The Power of Gratitude: How Giving Thanks Can Help Your Job Search

During this holiday season, learn more about how giving thanks throughout your job search can be helpful! Appearing in Career Attraction, this piece will show you the true power of gratitude. Please read the full blog here  The Power of Gratitude: How Giving Thanks Can Help Your Job Search

Workplace Flexibility – How, Where and When you Get the Work Done

Employees have lives in addition to their careers and their ability to balance those other priorities in life significantly impacts their satisfaction on the job.  Employees who are worried about the safety of young children or elders in their lives may be distracted at work.  Employees who have to miss a key event a school or the big little league game may start to resent their employer and become frustrated with their job.

Companies who have recognized the value of workplace flexibility are often rewarded with “best places to work” designations by various publications and this makes them key target companies for individuals searching for jobs.  Employees want to work for companies who give them some flexibility.  These employees want to be successful in their careers but they want to have some flexibility in how they achieve that.  Being tied to rigid work hours or a specific location may not work for some employees and the employees may not be working at their most productive levels.  People who want to excel at work often want to excel in other areas of their lives as well.  Helping employees do that significantly increases employee loyalty.

Flextime – Offering flexibility in work hours helps employees juggle their commute, out of work responsibilities etc. while enabling them to be their most productive at work.  As long as key deadlines are met, it doesn’t really matter if the work is done at 6 am or 10 pm.  I know there was research that showed employees willingly worked more hours if they had flexibility over when they worked.

Telecommuting – Not all jobs lend themselves to telecommuting and not all people thrive in a telecommuting environment but for the right people in the right job it can be huge.  Employees don’t spend time commuting so they often use that time to work in a way that balances other priorities.  To successfully telecommute, employees need to be self-motivated and diligent.  Work assignments and deadlines need to be clear and there must be regular communication to make it all work.  For many companies not willing to commit to full-time telecommuting, allowing a day a week or even a day from home for special projects requiring time without interruptions can go a long way towards increasing employee satisfaction.

Job Sharing – This allows two people to full one-full time job with complementary schedules and some overlap.  The company often saves money since neither position if full-time and benefits eligible but it retains well trained, motivated workers who want or need to work less than a full-time schedule.

Younger employees who may have watched parents work too hard and too long at the expense of family time and priorities are often not willing to make the same sacrifices.  To excel in all aspects of their lives, work needs to be more flexible.  This doesn’t mean they won’t work hard.  They can be very hard working, high achieving employees and they will tend to be more loyal to the company if they are afforded some flexibility.  It is a highly valued benefit without cost to the employer.

Years ago when I worked in the worklife industry, we had developed a business case that demonstrated that work flexibility contributed significantly to the bottom line with lower turnover, less time off and increased productivity while at work.  It is a win-win for the company and the employees.  It also helps attract other high quality employees.

If you personally need more flexibility in your work, put together a proposal to your manager.  Do not focus on what the flexibility does for your personal life but focus on how productive you can be, how responsive you will be to clients and co-workers, how and when the work will be done and how you will receive and review feedback.  Put a thoughtful, business proposal together and it should receive serious consideration when you keep the focus on meeting the business needs.

Asking for Flexibility-In these days of tight budgets and limited merit increases, flexibility is often more valuable to the employee than the dollars.  That said, it may not always be the best policy to position it that way when asking your manager for flexibility.

Present a Plan and a Business Case-Present your manager with a proposal of how the work will be done.  Focus on how the needs of the business will be met while accommodating your need for flexibility.  There is no doubt it will be helpful to you personally but if you approach it as a business decision, you are most likely to have a positive response.  Anticipate possible objections and concerns and address those in your proposal.  Demonstrate that you have given this considerable thought and planning.

Build in an Assessment-Agree with your manager to review the situation in six months to ensure that everyone’s needs are being met.  Be sure to have clear criteria for the business deliverables to you can demonstrate how you have met or exceeded the goals.  Keep the focus on getting the work done, not when and where it gets done.

Keep it Separate from Merit Discussions-You are still evaluated on how you do your job regardless of when or where you perform those tasks.  Keep the performance review and merit increases in a separate conversation.  Do not equate flexibility as payment for doing your job.  Don’t limit your future earning potential.

Your Relationship With Your Manager Matters-Many companies have formal flexibility policies but even then there is no guarantee that a particular manager will approve your request.  It is absolutely critical that they manager knows the quality of your work and trusts you do meet deadlines with quality work regardless of when or where the work is being done.  Without that level of trust, it is difficult for the flexible arrangement to succeed.

Interviewing with a Start Up

When interviewing for jobs with start-up or even smaller organizations, applicants need to pay attention to the subliminal messages they are sending the interviewer/hiring manager.

Structure

  • Do not expect this to be a standard large company interview with a formal process, be open to a more flexible and possibly unorthodox process.  They are very focused on figuring out how you fit and your ability to adapt to a less traditional process can tell them a great deal about your potential with their organization.  In a smaller operation, fit is critical.  People will work very closely with you and need to feel comfortable doing that.
  • Do not present your prior employment as being overly structured, if you just know how to follow the process, step by step, in order, you are no likely to find success and satisfaction in a less structured environment
  • Be prepared with examples of how you offered a creative solution to a problem, revised a process, etc.  Show that you can think creatively and respond to business needs.

Tools and Support

  • Be careful in presenting your prior employment that you don’t focus too much on the tools and support staff who enable  you do get the job done.  Startups tend to run lean and you have to be willing and able to perform a wide variety of tasks and often will need to work independently

Unwillingness to get your hands dirty

  • Avoid the “not my job” mentality.  There may not be a team in place to execute the entire plan.   You may have to do it yourself.  Show that you are willing to get your hands dirty and do whatever needs to be done.

Dealing with Ambiguity or changing priorities

  • Don’t talk about how frustrated you were when a priority changed after you had invested significant effort.  This is the reality of the startup world.  Show that you can go with the flow and deal with ambiguity and changing priorities.

As the interviewer for a start up or smaller company, you should probe for additional insights in the following areas:

Fit

  • Is this someone you are comfortable working with every day and often for long hours?
  • Does this person bring valuable skills and perspective to enrich the team?
  • Can this individual grow with the organization?

Ability to deal with changing priorities

  • Can this individual cope with changing priorities?
  • Can they deal with ambiguity?
  • Can they make decisions with incomplete information and data?
  • How do they make decisions without complete data?

Ability to work independently and as part of a team

  • Can this person take a project and run with it?
  • Is this person comfortable working heads down on his own to meet a deadline?
  • Can this person collaborate with a team and define an implementation plan?
  • Does this person have personal accountability?

Willingness to do whatever it takes

  • Is this someone willing to roll up his sleeves and get his hands dirty to do what needs to be done?
  • Can this person be successful without a support team in place?

Comfortable with the risk/reward approach

  • Does this individual understand the risks and rewards of a start up?
  • Is this person able to tolerate the risk?

Digital Distraction in the Workplace

Resist Digital Distraction

Digital distraction is rampant in most workplaces and it often results in treating colleagues poorly.  Having technology available 24/7 can have its advantages but it should not be an excuse for rude behavior.

  • Meeting Etiquette – If you are required to be in a meeting, be present and engaged.  Contribute to the discussion.  Checking your emails or surfing the web is still considered rude and disrespectful to the others in the meeting.  If you really don’t need to be in the meeting, address that issue in advance.  If you are there, be present.
  • Interruption Etiquette – Most people do not pick up their phone if it rings during a meeting with a colleague.  Why then do they think it is ok to pick up a call phone or check when an email ding sounds?  It sends the message to the person you are meeting with that they are not important and that your time is better spent on other things.  If you are expecting an emergency or critical call, let them know upfront, otherwise pick up the message after your meeting.
  • Avoiding Conversations – Ever received an email from someone in the next cube or just down the hall?  It is easy to hide behind email to avoid conversations that may be difficult or unpleasant.  Get up from your desk and have the conversation.  Watch the reaction of the person as you deliver the feedback or bad news.  Ask follow-up questions and provide additional information as appropriate.  Often more thorough communication at the front end, avoids misunderstandings and issues down the road.
  • Consider your Surroundings – Just because you can make a call anytime from anywhere doesn’t mean you should!  Does someone really need to listen to the restroom sounds in the background while on a call with you?  Wait until you step out to make the call.  Consider the time and the background noise before making a call.
  • Manage Expectations- Just because a colleague is on email at midnight doesn’t mean you have to respond at 12:01!  Manage expectations.  Unless your job requires emergency access 24/7 manage the times you check messages and respond.  Manage expectations.  Let people know if you will be out of the office or tied up in meetings by using your out of office message so you manage their expectations about your response time.

Sometimes the best way to boost productivity is to unplug and focus!

Making the Most of Job Fairs

Making the Most of Job Fairs

Trying to decide whether or not to attend an upcoming job fair?  Here are some key considerations to help you maximize the fairs you attend.

Should I attend?

  • Is the event sponsored by a group you know or at least one that has a good reputation?
  • Before you decide, look to see which companies are participating.  If there are companies on your target list, you should definitely plan to attend.
  • Have you been invited to interview?  If so you certainly should be there.
  • Networking can be extremely valuable if there are companies of interest.

Plan Ahead

  • Review the list of companies in advance and do your research.  Look at their website and consider questions to ask each company.
  • Prioritize your list into A, B and C prospects.  You can’t leave until you see all your A companies and you should try to see all the B companies.  C companies are the ones you can skip but you never know where you might find a great contact.
  • Scope out the room before you start at a table.  See where your A companies are located.
  • Warm up with companies not on your A list.  Have a couple conversations under your belt before you focus on a top company.
  • Monitor lines and try to hit employers on your list when they don’t have a long line.
  • Manage your time to ensure that you meet all your top companies.

What are some common mistakes made at job fairs?

  • Talking to your friends not the employers – Employers attend these events to meet candidates.  It is very frustrating for them so see attendees standing around talking to each other.  You can talk to your friends, anytime.  Maximize your time with the employers.
  • Being unprepared – Do not ask “So, what does your company do?”  If you didn’t care enough to do some research in advance, they really don’t want to bother talking to you.
  • Asking for the sponsor for VISAs —  If you approach the booth and ask if they sponsor for visas, the must likely answer will be no.  You need to make them want you first.  Sell yourself and your skills for the job and then they may be willing to sponsor.  Don’t close the door by asking too soon.
  • Unprofessional attire or approach – It is critical that you look like the business professional you aspire to be.  Be professional, conservative, clean and neat.  Have resumes available.  Have a note pad to record notes.
  • Do not just collect the giveaways – Don’t think the employer misses your grab for their goodies.  Make your connections first.  At the end most employers would rather give items away than take them back.  Do not sacrifice making a positive impression for a job for the sake of some inexpensive giveaways.  Employers see everything that happens at their booth.
  • Focus on Networking – even if the jobs available are the right level, few people land a job at a fair.  It is much more important to focus on all the networking opportunities.  Meet people from companies that are of interest to you.  Let them know your area of interest.

How to exploit job fairs as a networking avenue?

  • Use the opportunity to make an impression by asking insightful questions.  Ask if you can share a resume.  Ask for an opportunity to follow-up to be respectful of their time at the event.
  • Identify functional area contacts – often it is not just HR representatives who staff the fairs, scope out the table to see if there are contacts from functional areas of interest.  If you are a finance person, talk to the finance representative or alum.  Maximize the value of your contacts.  Show your level of interest with insightful questions.
  • Collect business cards – make notes on the back so you can personalize your follow-up

References

References are an expected part of the hiring process.  A job applicant should be prepared to provide references when requested.  Usually it is a good sign if you have advanced in the process to the point that they are checking references.  There are a few key considerations when preparing your references:

Identifying Your References

  • Identify people who can attest to your skills and capabilities on the job.  You should expect to provide at least three references.  They do not want to talk to family members or your best friend!
  • Ideally you will have at least one former manager.  It is common to not want your current manager to know you are looking for a new job so think about former managers at other companies, a manager from the current company who may have moved on, etc.
  • Think about references in terms of the job requirements.  If the job requires you to manage others, include someone you managed.  If the job requires significant cross-functional collaboration include a colleague you worked with on a cross-functional initiative.
  • Provide your list of references with names, titles, companies and both email and telephone contact information.  Be sure you have confirmed the contact information.  Include a note about context, maybe the person now works at company Y but was your manager at company X.   If it is someone you managed, be sure to note that.  Give the person calling your references enough context to ensure success.

Preparing Your References

  • Contact your references in advance.  Let them know you are job seeking and ask their permission to use them as a reference.
  • Verify their contact information.
  • As you feel you are getting close on a position, let your references know.  Tell them about the position, the company and the specific skills you want them to emphasize.
  • The more you prepare them, the more helpful they can be.

Anticipating Informal Reference Checking

  • Most hiring managers realize that applicants will only share references who will say good things.  Therefore, many hiring managers will reach out to informal references.  Who do they know at the company?  Who do they know on Linked In who knows people at the company or who knows you?
  • Because you did not hand select these references, the hiring managers tend to trust the responses.
  • I once interviewed for a job with a manager whose husband worked at a previous employer of mine.  I heard from several former colleagues that he had reached out to the entire department at that company seeking feedback.  I did get the job but they have more than a dozen testimonials from informal references prior to making the decision.

Overcoming Negative References

  • Most companies have strict policies on giving references.  In many instances the manager is required to refer the caller to HR where they will verify employment dates and title.  Obviously this is not helpful to the hiring manager so some managers will chat with hiring managers “off the record.”
  • Few people will actually give a negative reference these days for fear of legal implications.   State the facts only.  Often what is most revealing to the reference checker is what the reference doesn’t say.  If they give short, curt answers and do not offer any examples of work it could well be a red flag.
  • If there is a negative reference, the job seeker often doesn’t know about it and doesn’t know which reference was negative.  A lawsuit could be difficult unless the reference checker is willing to confirm what was said but even then it becomes “he said, she said” with no independent verification.
  • The best strategy is to proactively identify the best possible references and to prepare them well to support you.
  • Some hiring managers will look at Linked In but those recommendations will carry little weight unless it happens to be from someone they know.

Reference Logistics

  • Most hiring managers prefer to speak with the references.  They may use email to schedule the call but a conversation is the best option.  People are more inclined to share more in a conversation than they would put in writing.  It also gives the hiring manager the opportunity to ask follow-up questions.

Making a Great Impression in Your New Job Search

Starting a new job is the perfect time to make a good impression.  You want the employer to be confident that they made the right decision in hiring you for the position.  The first hundred days in a new job can be one of the most critical times of your career.  Here are some recommendations based on feedback from our employers. Click here to learn more about making a great impression in your new job!