Coming Into Work Sick

Tis the season of germs spreading around the office.

Managers should strongly encourage people to stay home when they are sick.  The manager doesn’t want the germs and neither do the coworkers.   Key considerations:

  • Managers need to lead by example.  If you drag yourself in when you are sick the team with think you expect them to do the same.
  • Talk about it now before people start dragging themselves in to work when they should be home in bed.  At your next team meeting ask people not to come to work sick and spread their germs around the office.
  • Make arrangements in advance to ensure that employees can access their office email and other key files from home.
  • When you call in sick, let your manager know if you have any critical deadlines or meetings so other arrangements can be made for coverage.

If you absolutely must go to work when you are sick:

  • Stay in your office or cube.  Isolate yourself as much as possible from others.
  • Do not touch phones or other things in other people’s offices.
  • Clean door knobs and other common contact points with disinfecting wipes.
  • Clean your phone, desk etc. with disinfecting wipes.

While the urge may be strong to tough it out and come in for a key meeting or special project, think about your co-workers.  It is not fair to expose them to germs.  When are you sick enough to stay home?  If you are running a fever, you should definitely stay home.  If you are coughing constantly or vomiting ,you do not belong in the office.  If you feel weak and exhausted, get some rest.  A day at home now could save you several days off later when you get worse from pushing too hard.

If you wouldn’t want to be exposed to someone who is as sick as you are, assume that no one wants to be exposed to you.  Demonstrate courtesy and respect for your colleagues by staying home.

Confidence: The Key to Success

Confidence is the key to career success at any level.  Think about how you can use confidence to you advantage to advance your career goals.

When you are confident in your work:

  • Others feel comfortable delegating projects to you,  knowing that you will do them well and on time
  • Others will turn to you for information
  • You will earn special assignments and additional responsibilities
  • You become the “go to” person for things that need to be done
  • People enjoy working with confident people on their team

Why does confidence matter?

  • It is hard for others to believe you are capable and competent if they don’t think you believe it
  • People want to work with people they can rely on
  • Managers want to work with colleagues  they trust
  • Confidence helps build your credibility in the workplace

Confidence doesn’t mean you know all the answers.  It means you have the confidence in your own skills and resourcefulness to track down the answers to the questions.

Confidence as a Career Builder

  • Confident people are more likely to be recognized in the workplace and often are the ones who receive promotions and other opportunities
  • Confidence can certainly enhance your career as people perceive your success in your current role
  • Being the “can do” person can help expand your responsibilities
  • Confidence enables you to volunteer for the special projects
  • Confidence enables you to step in during a crunch time to offer your assistance.

How do you develop confidence?

  • While some degree of confidence seems to be innate, it can definitely be developed
  • Work with your mentor to help increase your confidence
  • Self-talk can help as you remind yourself of your capabilities
  • Stretching outside your comfort zone can help enhance your confidence
  • Furthering your education can help to increase your confidence, whether it is a degree or specific courses to increase your skills in a particular aspect of your job

Mentors

Cartoon Courtesy of Glasbergen.com

Mentors can provide valuable advice, counsel, advocacy and networking assistance.  They can be a valuable career resource.  Family and friends may want to help but they often lack experience in the field we are targeting and more importantly, they are not objective.  They can’t always provide the constructive and objective perspective that is needed.  Professional mentors can provide support, encouragement and career-related guidance while identifying and maximizing networking and career exploration opportunities.

Most business professionals seek a mentor with more experience so they can learn from their experience or a mentor in a field they aspire to work in.  Open, honest communication is critical to a successful networking partnership.  Being clear about goals of the relationship and agreeing up front on the frequency and mode of communication builds a strong foundation for the relationship.

It is not your mentor’s responsibility to find you a job.  You can explore career goals, seek networking contacts and request advice but do not ask your mentor for a job.  If they offer, it’s fine but the goal of the relationship is to gain advice and insight

Guidelines we share with students to maximize their mentor relationship include the following:

  • Be considerate of your mentor’s time.  Return phone calls promptly and arrive on time for meetings.
  • Seriously consider all advice you receive.
  • Show evidence that you have utilized the assistance they offer.
  • Show appreciation for any and all assistance provided.
  • Be open to constructive feedback and seek it whenever possible.  Do not be defensive.  Be open to all feedback and learn from it.  Seek feedback often.
  • Assume the relationship will be strictly professional.  Let the mentor take the lead in making it more personal if desired.
  • Say thank you often.  Let your mentor know how they are making a difference for you.
  • Look for opportunities to give back -share a relevant article, offer to assist with a new technology, refer a qualified candidate, etc.

Possible goals for a mentoring partnership may include:

  • Expanding my professional network
  • Clarifying my development focus
  • Enhancing knowledge of key functions and industries of interest
  • Understanding organizational politics
  • Receiving feedback on critical skills for development
  • Testing ideas in a safe environment

Tips for a Successful Interview #3

A critical aspect of interview preparation is anticipating the questions and preparing what you want to say during the interview.  If the interview can only remember three things about you from the interview, your preparation can help ensure that they remember the most important three things.  Think about your message and how you will deliver in it response to typical interview questions.

Types of Interview Questions and Samples:

Tried and True

  • Most employers still ask the “tell me about yourself” question to break the ice.  It is a great opportunity for applicants to differentiate themselves and highlight their strengths for the particular position.  Consider how you tell your story in the context of the position you are applying to.
  • “What are your strengths and weaknesses? “ is still asked frequently.  They expect proof statements to support the strengths and the actions taken to improve the weaknesses.  They are looking for self-awareness and assessment and expect responses that will help differentiate the student from other candidates.  A twist on this is to ask what your manager or colleagues would say your strengths and weaknesses are.
  • “Do you have any questions?  They expect that you have questions and they should clearly demonstrate your preparation and research in advance, your strong listening during the interview and your interest and enthusiasm for the position.

Behavioral Interviews or “tell me about a time…”

  • “Tell me about a time you had a conflict with a member of your team at work.  How did you address it and what was the result?”
  • “Tell me about a time you had multiple top priorities due at the same time.  How did you address the problem and what was the result?
  • “Tell me about a mistake you made and how you addressed it.”
  • They are trying to anticipate future behavior by understanding how you behaved in the past and what you learned.  It is important to clarify the situation succinctly, explain what specific action you took and what the result of that action was.  You are painting a word picture for them to help them understand how you work.

Mini-Case Situations or Unusual Questions

  • These questions give employers an opportunity to see how you think.
  • “What you would do if you were in this job and the CEO called and asked you why sales were down in the X division last month and then told you she needed an answer in an hour before her executive team meeting?”  This isn’t the time to talk about surveying customers or implementing tracking programs for new promotions.  What information do you need to put your hands on?  How would you use that information?  What kinds of questions do you need to ask?  You need to talk them through your thought process to show that you are thinking logically about the issue and finding actionable data.
  • “We’ve experienced disruption in the manufacturing department for each of the last three months due to timing delays of getting the six specific component parts to the assembly station for a critical part of the manufacturing process.  The VP of Manufacturing is very upset and has assured the CEO it won’t happen again next month.  He needs your recommendations first thing in the morning.  What information do you need and what possible solutions can you offer?  Think through the process out loud so they can see your thought process.
  • What would you do if you lived on an island that ran out of diapers and any materials commonly used to produce diapers?  I actually had an employer ask this of our applicants and applicants enjoyed thinking of creative solutions.  It is less about the specific answer and more about how you think creatively about a problem.  Applicants who could not provide any response did not advance in the process.  This is actually a question an employer asked in an interview process.   They love to see how you think on your feet.

At this point, we are seeing most employers asking a mix of all three types of questions to get as good a sense as possible of how well the student will fit in their organization and how well they will be able to perform the specific job.

You want to be remembered for your positive answers not the ones you answer inappropriately.

Sample Worst Answers to Interview Questions:

So, tell me a little about yourself.

  • “there really isn’t much to tell.”
  • “I’m really not all that interesting.”
  • “I haven’t done much yet.”
  • “Well, I was born in xx and went to elementary school…..  5 minutes later the candidate is still babbling and the interviewer has completely glazed over.”
  • “My life really started going downhill when my parents got divorced when I was a teenager.  They really ruined my life.”
  • “once I joined AA my life started getting better”
  • “After I beat cancer for the second time…”
  • “I’m married, I have three kids ages 3, 5 and 7…”

Why do you want to leave your current job?

  • “they don’t pay me enough”
  • “they expect me to work too many hours”
  • “my boss is a jerk (idiot, etc.)”
  • “my colleagues are all idiots”
  • “they don’t know what they are doing there”
  • “the company is on the brink of bankruptcy”
  • “I think they are probably doing some illegal things”
  • “I’m bored out of my mind”
  • “they don’t give me things that I like to do”
  • “After six months of doing the same thing every day, I’m ready for a change”
  • “I need more flexibility to handle my kids activities after school”

What interests you about this company?

  • “I don’t know anything about the company but figured why not apply since I really need a job.”
  • “My friend works here”
  • “I heard you pay well”
  • “I need the benefits”
  • “It is close to home”
  • “it is a recognizable name so it would look good on my resume”
  • “I really like your product.”

What are your biggest strengths and weaknesses?

  • “I don’t have any weaknesses”
  • “I really don’t know.”
  • “I get things done.”
  • “I was a star student (athlete)”
  • “I can make other people get things done.”
  • “I’m the best candidate you are going to see so we could save time by moving the process forward.”

How would your current or former colleagues describe you?

  • “the best employee they ever had”
  • “the only employee who did things right”
  • “someone who worked hard even though they were given the boring jobs”
  • “their best friend”
  • “A great guy to hang out with after work.”

What is your goal for the short term?

  • “I need to get a job as soon as possible.  I have bills to pay.”
  • “ I need the health/dental insurance right away so I can have some problems taken care of”
  • “Get a new job that isn’t so boring”
  • “Get a new job that doesn’t require any nights or weekends”
  • “Get a job working with people who have more realistic expectations”
  • “Get a job so I can move forward with a divorce”

Do you prefer to work independently or in a team?

  • “working with teams is such a waste of time since half the people don’t do anything anyway.  Just give the work to the person who can get it done.”
  • “Other people think they know it all and they don’t so teams are a waste of time”
  • “I can get everything done on my own without needing help from anyone else”
  • “I always get everything done that is assigned to me on my own”
  • “I just put my head down and plow through the work. “
  • “working with a team makes things take longer”
  • “I only like working with a team if there is someone on the team who really knows how to do all the work”

Are there certain tasks or types of people you find difficult to work with?

  • “People who think they know it all aren’t fun to work with”
  • “I don’t like working with people who are obsessed with following the process.  Rules are meant to be broken.”
  • “Demanding people stress me out.  They set deadlines and expect everything to get done by their deadline just because they said so.  They probably don’t really need it then.”
  • “I hate having to do the same thing every day.”
  • “Repetitive tasks are too boring.  Once I know how to do things they should make someone else do the boring stuff.
  • “I don’t like people who keep checking to see if my work is done or if I’m making progress.  I’ll get to it.”

Let’s talk about salary.  What are you expectations?

  • “I know I’m worth a lot more than what I’m making now.”
  • “I just finished an MBA so I’m worth at least $25K more than I was making before.”
  • “My rent just went up and I have car payments to cover so I need more than I was making before.”
  • “I’m a hard worker so I deserve to be at the top of your range.”

Do you have any questions?

  • “no.”
  • “not really”
  • “you already answered them all”
  • “Do I get the job?”
  • “how much does the job pay?
  • “How much vacation and sick time would I get?
  • “Can I still take my planned trip next month?
  • When can I start?
  • Is the drug testing really required?

Check out Tips for a Successful Interview #2!

Be Visible and Respected on the Job

At the end of the work day, how do you know your work makes a difference?  While promotions are very visible recognition of success in the workplace, there is satisfaction in knowing that someone knows what you are doing and that they respect the work you do.  Often being visible and respected can lead to future advancement opportunities.  Here are some tips for being visible and respected in the workplace.

Do Your Current Job Exceedingly Well

  • Do not get so absorbed in getting ahead that you lose focus on doing your current job exceeding well.  Do all that is asked of you and more.  Do it with a smile.  Meet or beat deadlines.  Earn a reputation for doing high quality work in a timely manner.
  • Look for ways to improve the current process.  Identify problems only when you can offer a possible solution.  Put in the extra effort to research and develop a viable solution.
  • Help others in the department – whether training the new person on the team or helping a colleague with a particular application. Look for opportunities to help others to make them look good.

Step Up to New Challenges

  • Volunteer for special projects or cross-functional teams where you can add value or you can learn something.  Let them see what you can do beyond the scope of your current job.
  • Develop a reputation as the go to person.  When something needs to be done quickly and accurately, be the one they turn to for resolution.  Have a can do attitude that makes them want to give you other assignments.
  • In proposing a solution to a problem, offer to do a pilot and track the results.
  • If someone is going to be out for a period of time on the team, offer to provide at least a portion of the backup coverage and proactively identify a plan to learn the job.

Take On Aspects of the New Job Before You Have It

  • If you know what role you aspire to next in the company, look for opportunities to stretch beyond your current position and take on aspects of the new position before you even have the job.  Watch for projects that provide the skills you need to develop and the visibility it provides for the future.
  • Sometimes the assignment that needs coverage would not be your first choice but taking it demonstrates that you are a team player and willing to pitch in to get things done.  Think about it in terms of what you can learn and who you can meet while you are in the role.
  • If someone leaves a position open that you aspire to obtain, volunteer to take on aspects of that job to provide the needed coverage.  Show them you can do it rather than just telling them you can in the interview.

Invest in Yourself

  • Take advantage of internal training opportunities, do your own external research and reading, start preparing for your next job before the opportunity even exists.  Demonstrate your commitment and interest by deliberately building your skills.

Networking

  • While your next desired career step may be to stay within the company, networking is still a critical part of the process.  Networking extensively internally to learn as much as you can about the roles you hope to hold in the future and what skills will be necessary.  Build a cross-functional network within the company.
  • Ensure that people across the organization know who you are and how you can contribute to the success of your team and your company.
  • Be sure that your manager is aware of your longer term plans and strategize opportunities to help you develop the skills required.

Train Your Replacement

  • Be sure you have a colleague or someone who could step into your job well trained and visible within the team.  It is easier for management to promote you if they know there is someone who can successfully do your current job.

Identify A Mentor

  • Identify a mentor within the organization and nurture that relationship so you have a sounding board and source of advice internal to the company.
  • Also identify an external mentor in your field of choice who is at least a couple career moves again of you so you can gain insight from that experience and some objectively from the external perspective.

 

Informational Interviews

Informational interviews are critical to a successful job search.  Many job seekers don’t do them at all which puts them at a significant disadvantage in the search and others do not do them well so they miss a valuable opportunity to differentiate themselves.  Informational interviewing is the goal of most networking connections.

Why do an informational interview?

  • Learn about the company, the culture, current issues, career paths, specific roles, etc. from an insider, gain insights you may not be able to find online
  • Build an advocate within the company for future support

What can you gain from an informational interview?

  • Learn about the contact’s industry, company and/or work environment and culture
  • Gain insight into specific jobs, roles, functions and departments
  • Hear advice on how you can translate your skills and experience to new industry, company or role
  • Obtain names of other recommended networking contacts
  • Recommendations for professional associations you should join
  • Gain insight into your career options
  • An inside contact within the organization

What an informational interview is not

  • It is not asking for a job or applying for a specific position, instead it is an information gathering adventure and hopefully the start of a mutually beneficial relationship

Learn How to Have a Successful Information Interview!

Key Considerations for Career Changers in the Job Search

Embarking on a job search in hopes of changing careers brings some unique challenges.  Here are some key considerations for career changers in the job search:

  • Focus on transferrable skills – Don’t try to sell them on everything you have done in the past.  Focus on the skills that you bring to this position that will enable you to succeed.  Do you have unique skills for this role?  Why should they hire you?  What have you done that is most relevant to the new position?
  • Track record – have you already successfully transferred to a new industry, a new department?  Have you learned a new system or process?  Show that you learn quickly, set high standards for yourself and quickly become an expert in your area of responsibility.  Show them that you can accept a new challenge and succeed.
  • Show your passion – let them know why you are so passionate about this opportunity and what you can bring to the company.  Be sure not to come across as the “flavor of the month” but as someone committed to success in this field.
  • Know your competition – you will be competing for this position with people who have done this job before.  Sell the hiring manager on the unique strengths and perspectives you bring to the position.
  • Execute flawlessly – Be sure your resume has no typos or grammatical errors.  Same for your cover letter.  Prepare well for the interview.  Have questions prepared to ask the interviewer.  Be sure to send a hand written thank you note.  Every step of the process you want to stand out and be remembered for positive reasons.
  • Leverage your network – Do your homework before the interview.  Leverage your network to identify people who work at this company currently or did so in the past.  Learn as much as you can about the company and the position.  Gain insights into what success looks like in that organization.  What skills are highly valued?

Managers have come to expect career changers when they post a position.   They want to see someone who has done their homework about the company, the position and the career path.  They want to know why you are making the change and how you will contribute to their organization.  The most critical factor is fit.  Do they feel they can work with you and that you fit well with the team?