs of improvement on the job front. But what’s making things complicated right now is the fact that many are still looking for work, which means it’s rather competitive out there. So with that said, how does one stand out? Well, the best way is to really be the part when you’re applying to jobs. This simply means that you truly take charge of the job search and give attention to every detail in the process. Naturally, this involves some planning and extra effort, but it’s that extra something that makes you shine!

Typically, the resume is the first chance you have to stand out, so it’s definitely key to be meticulous with this. Sometimes in the midst of the tiring job search, we start to take short cuts for the sake of getting things submitted. Instead, take a breath and really draft the perfect document—neat and organized, bullet pointed, and tailored to the job. And if it’s late at night and you’re too tired to focus, put it away. First thing in the morning when you’re refreshed, jump back in and complete the process so you have a strong submittal.

The next stage here is one that’s easy to forget because it’s a quick one. Between the resume and the interview, you will receive communication of some kind from the employer. Whether you hear via email or phone call, definitely be top-notch.

If you receive a call, take the call in a quiet area. It means you can speak in a normal, professional voice, and it also means the caller will be able to hear you. Creating a professional vibe here is key to maintaining the good impression you created with the application.

Also, remember that a potential employer may leave you a voicemail. What does your voicemail greeting sound like? If it’s a prank-style recording, you may want to temporarily change that until you’ve landed a job. Play your recording back and have a listen. If there are distracting noises in the background or if you aren’t quite using your “professional” voice, you may wish to make a new recording. At first glance, this likely seems small. But if you think about it, your voicemail greeting may be the first sort of “real” interaction the employer has with you, so it’s definitely important to instill confidence in their decision to call you.

Perhaps you received an email instead. Well, here’s your chance to show your fabulous email etiquette. When you respond, treat the email message like a professional conversation. Start with a greeting and thank the person for contacting you. The best route here is to use full sentences, fighting the urge to type in the quick text-message-style of communication. Be sure to address all questions so you don’t leave anything unanswered.

Following these methods will ensure that your communication is clear and polished. While it sounds common enough, it’s actually becoming quite unusual for applicants to give attention to these details, so this is a huge area where you can stand out.

In our next post, we’ll explore how to tweak the next steps of the process all the way through the interview. In the meantime, keep up the great work with those resumes!

Finding Summer Work the Easy Way!

May 8th, 2014

We’re always talking about the many benefits of using a staffing service to find a position and how temporary assignments can be a great choice for many applicants out there.  Well, summer is just around the corner!  So now is a great time to talk about summer work.

If you’re planning to be around for the next couple months and would like some work but know you can’t commit to anything permanent, temping could be an option!  Even short-term summer work can be something in a professional office setting, which means it’s a great way to build your resume!  Plus, you also might find something that can really utilize some of those great skills you’ve been working on! 

Some key things to think about all revolve around timing.  Typically, the summer staffing season starts around early June, so it’s important to be available as early in the season as possible.  Next, it’s also important to start the process ahead of time.  Get things moving by completing the staffing service application before the month of June.  This way, you can schedule your intake interview, take care of computer evaluations, and have the staffing service handle reference checks.  With the whole application process totally complete, the staffing service will be able to consider you immediately for any possible matches that may come in for you. 

Also, be sure to let them know of any summer vacation plans you may have. If you’re taking vacations, it doesn’t automatically mean they can’t help you!  This is just information that will be important for the staffing service to share with clients so that everyone is on the same page. 

So time is ticking!  Get a jump on the process today so you’ll be ready for when that great summer work opportunity knocks on your door!

Clear Communication the Easy Way!

April 18th, 2014

Looking for some easy ways to save time and build a happier workplace?  Changes in communication can have dramatically positive results!  Clear communication doesn’t necessarily happen on its own, but it can be as simple as creating some new habits and then you’re off and running as a communication champion.  Today, we’re specifically looking at some common email pitfalls.

First, do you read your messages?  The answer seems obvious, but the question is not necessarily so simple.  The days never seem to have enough hours, so it can be very easy to scan emails quickly.  Unfortunately, you can miss some key details and actually spend more time fixing an error than you would have spent reading the initial email thoroughly.

For example, convinced I already knew what the instructions were for a new required form, I did a quick scan of the email before incorporating the document into my daily routine.  Unfortunately, my speed reading missed important words, so I was actually doing the exact opposite of what the email instructed!  Not only did I feel pretty sheepish when I had to apologize, but I also had to follow up with everyone I gave that form to so they could correct my error.  All this could have been avoided if I had just read the instructions rather than doing a quick scan.

Admittedly, some individuals have not quite mastered the art of writing detailed but brief email messages.  So yes, there will be times where you have to wade through a very dense email to find the key messages and points.  And even in those cases, the time savings will still be greater if you force yourself to stay focused with the email.  If nothing else, these emails can serve as your inspiration to ensure that you always write pithy messages!

This, of course, segues nicely into some thoughts on the art of crafting emails.  There are typically two extreme ends of this spectrum:  the 1-word email and the 500-word message.  In some cases, the 1-word email is actually sufficient.  But what about instances where the composer of the email has asked multiple questions?  In this case, the one-word answer is confusing and incomplete.  That individual is then forced to write back (or call) to follow up for clarification.  Or he/she could take option B and move forward without the answers, operating instead on assumptions.  But in any case, both individuals involved end up spending unnecessary time on damage control.

And if you’re the culprit of the 500-word email, focus on the real key points/questions.  In some cases, the long email is necessary.  And when you realize the lengthy nature of your email, maybe it would actually be easier to just pick up the phone and hash things out quickly that way?

But if you absolutely must communicate this long message via email, it’s key to break down your thoughts/questions with bullet points, keeping each item separate and easy to read.  While it’s the reader’s job to treat your words with respect and read the whole document, it’s helpful if you can perform your due diligence by making the long document as accessible as possible to your readers.

So in the end, it seems that we have some responsibility both as readers and as writers!  While it may seem daunting at first, it’s nothing that a little self-reflection and intention can’t tackle.  So don’t wait!  Start saving time today by using fabulous email etiquette every day!

Surviving Unemployment & Getting Back Into the Workforce

March 20th, 2014

In a recovering but still tough job market, we regularly hear from folks who have found themselves recently unemployed and in search of work.  Our hearts really go out to these applicants during what is usually a very stressful experience!  The first step is to take a breath.  There’s hope for a new beginning and there are steps you can take to maximize your chances of getting right back into the workforce.  Here are some thoughts to help you get started!

Resume
The place to start is with your resume.  How long has it been since your last update?  Dust off this document and craft it into the resume of a star candidate.  Take some time to reflect on your recent experience and what this might qualify you for on the job market.  The answers you come up with will help you to know which jobs to apply to, and that segues nicely into the next step!

Applying to Jobs
With resume updates and self-reflection crossed off the checklist, now it’s time to search the job listings and submit your brilliantly crafted resume.  This part can be tricky, but a few easy tips can really simplify what otherwise could become a daunting process.

One way to really stay on track is to focus your efforts on the jobs that are a strong match for your experience and skills.  Applying to jobs outside of your expertise can be challenging for a couple different reasons.   First, it doesn’t maximize your chance of getting call backs on jobs, which can be really discouraging!  During this process, we definitely want your morale to stay strong!

The second challenge is that applying to jobs that may not be a match probably means that you are applying to a higher volume of jobs.  The downside here is that you spend time on quantity over quality, which could mean that you aren’t able to create strong applications for the jobs that are the best match for you.   Creating a strong application is definitely key in landing the interview for the job of your dreams!

Networks
Never forget the importance of personal and professional networks!  While traditional job-search methods are still valid, there are lots of folks out there who are finding out about jobs through word of mouth.  Stay in touch with your contacts and keep an open mind.  You never know what can happen!

Finalthoughts
It’s a competitive market out there, so it may take a little bit longer to find work now than it did several years ago.  But with that said, there are definitely signs that things are improving!  The search is far from hopeless, so stay positive and keep up all the great work with applications and resume submissions and you’ll find your way right back into the workforce.

Paying it Forward (With Returns)

March 6th, 2014

Recently, around Christmastime, my Facebook feed was filled with posts from friends who were at Dunkin Donuts and had their order paid for them by the person in front of them in the drive thru line.  They then, in turn, paid for the person behind them.  This seemed to catch on and become a frequent occurrence over the holidays.

What would prompt someone to start such a movement?  What triggered the first person to decide to make a difference in the day of a complete stranger?  Perhaps it was just holiday spirit or maybe someone was just feeling extra generous one day.  Whatever the reason, that person was on to something.  Not only were they creating a happier day for the person to whom this gestured was paid forward, they were creating greater mental health and happiness in themselves and all the subsequent givers.

We all know that giving to others makes us feel good.  We find gratification in helping others in small and large ways.  While our motives may be altruistic, we are also benefiting from the transaction as well.

Giving to others helps us direct our attention outwardly.  Rather than focusing on ourselves, often critically, we shift our attention to the needs of others, turning down the volume on negative thoughts.  The connection between our thoughts and emotions is strong.  What we think about has a direct effect on how we feel about our lives and ourselves.  Our emotions then translate into actions.  By focusing our energies outwardly, we are creating a cycle of positive thoughts, emotions, and actions.

When we focus on others, we become recipients of their gratitude.  Even if we don’t receive such gratitude directly, we may see the consequences of our actions.  As the recipient of appreciation, this adds to our positive self-talk and promotes a healthier view of ourselves and our personal value.  Subsequently we will think and behave in more positive and healthier ways.

Of course there are many ways to give to others.  We can formally volunteer at a local charity or community organization.  We can donate to a food or clothing drive.  We can donate monetarily to any establishment.  We can also do the simple things like our Dunkin Donuts giver has done.  By giving in any of these ways we are reconnecting ourselves with our human family.  We are reestablishing connections through simple acts of kindness and generosity.  The feeling of social connection is powerful as well.  Feeling connected to our fellow humans and our individual communities helps combat powerful negative emotions related to depression, anxiety, and loneliness.  We are helping our brain reestablish neural connections in the areas of our brain affecting our mood.  The more we use these connections, the stronger they become.

Companies, too, can benefit by participating in community activities together.  Individual workers will benefit emotionally and mentally while the company benefits from an overall morale boost and community visibility and connection.  Johnson & Hill Staffing participates regularly in charity events benefiting community and national organizations.  Participation is always voluntary, but it is a great way to give busy employees an opportunity to give to others utilizing company resources and connections.

So, the next time we are overwhelmed with life or perhaps not feeling our best or need a morale boost for our employees, why not make a small effort to pay a little forward…and get a priceless return?

Fun at Work!

December 20th, 2013

All work and no play…well you know the implications.  It almost seems like an oxymoron, but “fun at work” can easily become part of a workplace’s culture and take the “dullness” out of a long work day.  We spend most of our waking hours during the week in our work environment; shouldn’t it be as enjoyable as possible?  Not only does having fun in the workplace promote cohesiveness and boost morale amongst employees, there are employer benefits too.  A happy, relaxed workforce equals a productive workforce.  What can be done to bring a lighter atmosphere into your workplace?

Making fun a part of the culture at your place of business begins with the environment.  What do your employees value most? Many employees appreciate things such as a flexible schedule or flexible lunch times.  If possible, allowing employees to work partly from home can also help ease the emotional and financial stress of employees with young children.  Employees with pets may need a longer lunch break to run home and take the dog for a walk.  There are many ways to cater to each employee’s individual needs.

Incorporating wellness is also a great way to improve the overall environment.  Having healthy snack options can help employees feel good about their food choices during the day and help them maintain good energy levels.  Johnson & Hill provides healthy snacks such as dried edamame, almonds, raisins, fresh fruit, and fruit and nut bars in our break room so there is always a quick healthy option when we need an energy boost.

Regular activities inside and outside the company help everyone to develop their relationships beyond the regular work dynamic.  For activities not during regular working hours, including partners and children can help employees from feeling work takes them away from their family time.  Johnson & Hill recently sponsored the “Hot Chocolate Run” in Northampton.  The company paid the registration for employees and their family members so that we could participate in the run or walk on Sunday but have our families with us.  These types of charity events outside the office are a great way to get employees involved in the community.

Many things can be done within the office as well.  Why not invite an expert or trained individual to come into the office and teach everyone something?  This could be anything from sign language, to making sushi, to becoming CPR certified – fun and valuable skills.

Food! Everyone loves something that revolves around food!  Johnson & Hill has regular office potlucks where we each bring in a dish according to a theme.  This is a fun and easy way to enjoy our time at work.  Other ideas could include having a “salad bar” or “fajita bar” where everyone brings in one ingredient to make a complete lunch where everyone can customize their plate.

Next month, we plan on beginning a pedometer contest between willing participants within the office.  Each month there will be a winner or winners for the most steps taken.  It will get more of us bypassing the elevator for the stairs I am sure!  The contest aspect makes it fun and motivating, but it’s also promoting healthy behaviors.

Having fun at work really makes for a more enjoyable day.  Work is a big part of our existence, so making it something that supports our wellness, mental and emotional priorities, not to mention our professional priorities, just makes good sense.

Perfectionism and Why It’s Just Plain Bad for You

December 5th, 2013

Perfection.  We’ve all heard the word before but what does it really mean?  While it’s nice to want one’s work to be top-notch, that’s not quite the same thing as “perfectionism.”  Perfectionists don’t want to get the job done at 100%; they are fearful of not nailing it at least 110%.  Anything less would be akin to failure, which terrifies them and drives them to keep their nose to the grindstone (McKeown, Greg, Today, Just be Average, Harvard Business Review, 10/30/2013).

The classic perfectionist revises ad-nauseam.  They tear down and revise what they just created only to rebuild it all over again.  The cycle repeats itself.  Stuck in the nitty-gritty details, the perfectionist is unable to prioritize because it becomes impossible to accurately see how these details fit into the big picture.  Meanwhile, the drive for perfection keeps them from being able to move on to other projects/tasks.  Deadlines become increasingly difficult to meet.

Effects on Health and Wellness
Naturally, a process that challenges productivity and ability to meet deadlines can be detrimental in the workplace.  However, the effects extend into one’s personal life as well.  When in a place of fear, our sympathetic nervous system (fight or flight) is activated.  The fight or flight state certainly has a practical purpose in life, but living in a constant state of an activated sympathetic nervous system can become problematic.  “Research suggests that prolonged stress contributes to high blood pressure, promotes the formation of artery-clogging deposits, and causes brain changes that may contribute to anxiety, depression, and addiction” (Harvard Mental Health Letter, March 2011, Understanding the Stress Response).

Put very simply, excessive and/or perpetual stress can make you sick.  In addition, the workaholic tendency that often accompanies perfectionism keeps the individual from spending enough time with family/social circles and participating in stress-relieving hobbies and activities.

Stop being an overachiever?
Of course, avoiding perfectionism isn’t a call to laziness!  Good effort and hard work are still important.  It’s more about letting go of fear and allowing oneself to be a strong employee instead of fixating on a standard that’s impossible to reach—sort of like trying to count to infinity.

Path back to wellness
What can one do to help curb perfectionism?  Well, the real first step is self-awareness (for more information on this concept, see our blog post Wellness Awareness).  When you catch yourself on revision #10 or when you realize that you’re going to miss the deadline because you can’t “get things just right,” stop and take a breath.  Step back and really put this into perspective with the big picture.  Is it more effective for you to spin your wheels on this and drop the ball on others tasks, or should you give it your best and then move on?  The funny thing is that you doing a job that’s “good enough” is probably you getting it done 100%.  So in stepping back and taking the pressure off, you maintain a place of balance and wellness while also doing great work and completing all your tasks—and all within the timeframe of deadlines!

Staffing Services: The Next Generation of your Career Search

October 25th, 2013

Just graduated from college and new to the workforce?  Well, the world is your oyster!  But which oyster do you pick and where do you start?  With nearly limitless options, it can be tough to actually make a choice on your next step.  A professional staffing service could be the perfect stepping stone into the workforce and can prove to be an unexpected, great resource!  Let’s take a look at some reasons a staffing service could be a great tool to use in your search for that shiny new job.

Not ready to commit to a permanent position
There are many individuals who fall into this category.  For example, what if your plan is to attend graduate school in a year?  In that case, you really cannot commit to a permanent job, but maybe you need to earn an income in the meantime and would like to build your resume with business experience.

While most employers may be hesitant to consider an applicant who plans to leave for grad school in ten months, staffing services actually seek out individuals who are available on a temporary basis!  In the world of temporary or contract work, ten months can mean lots of opportunities.  With assignment lengths ranging from 1 day to 1 year, you could have a chance at a challenging, rewarding position—or several such positions—that will add value to your resume!

You’re not sure which career path is right for you
Have any idea of what you’d like to do for the rest of your life?  If not, that’s ok!  You can join the ranks of people of all ages who are still trying to figure out what they want to be when they grow up!  Working with a staffing service gives you access to a variety of opportunities and industries.  You may be able to explore positions in medical, legal, academic, non-profit, or corporate all through the same service!  It can be a great way to get out there and start finding what you’re passionate about while also building your resume and earning an income!

For some individuals, the career path ends up being a straightforward, linear direction where one step leads clearly to the next.  However, this concept is becoming more uncommon.  Many individuals stumble upon the career of a lifetime through a position that started as a temporary assignment filling in for someone on medical leave.  Others have discovered a rewarding, exciting career that they never would have found on their own because many employers go through staffing services instead of posting their open jobs.

The conventional job-search method is frustrating
Tired of submitting your resume to the black hole, hoping that you have the right keywords to make it through whatever computer program scans the resumes?  This commonly used application process almost entirely removes the people element.  Working with a staffing service brings that crucial element back to your job search, provided you choose the right one!  With a staffing service, you get to meet with an expert who can advocate for you, giving life to your resume.