Monday, December 31, 2012

The Four Agreements at Work - Third in a Series

This post is the third in a series of posts pertaining to the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and how it relates in a career context. Click to read the first post and second post.

"I have applied for over a hundred jobs, but I have yet to hear back from any of them. What is wrong with them? They must be bad companies, or else I would have heard something. Or maybe my application materials are terrible; I knew I should have rewritten my resume again before I applied!"

Perhaps you have a friend who has made a comment similar to the above. Or perhaps you have made it yourself. No matter the circumstance, one thing is clear: an assumption has been made, one that sends the assumer into a downward spiral of negative feelings and internal poison.

The third agreement: Don't make assumptions
Making assumptions works hand-in-hand with the second agreement, don't take anything personally. In fact, Ruiz points out that all of life's drama centers around these two agreements. If you don't make assumptions there is nothing to take personally, and if you take nothing personally you are - by and large - not making assumptions.

But when we make assumptions and we take things personally, Ruiz writes, we feel compelled to defend ourselves, to stick up for what we believe. We make people wrong by trying to make ourselves right. This creates poison in the workplace and within ourselves.

Think back to things that have caused you offense in your professional life: the job application that you never heard back from, being left out of a meeting that you felt you should be a part of, not receiving an invitation to a post-work gathering, or not receiving the praise you felt was deserved after completing a big project. The assumptions we make about these things negatively paint our reality, impairing our objectivity and ability to act rationally. It's not uncommon that we then gossip about these assumptions - this "dream reality" we have created - in order to make ourselves feel better about ourselves. Thus, we then violate the first agreement.

When we are able to free ourselves from making assumptions, we remove the baggage of the negativity we create. It encourages us, too, to confront situations compassionately and directly. We can contact a company and ask them about our application materials, or have a heart-to-heart with our supervisor about the meeting we were not invited to. By asking more questions to find out the reason why certain situations played out, we can counter our assumptions and work more peacefully.

Challenge: reflect on the assumptions that you make in your professional life and how those assumptions have negatively affected your work performance or career. What is a new agreement that you want to make with yourself? Post what you have learned in the comments below.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

© Bellemedia | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

  • 5 Daily Rituals to Manage Work Stress"Try to get up a few minutes earlier than the rest of the household. Upon awakening, take a few deep breaths before beginning your day. Before the TV goes on, or you hit the e-mail, listen to some relaxing music or read an inspirational passage to start your day on a positive note."

  • How Your Parents Could Cost You a Promotion: "Find the high-visibility extra duties that get you face time. That face time with the boss is crucial. Go to office parties, even if they're lame. Dress like you already have the job you want. Put your name on everything you do. Volunteer."

  • Life's Work 2012: HBR Interviews 10 Intriguing People"Don't burn bridges, because you just don't know when you're going to need to cross them."

  • How Being Obsessed with Football Can Help You Ace Your Next Job Interview"Work can, however, provide an array of meaningful experiences, even though many employees do not enjoy those in their current job. So, what are the sources of meaningful experiences at work?"

  • Why Aren't You Getting Job Interviews"Hiring managers don't care much that you held a string of jobs; they care what you accomplished there, and your resume needs to show them that." 

Friday, December 28, 2012

Baby Boomer Careers: Second Time Around

Many baby boomers have worked in long, prosperous careers only to find they need to keep working. In fact, a whopping 74 percent of today’s workers plan to get another job after they retire, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

For financial reasons or just to keep busy, many are seeking new careers the second time around. Often, they reinvent themselves while looking for something they enjoy, according to author Marci Alboher of The Encore Career Handbook.

Retirees who held corporate positions may have established relationships with companies they can continue to consult with. Volunteer positions at hospitals or non-profits can also lead to new part-time or flex-time job opportunities for this older sector.

In the March 2012 Bloomberg Businessweek, college counselors and funeral directors were noted as comfortable careers for seasoned veterans. Teachers and bloggers also fit the needs of older workers who typically have a lot of experience to share.

Check out resources available to those over 50 looking for second careers. Online websites, such as Work Imagine and LinkedIn, list career opportunities for this age category. Also, AARP offers a Best Employers for Workers Over 50 program that highlights those employers embracing the over-50 generation.

Professional certifications have become a great choice for this generation, and many colleges have designed programs specifically for the older workforce. So if you’re looking for a career a second time around, there are several great options to consider.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Create a Personal Change Management Plan to Reduce Stress

There is an old saying that the only two sure things in life are death and taxes. However, I think we can safely add change to that same list. Even if your spouse, your job, and your house stay the same, the world changes all around you.

Earlier in the week, I talked about setting goals and creating a plan to successfully accomplish your New Year's resolutions. Most of the time, these involve making changes in our lives. When we plan for change it is often easier to deal with and make adaptations. However, when change is unexpected we can experience stress that causes symptoms that manifest in our behavior, emotions, and physical well-being. Change and the uncertainty that comes along with it can produce stress.

Since we can not always anticipate change, I suggest having a change management strategy in place at all times. By making whatever preparations you can make in advance, you can learn to better "roll with the punches" that life throws your way. Here are some ideas to help you formulate a change management plan.

  • Define your support system that consists of people you know and trust. Break down your support system into categories - such as family, friends, church, and professional organizations -  and then write down the names of all the people in each category. You will be amazed at how quickly your list of support resources grows.
  • Communicate openly. Talking with someone you trust - someone from your support system - will help you function better under the pressure of change. Select someone you find inspirational and positive so that you don't need to shoulder this burden alone and keep it all bottled up inside.
  • Clearly define your priorities and your goals. As I talked about in my post earlier this week, keeping your goals on paper helps you clearly establish your priorities and keeps you focused when you have a setback or experience unexpected change.
  • Keep yourself healthy, no matter what is happening in your life. Exercise, healthy eating habits, and sufficient sleep are important ways to manage stress and deal effectively with change.
  • Identify the problem that is causing you stress. Is it the loss of the job, the loss of the income, or the stress of going through an interview that has you most worried about your layoff? Once you know the source of your stress, you can evaluate your options and move toward finding a solution. Until then you are just spinning your wheels.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Five Steps for Success with Your New Year's Resolutions

With 2013 fast approaching, many of us will be resolving to make changes in our behavior, our lives, our careers, or even just our attitude. So many of us have the best of intentions on January 1st, but by the end of the month, we have fallen back into our old, comfortable ways.

In January of 2012, I wrote a series of posts about why resolutions fail. This year, I want to give you some action steps to help ensure the success of your goals for the New Year.

  • Write your goals down. There is something more real and concrete when you put your goals on paper. It also gives you a place to return to when you go off course, or need to re-evaluate. 
  • Be specific and clear in your resolution. Don't simply say, I want to lose weight or I want to save money. Put a measurement to your goal so that you will know when you have achieved your objective.
  • Give yourself a deadline. One of the main differences between goals and dreams of "someday" is that goals have a timeline by which you want to accomplish them.
  • Don't aim so high that your goals are unreachable. A goal should stretch you and test your ability. However, if your goal is to be a millionaire by 30 and you're 29 with two kids, making $45,000 a year with a $1500 a month mortgage and a car payment, chances are your goal is unrealistic. Evaluate whether or not your goal is attainable within your timeline and make adjustments as needed. 
  • Have a detailed plan and stick to it. Remember, it is possible to eat an elephant, but you just need to take it one bite at a time! Once again, writing down a detailed plan will help you get back on track when you go off course.

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Four Agreements at Work - Second in a Series

This post is the second in a series of posts pertaining to the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz and how it relates in a career context. Click to read the first post.

A disparaging comment from a co-worker. A terse email from your supervisor. A lack of acknowledgement from a higher-up, or a tone of voice that you don't appreciate. What do all of these things have in common? They are all opportunities for you to violate the second agreement: taking things personally.

The second agreement: don't take anything personally
According to Ruiz, when we take things personally we do so out of an innate selfishness: we think that it's all about us. Me, me, me...all of the time.

But as crazed with ourselves as we are, we are also fragile. We are very susceptible to fear and jealousy. So when someone in the workplace does something that we feel is insulting or hurtful, we choose to take in "the poison" of their actions.

Here's the thing, though: we don't have to do this.

Ruiz advocates a different path, one where it is not all about us. The two-month long gap before we hear from (or don't hear from) a recruiter about a position is not about us. Getting chewed out for submitting a less-than-satisfactory project proposal is not about us. Any situation where we perceive ourselves to be put-off, let down, hurt, or anything of the like isn't about us. It is about that person who is living in his own world with his own beliefs and his own programming.

You don't have to let what he says in. It's entirely a choice you make.

The first agreement is designed to keep us from injecting poison; the second agreement is designed to keep poison from infecting us. And we can see what happens when let that poison in, from certain incidents of workplace violence to the more creative ways workers react to stress and leave their positions. These people have accepted the poison of others, and the results were extreme.

But this isn't to say that the poison let in comes from negative reactions to us. Ruiz is clear to say that anytime we let something to to our heads - good or bad -  we are infecting ourselves with poison. Internalizing the praise of others can have the same damaging effect on us and our way of being. You only need look as far as out-of-control celebrities or egocentric professional athletes to see the effect of accepting this poison.

As with the first agreement, the second agreement is best countered by becoming conscious of the ways it manifests itself in your life. How do you react when you are insulted or treated unfairly by coworkers? What do you do when coworkers heap praise upon you? Because both are poison that can affect your well-being. If you had nothing to fear and were full of love for yourself, either one would gently float by you like a breeze.

What people think about you is none of your business: this is a bold and powerful concept. Focus your energy on being true to your ethics, values, and sense of love for those you work with. The rest will come together.

Challenge: spend the next week being mindful of how you react to others. Post in the comments what you learned.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup: Networking, Finding Meaning, and Introverts

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

© Bellemedia | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

  • 14 Ways to Be Better at Your Job in 2013"Lending expertise, time and effort to other teams will help you get to know other aspects of the business as well as help you connect with people across the company."

  • 5 Interview Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid: "Preparation doesn't mean a quick skim of the job description and a glance at the employer's website; it means at least several hours spent thinking through likely questions and practicing your answers to them."

  • 5 Key Networking Tricks to Help Land You a Job"(m)ake a point to attend industry conferences, so you have a chance to make a good impression. It's even better if you seize the opportunity to make a presentation, organize an event at the conference, or blog or tweet about the program."

  • Finding Meaning at Work, Even When Your Job is Dull"Work can, however, provide an array of meaningful experiences, even though many employees do not enjoy those in their current job. So, what are the sources of meaningful experiences at work?"

  • 3 Tips for Introverts in an Extrovert Workplace"Introverts shouldn't have to succumb or change themselves to succeed or take on a leadership role... Introverts bring different and great strengths to the table, like less micromanagement and more insight and contemplation." 

Friday, December 21, 2012

How to Work from Home Successfully

For many people, working from home offers flexibility and opportunity for both personal and professional growth—without the commute and office politics. But what are some important pointers for successfully working from home?

Have a dedicated office environment
Set up a dedicated space with a desk, comfortable chair, and an organized workspace. A door for privacy and a dedicated phone line may also help. Avoid mixing business and personal items, like bills, within your office area.

Create a daily plan
Most of the time, working from home allows you to schedule around personal commitments. If you drive the kids to school every morning,make sure to account for this in your daily schedule. Set a realistic expectation regarding the number of hours you plan to work, and stick to it.

Be available to those you work with
Be sure your clients or vendors can reach you during the work day. Clearly communicate what hours you are available and use an out-of-the-office automated email reply and similar type phone message on your office voice mail.

Don’t be afraid to call it a day
Working efficiently and effectively is the goal, so be mindful of how many hours you are working each day. Once in a while, you may need to get up early or stay up late to finish a project, but just because your office is at home doesn’t mean you have to live in it. Remember that door to the office? Close it at night. Your work will be there tomorrow, so go enjoy the rest of your day, today!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Veteran's Job Search Quiz - Test Your Knowledge, Part 2

In this earlier blog post, I started the job search quiz that will test your knowledge of job search methods. Following you will find part two of the quiz. Take the following test to see if your knowledge of interviewing is as up-to-date as your knowledge of resume writing, which we tested in Part 1 of the quiz.

1. Most employers are well-trained in the art of interviewing and selecting candidates.
False. There is no way to control who is interviewing you for the job you are seeking any more than you can control their skill at interviewing. Unfortunately, many people are tasked with hiring without every being trained in the art of interviewing. Keep in mind that the interview decision is often based on emotions. It is a bit of a "chemistry test" where the employer is evaluating whether or not you fit into the organization.

2. When you interview for a job, you should always address the interviewer as "sir" or "ma'am" the same way you were trained to do in the military.
False. While calling people by "sir" or "ma'am" is indeed a polite sign of respect, it can be disconcerting for a civilian who is used to being addressed by their first name in the workplace. Take your cues from the interviewer and if they are less formal, you should be the same way. Ease up on the formalities and you will demonstrate that you are ready to transition out of the military.

3. No two interviews are alike, therefore there is no true way to prepare for an interview.
False. While it is true that no two interviews are alike and every interviewer asks different questions, the theme of the questions is always the same. It is imperative to prepare your "talking points" about your skills and the benefits you can bring to the organization. The more you prepare yourself to discuss the value you can bring to an organization, the more comfortable you will be in an interview - no matter what questions they ask or what order they ask them in.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Daily Leap Career Video of the Week: Setting Priorities

Each week we present our Daily Leap Career Video of the Week. The video we share presents news or advice related to career development, searching for a job, the economy and employment, and other career-related topics.

In this Fast Company 30 Second MBA video, author and entrepreneur Peter Shankman recommends starting your day a half hour earlier to prepare to tackle your priorities for the day.

Watch the video below for more:

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Veteran's Job Search Quiz - Test Your Knowledge, Part 1

There are many common misconceptions - both among veterans and non-veterans. Take part one of the quiz below to see if you have clear expectations of your military transition job search process.

1. Employers tend to hire a veteran over a non-veteran if they have two candidates that are equally qualified.
False. Unfortunately these common misconceptions I spoke of earlier can negatively impact the hiring decision for a veteran. Less than 1% of the population has served in the military. If the civilian that is making the decision does not understand that the veteran has transferable skills, they will tend to shy away from hiring the veteran. To be successful in the transition process, veterans must learn to speak the language of the industry in which they are targeting jobs.

2. Your salary will be up to twice as much in the private sector as you made in the military.
False. There are some cases where veterans have exceeded or even doubled their military pay in the private sector. However, that is usually the exception versus the norm. Do your research on websites such as and to determine the salary range in your industry and where you want to live. Use military retirement pay calculators on websites such as to determine the amount of retirement pay you will receive. Be sure to calculate the loss of benefits such as Basic Allowance for Subsistence (BAS) and Basic Allowance for Housing (BAH).

3. Private sector employers believe that military veterans do not have the ability to manage profit and loss.
True. The perception in the private sector is that the military has unlimited funds and they do not have to manage with budget constraints or staffing challenges. It is true that the military does not even come close to turning a profit - that is not their purpose. However, most civilians are not aware of things like force shaping or high year tenure that have drawn down the military significantly in recent years. As a veteran, you must dispel these myths by discussing your focus on cost reduction, efficiency management, and budget oversight.

So, how did you do? Check back on Thursday for a continuation of the Veteran's Employment Quiz.

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Four Agreements at Work - First in a Series

I believe that we are all striving to be better: better professionals, better spouses, better board members, better parents, better people. And - given recent events in our country (especially Connecticut) - we are given over to a period of reflection and search for a deeper meaning.

Driven personally by this desire for improvement and meaning, I recently picked up the book The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz; a book that, dare I say, has sat on my bookshelf for years. I found the simple wisdom he professes profound...and entirely applicable to navigating one's career.

In this series I will expound on the four agreements contained within the book and how they pertain to your job search and/or your professional life. It is no substitute for reading the book yourself (and please do. It's the size of a postcard and a mere 138 pages) but puts a career context around his writing.

The first agreement: Be impeccable with your word
Being impeccable with your word is the practice of being mindful of what you say to yourself and what you say about others. Words - according to Ruiz - have a power we do not comprehend, influencing our inner being and environment. Your word is a force for manifestation.

And he's right. When you are feeling hurt or unconfident - in your job, while looking for a job, or anywhere else in your life - you tend to say negative things about yourself: I'll never excel at this. I'm unemployable. I'm stupid. When you say these things - putting them out into the universe - they not only become a self-fulfilling prophesy but a stain on your being.

The same can be said for what you say about others. Your words have the ability to convey love and empowerment or to damage people to their core. It seems that a single negative comment can undo the professionalism you spent an immeasurable amount of time creating. A prime example of this is office gossip. What purpose does this serve but to divide, ostracize, and hurt?

This agreement is more than just talking humanely to ourselves and refraining from gossiping: it is about embracing the opposite of a state of being that has been instilled in us from when we were very young. It means keeping negative ideas from influencing you and divorcing yourself from the need to be right. It is also an acknowledgement that the world is as you see it and not more important than the view of another.

Being impeccable with your word - says Ruiz - is the most important agreement, and the hardest one to fulfill.

Challenge: spend the next seven days being mindful of what you say to yourself, what you say to others, and ensuring that what flows through you embodies kindness and integrity. Post in the comments what you learned.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

© Bellemedia | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

  • If You Want a Great Job, Tell a Great Story"See yourself as a storyteller, and your professional successes and accomplishments as your story. You have an ability to make an emotional as well as intellectual connection with members of your network and hiring authorities by the way you tell your story."

  • Finding the Job of Your Life: "There is no job of your life out there, waiting to be found. There are only jobs that may make you feel more or less alive. If you allow them to, that is."

  • How to Overcome Workplace Distraction"Your email, phone and colleagues will try to pull your attention away, but you may become so engrossed in solving your puzzle that you can concentrate until you find the answers."

  • Three Secrets of Entrepreneurship That Will Transform Your Career"Entrepreneurs have a natural hustle about them—a go-big-or-go-home sensibility to the way they live their lives, run their businesses and pursue opportunities."

  • Make Your Body Language Work for You During an Interview"Research suggests up to 93 percent of communication isn't transmitted via our words, but is broadcast through our actions and attitude." (Also see the related video of the week below.)

Friday, December 14, 2012

Call Center Representative—a good start

Many graduates and some non-graduates get their professional start and gain valuable work experience as a call center customer service representative. As more companies place top priority on customer relationship management, call centers (or contact centers) need good customer service representatives. These representatives are typically grouped in inbound or outbound call teams. Inbound call center representatives reply to customer inquiries for information, provide customer assistance for the company’s products or services, and respond to customer complaints. Representatives at outbound call centers may make solicitation calls, collection calls for past-due customer accounts, or calls requesting donations.

Skills and Traits Required
Most companies look for the following general skills and traits when hiring call center customer service representatives:

  • Strong communicator 
  • Problem solver 
  • Team player 
  • Familiarity with basic computer skills 
  • Positive attitude 

Performance Measurement
Contact Centers will periodically monitor calls to evaluate a representative’s performance. They also use metrics, for example, measuring call volume handled within a specified period of time, measuring average call duration, or analyzing customer survey feedback.

Work Environment
Although work environments vary from call center to call center, some share common characteristics. For example, representatives typically work in cubicles equipped with a computer, telephone,and headset. Privacy is limited and the environments can be noisy.The work can be stressful due to high call volumes and dealing with unhappy customers. And, after a period of time, the work may seem mundane. On the flip side, a call center is a great place to meet and build relationships with coworkers and polish important skills that are highly sought after by employers.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

7 Ways to Disagree with Your Boss . . . Without Losing Your Job

Most managers don't want someone who will simply go along with everything they say. Most likely, they hired you for your expertise, knowledge, and the value you can bring to the team. However, just because they want your opinion, that does not mean you can speak it freely, however and whenever you want.

Remember, if you are not contributing to the organization then you become expendable and irrelevant. You just need to find the proper balance. These seven strategies will help you diplomatically and professionally voice your disagreements with your boss.

  • Establish a dialog with your boss from day one. Clarify and adopt your boss' and the organization's goals, objectives, and priorities. Ask your boss how they prefer to receive ideas or concerns. Be prepared by being informed.
  • Back your concerns or ideas with facts. Do your research and come to the discussion about your disagreement backed with measurable value that can be attained by making modifications to policy or procedure that you are proposing.
  • Don't approach disagreements head-on. Use "what if" scenarios or say "Can I make a suggestion?"  This approach is much less contentious and less likely to put your boss on the defensive.
  • Pick your battles. Before you air a disagreement, ask yourself: Is this worth the effort and potential conflict? If you see the company losing money or going against its values and you want to air a concern, that is valid. However, don't nitpick.
  • Carefully choose your battleground. There is an appropriate time and place to bring up a disagreement with your boss. In a meeting with a large group or with your boss' boss is not the best place. During crunch time of a critical deadline that is stressing your boss out is not the best time. You may have to wait, but the reception will be much more positive.
  • Never disagree with the sole motivation of promoting yourself. If you can not honestly state a reason that the disagreement will help the company better attain its goals, then you should not air the issue. Disagreeing just to be noticed is not the best way to get ahead.
  • Know when to throw in the towel. There will be battles that you can not win, no matter how well you present your case. Be diplomatic and walk away once your boss has made the decision. Never look back and say "I told you so."

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Daily Leap Video of the Week

Each week we present our Daily Leap Career Video of the Week. The video we share presents news or advice related to career development, searching for a job, the economy and employment, and other career-related topics.

In this TED video, professor and researcher Amy Cuddy discusses the importance of body language and posture and its impact on our career success.

Watch the video below for more:

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

The Holiday Recipe for Strategic Networking

It is the time of year for two very important things - baking and holiday parties. Since I don't think you follow this blog to receive my recipe for Christmas tree-shaped almond butter cookies (which are fabulous, by the way), let's talk about your recipe for networking strategically at all these upcoming holiday parties.

  • The stock of your networking recipe is a gallon of good cheer at the prospect of attending. The thought of attending a party with people I don't know puts me in a cold sweat. However, if you go into the event with the thought that you are there to have a good time, bring holiday wishes, and make new connections you will be much more successful.

  • You next need to add a cup of preparation. Go into every holiday event with a clear definition of what you are looking for. Networking in any setting will never be successful if you do not have a goal in mind. When you meet someone, be sure to introduce yourself, tell them your specialty, and subtly tell them how they can help you. For example you might say: "My name is John Smith, I am a civil engineer. I specialize in residential design and quality control to ensure designs are cost-effective and safe. I unfortunately find myself unemployed this holiday season, but I am looking to land with a company that needs someone with my skills. I would appreciate it if you would keep me in mind if you hear of anything."

  • Add a teaspoon of helpfulness. The key to networking is that you must always be on the lookout for ways you can help other people. It is so gratifying to know that you connected someone with their potential employer or made an introduction that led to another person's success. You know what they say about putting good things out into the world - they will come back to you!

  • Last, add a dash of follow up. It does you no good to make these connections without following up on  them. Go home and connect with the people you meet on LinkedIn by sending them a personalized invitation about meeting them at the party. The next day write them a nice email reminding them of all the things you discussed at the party. Within the next month - holidays are a busy time - touch base with them and offer to buy them a cup of coffee and sit down to talk with them one-on-one.
Many people give up their job search during the holidays. However, it is the perfect time to take advantage of all the social opportunities and optimize everyone's sense of good cheer. Have an fruitful and prosperous holiday networking season!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Five Reasons to Plan a Professional Conference

I was recently named registration chair for a regional coaching conference to be held this summer, and I couldn't be more thrilled with this opportunity. See, I love attending conferences: networking with other professionals, engaging in informative education sessions, learning new skills, staying abreast with industry trends...they serve to "light my professional fire." But being on the planning team for a conference boosts this even further. Why should you consider helping to plan a professional conference?

In-depth networking: It's one thing to meet someone at a conference and have a series of nice conversations over lunch or during an educational program. But planning a conference enables you to get to know a set of professionals sooner, longer, and the quality of your interactions are more in-depth. They get a sense of you as a professional: your interests, your drive,  your passion, and your experience. The relationships you make can last you a lifetime, and those relationships can result in wonderful career opportunities for you and for them.

Solve new problems: In the workplace, the problems you solve can become too familiar after some time, with the same issues being tackled by the same individuals and groups. Planning a conference creates a "shock" to your system where the problems are newer, the environment fresh, and you are challenged in different ways.

Use different skills: Similar to the point above,  you become used to using a certain set of skills in your current occupation. When planning a conference, however, you employ new or different skills to tackle the new problems you are confronted with. In my role as registration chair, I see spreadsheets, technology-issues, and essential communication between myself and other conference attendees in my future. I look forward to doing something different and in a different context in service of my professional community.

Resume booster: Helping to plan a conference should most certainly go on your resume as a professional development activity. The initiative you conveyed, accomplishments you achieved, skills utilized, and problems solved help to show you in another professional lens, one that you want to profile to future employers.

Free or discounted registration: It isn't uncommon to receive free or discounted registration for a conference when on the planning committee. This is a nice perk, but don't let it be the primary driving factor of why you participate: you will be disappointed quickly because the time you put in to plan doesn't begin to cover the costs. Rather, see what you are doing in light of the first three points. You'll be happier for it, and the registration will simply be the cherry on top of the professional sundae you've created.

So what are you waiting for? Contact a professional organization in your field today, find out when their next conference is, and volunteer!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

© Bellemedia | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

  • 6 Steps for Rekindling Your Career in 2013"Tis the season to begin thinking about New Year's resolutions. Get a jump start on your career and professional development by including some of these items to your list."

  • 8 Tips for How to Ask for a Raise: "Don’t just go storming into your manager’s office and pound your fist on their desk asking for more pay.  Keep track of your performance as you go through the year.  Gather data and statistics that clearly demonstrate your contributions."

  • 14 Ways to Stay Focused at Work Through the Holidays"
    Avoid multitasking. Work on one project at a time ... 
    In addition, try to avoid working on personal and work-related tasks at the same time

  • 6 Lessons From a Work-From-Home Mom and CEO"There are countless studies that show working from home can be more productive than working in a traditional office setting with benefits such as fewer interruptions from colleagues, less office politics to deal with, a work environment that's in your control, etc. BUT, in order to benefit from these, you really need to be disciplined with your focus and time."

  • How to Win New Contacts and Job-Search Allies at Holiday Parties"Make sure you follow through with anything you said you'd do during your first conversation and don't squander potential opportunities by failing to keep in touch. When you do, you'll have a better chance of adding new allies to your job search efforts."

Friday, December 7, 2012

How to Turn Down a Job Offer

Throughout your interview process, you want to leave a positive impression, which can also be construed as being very interested in the position. However, you may come to the conclusion that the job is not right for you. Regardless of your reasons, declining a job offer can prove to be a very awkward situation.

According to, the following tips can be useful if you need to turn down a job offer.

Be sincere and show your appreciation:  Stay positive and let the employer know what interested you in the job and the company in the first place. Remember to thank the hiring manager for the opportunity.  Don’t have an attitude, and don’t burn any bridges. Be respectful of the company and what it has to offer.

Be prepared to give an explanation:  Make sure you have well-thought-out rationale for turning down the job. Be prepared to explain why it was not the right job for you, and cite some specific reasons.

Be timely:  If you decide to decline the opportunity, do so within the week it was offered. This is especially true if the company spent a lot of time and money on your interview and the hiring process. The rejection should be via phone, not email. Speak to the hiring manager, if possible. If the hiring manager is unavailable, promptly send a letter to all those whom you spoke with at the interview. 

A professional attitude can go a long way. You never know. Sometime in the future, you may be considering the same company again for a different position. Keep the door open by showing diplomacy and respect.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

5 Strategies to Turn Your Temporary Holiday Job into Permanent Employment

I have seen more help wanted signs around in the last few weeks than ever before. For a job seeker, this is the perfect time to land a position, get your foot in the door, and attempt to turn that temp job into something more long-term. According to the American Staffing Association, as many as 18% of temp jobs annually are converted to permanent positions. Work hard, communicate assertively and be resourceful and you may just have this same success.

More companies than ever are using the "try before you buy" approach to hiring. They use staffing agencies to evaluate their workforce before offering them full-time, permanent positions. Take advantage of your first few days on the job to create positive impressions with your employer. Use this temporary opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge, competence and ability to be a productive member of the team. Here are some other key strategies you should employ.

  • Make sure you are not another of the temporary employee masses. Establish clear expectations of your performance and know your priorities by meeting with your boss. Build rapport with your coworkers, try to fit into the team, learn their names and roles, and try to find some common ground with them. Learn as much as you can about the company culture.
  • Don't think of yourself or act like "just a temp", treat this job the same way you would a permanent position. Find ways that you can contribute to the organization. Approach every task and assignment with a positive attitude. Find a way to exceed expectations and stand out from the crowd.
  • If you finish your assigned tasks, ask what else you can do to help. Communicate your willingness and ability to take on extra responsibilities and ask to be cross-trained in other areas. Your goal is to make sure they can't stand the thought of losing you when your assignment is over. 
  • Take time to understand why and how things are done. Ask questions, gain knowledge, and understand the organizations structure and policy. This way you can look for ways to add value and make suggestions that increase efficiency or cut costs.
  • Clearly communicate your desire to become a permanent employee. Your employer may assume you are satisfied with being a temporary employee. Ensure your supervisors and the human resources team know your goals by conveying your wish to join their organization permanently.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Should You Negotiate Salary - Even in a Tough Job Search Market?

I admit that until just recently my answer to this question would have been a resounding "yes." I have always taught job seekers that if you don't negotiate salary when an offer is made then you are leaving money on the table. However, the job market has been challenging the last few years, to say the least, and my answer has changed from "always" to "most of the time."

For those of you that follow me on this blog, you know I have been in an interview process for a part-time teaching job recently. I received a job offer last week and was faced with this very question - to negotiate or not. Let's examine the reasons whether or not to negotiate that I considered when making this decision.

When to Negotiate
A recent article on suggested that around 80% of organizations expect salary negotiations to occur and they leave themselves some wiggle room in the initial offer. A counter-offer that is based in research and backed up with concrete facts and demonstrates the value you offer to the company is most always well-received. Here are some situations when you should take advantage of salary negotiations:

  • If you have conducted your research into the going rates and the offer you received is well below the market standard, then you may have a case for asking for higher compensation. 
  • If you can demonstrate measurable ways that you can benefit the company (i.e. increased sales, improved profits, or reduced safety violations) you can show why you deserve more salary.
  • Companies often offer a salary range at which they are willing to hire you in the interview process. If you have more than 5 years of experience, but you are offered a position at the lower end of the scale, you should consider negotiating salary. Once again, discuss the experience and value you offer.
  • Consider negotiating more than just salary. Think about education reimbursements, benefits, car or travel allowances, and additional paid vacation when negotiating.

When Not to Negotiate
I recently read an article where the hiring manager stated that she would rescind an offer if the person seemed to be negotiating salary without sufficient justification, proof of their value or worth, and with no evidence of how they could add value to her organization. In other words, don't just automatically negotiate salary; always conduct your research and see if you have a valid point.

If the company provides you with a range of salary in the interview, they usually ask you if that range is acceptable to you. If you say yes, and they offer you the high end of that range, it will be thought of negatively if you try to negotiate a higher salary. Once again, conducting research before you even begin the interview is very important. This way you are prepared to gauge whether or not the company's salary range is in line with industry standards and can raise the issue early in the process.

Monday, December 3, 2012

Reinventing Yourself in a New Position

In my last post, I gave tips on what to do when transitioning out of a position and into a new one. The big theme of that post was "preparation," namely to help the work unit you are leaving prepare for your departure through creating a transition plan with your supervisor, documenting procedures, and training your replacement. The Daily Leap is a fount of knowledge when it comes to transitioning into your new position, with great, timely tips here and here and here. There is one aspect of starting a new job, however, that is critical but understated: the potential for reinvention.

In your current role you are a part of a work culture, with certain norms and expectations. You develop practices that meet those characteristics and that fit your style of doing work. A new position provides a moment to reflect on what you are now and who you want to be regarding this new opportunity. In what areas would you like to improve or change? Do you want to develop new work practices, like saying thank you more? Before you start a new position, spend some time reflecting on these questions:

In what ways did I perform in my old position that reflected my core strengths? 

How did I let good and bad habits infiltrate my work in my old position?

If I start my old position over again, what would I change?

What challenges excite me about this new position?

What do I want others to say about me a month into my new position? A year?

What would initiative in my new position look like?

What key relationships do I need to develop to help me become successful in my new position?

The questions  are endless, and the endeavor important. View a new position as a way to create a new reputation for yourself professionally through changing those aspects of your professional character that need changing.

Have any better questions to share? Do so in the comments below!

Saturday, December 1, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

© Bellemedia | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

  • Second Acts: Turning Your Passion Into a Paycheck"For many who have spent their first half working for other people, the soul-searching often leads to entrepreneurship."

  • The Skills Gap That's Slowing Down Your CareerIf your speed bump is a lack of the right skills, it helps to first do a quick cost/benefit analysis to see if investing in an upgrade will be worth it."

  • How to Build an Antifragile Career"Most of you will fail, disrespected, impoverished, but we are grateful for the risks you are taking and the sacrifices you are making for the sake of the economic growth of the planet and pulling others out of poverty."

  • Success Will Come and Go, But Integrity is Forever"Building a reputation of integrity takes years, but it takes only a second to lose, so never allow yourself to ever do anything that would damage your integrity."

  • A Better Way to Plan Your Career"To prepare for whatever surprises lie ahead, try to make choices today that will maximize your options in the future. Gain transferable expertise — in the classroom or at work — and form close bonds with your peers and colleagues."

Friday, November 30, 2012

Should I Start My Own Business?

Many people have business ideas and wonder if they would be viable in the marketplace. Others want to know how to come up with a great business idea. Here are several suggestions for things you can do to explore starting a business.

First, think about your interests and skills and identify expertise you have in particular areas. In doing so, ask yourself, “Does this skill or expertise have the potential to fill a market need or attract prospective customers?” Another way to identify business opportunities is by writing down your own frustrations as a consumer. For example, have you had a need for a particular service and noticed there is no business currently filling this need adequately?

The good news is, you don’t always have to start from scratch. Take a look at existing businesses that interest you and assess whether there is enough consumer demand and room for competition.

Before going further, you’ll want to assess your personal and professional goals and create a business plan for your idea. Many cities, counties, and area chambers of commerce have business centers or Economic Development Departments for critiquing your plan submissions and providing you with feedback. Often, they can also offer you advice on next steps you need to take.

Another important step involves completing a financial plan. This will give you an idea of how much you need to invest in the business, what you can expect as a return, and how long it might take to become profitable.

Of course, you should make the most of existing resources for learning about start-ups. has many articles on starting your own business. Also, several metropolitan areas offer new business planning guides on their websites.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Are References Even Necessary in Today's Job Market?

I must admit, before I started this recent interview process I would have answered this question differently. I know many companies are very careful about what they will and will not say in a reference check, so my first inclination would have been to say that references were quickly becoming a thing of the past.

However, as I conducted research I found that many companies are still using the reference check process as a screening tool. Most recently, I found a study that was published by CareerBuilder. In this study, based on a survey of almost 2,500 hiring managers and HR professionals as well as almost 4,000 job seekers, I found some interesting statistics:

  • 80% of employers said they do contact a candidate's references and 16% of them contact references before they even call the candidate for the first interview
  • 69% of the hiring decision makers said they have changed their mind about a candidate based on what they learned in the reference check
  • Of these wishy-washy hiring managers, 47% changed their mind in a negative way and 23% felt more favorably after talking to the candidate's references
  • Almost 30% of employers reported finding a falsified reference on an application
  • 15% of candidates admitted that they did not talk to their references to ask their permission or even inform them they listed them as a reference
So what have we learned from this study?
  • References do matter and employers are still checking them. In fact, my references were requested to provide written answers to a series of four questions today.
  • References can sway the opinion of a hiring manager both positively and negatively. Therefore, we should select "coachable" references that you can talk with regarding the upcoming reference call.
  • Never lie on an application. They may not catch you right away, but there is always a chance the truth will come out at some point - and then it is too late.
  • Always ask your references for permission - BEFORE you list them as a reference. Also, always give them fair warning of who might be calling and what they will be asking about.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Tips for Success in the Demonstration Interview

The saga of my interview process for the part-time teaching position continues. Interview three was this morning. The format was what I call a demonstration interview, although it may also be called a practical or presentation interview. In this style of interview, your potential employer wants to validate that you do, in fact, possess the skills you have claimed in previous interviews by witnessing them first-hand.

Since I am interviewing with a company that is based remotely, I was asked today to provide a ten-minute training presentation on interview techniques (very ironic!) via Skype. The video aspect of the interview was a challenge all its own. However, here are some basic tips I can offer you to ensure your success if you are ever asked to "prove it" by a potential employer.

  • Keep it simple and let your skills do the talking. You don't need an elaborate set up in order to present your materials, you - and your knowledge - are the star of the show.

  • Focus your presentation and know that you can't possibly show them everything you know in the limited time offered. For example, a personal trainer who is asked to provide a 15-minute demonstration of their training style can't work out every body part in that time. Instead, they should focus on area of the body (i.e. legs) and show knowledge through demonstrating proper form, motivating the participant, and explaining how each movement is benefiting the body.

  • Be engaging and interactive. Most practical, hands-on interviews are for the purpose of evaluating knowledge. Engage the observer in the process whenever possible.

  • Trust in your skills and knowledge and be ready to go with the flow of the situation. Often, practical interviewers will throw situations at you and ask you to react to them. If you relax and remember what you know, your natural skills and instincts will take over

Monday, November 26, 2012

Three Tips When Transitioning Out of your Job

There may come a time in your career when you amicably transition out of your current job and into a new one. This may be at your current company or at a new company, but - regardless of which -  it will reflect positively on you to make your transition out as smooth as possible. Read the tips below to finish your tenure in your old position strongly.

Strategize with your supervisor: Work with your supervisor to determine what would be the best way for you to spend the time you have left in your position. Undoubtedly there will be projects for your to complete, but which ones should be completed by you as opposed to which ones should be handed off to someone else should be discussed. Ultimately it will be your supervisor's decision, but offer your input based upon your experience and what you think would be best for the company.

Document practices and procedures: Your job may be second nature to you, but to the person (or persons) who will be stepping into your role, it most likely will not be. Create a document detailing the appropriate steps to accomplish certain tasks that are unique to your role and your company. These can include reserving conference rooms, utilizing special pieces of software, a curriculum plan for classes you teach, completing a project proposal, or any other endeavor you feel is important. Further, create a timeline of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and yearly tasks so he/she knows what to expect and do when. 

Train your replacement: If you are in the position to be able to spend any amount of time with your replacement, do so. Sit down with her to demonstrate the ins-and-outs of your job and provide an orientation to your work unit. Have her actually carry out the tasks and consult with you regarding any questions she may have. With your guidance, she will be able to become acclimated more quickly and feel more comfortable in her new role.

What else would you do when amicably separating from a company so that they are successful? Put your suggestions in the comments below!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup

This is our weekly roundup of some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., we've read during the week. We share these every weekend so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. Enjoy!

© Bellemedia | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Friday, November 23, 2012

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for What You Want

Whether you’re trying to move up the ladder or pursuing a great job offer, don’t be afraid to ask for what you want. 

Climbing the ladder
Whatever your career, you should take time to identify and map out your short- and long-term goals. Once you’ve determined the logical progression for your career path, you can identify what technical, management, and/or professional skills you need to achieve your goals.

Talk with someone who is in a similar career in a position you one day hope to achieve.  Ask this person about the type of experience he/she has and the training it took to attain that position.

Asking up front
Long-term career goals are important, but knowing what you want out of an initial job offer can be equally crucial. 

According to, there are many more facets of compensation than just base pay and health benefits. If items such as paid vacation, car allowance, bonus potential, and tuition reimbursement are important to you, be prepared to discuss these up front as part of the entire compensation package and job offer.

Likewise, if schedule flexibility and working from home are things you’re interested in, be ready to cite examples of how you have made this work successfully in past jobs. If you don’t have first-hand experience working in a flexible work arrangement, propose a plan that convinces the employer you can make it a win-win situation for both parties.

In either situation—climbing the ladder or pursuing a job offer—set goals, know your worth, have a plan, and act on it. If you’re confident with your road map, your travels should be smooth and successful.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Three Ways to Show Gratitude Through LinkedIn

As we celebrate Thanksgiving today, I want to examine a few ways that job seekers and professionals can show their gratitude to those people in their professional network through LinkedIn. First of all, if you do not have a LinkedIn profile your first step is to take care of that oversight.

LinkedIn has become one of the most important networking tools for professionals. People are getting found on LinkedIn for job opportunities, being selected for consulting positions, and connecting with long-lost professional contacts. However, you can also use LinkedIn to build relationships. Here are three ways you can show your gratitude to your contacts and build solid relationships using LinkedIn.

This is a relatively new tool on LinkedIn. When a person has selected their skills and expertise, you can go into their profile and offer a personal endorsement of that skill. If you have first-hand knowledge of your contact's ability to successfully utilize one of their selected skills, all you have to do is go into their profile, hover over the skill they have selected and click on "endorse." This will build your contact's credibility.

This takes a bit more time and thought, but offering a personalized recommendation is another way to show appreciation for your contact. When writing a recommendation for your contact, think about the skills they have discussed in their profile and their skills and expertise section. Write a minimum of two to three sentences about your impression of their skills. Include a brief example or story of how they have impacted you in your recommendation to increase the validity of the message.

Networking, especially social networking, is about making new connections. Always be willing and available to assist your existing network of contacts to connect with each other. When done right, networking is a give and take relationship that benefits everyone involved. Reach out to your contacts with a personal message about the person you want to introduce and clearly state what they are looking for and the type of assistance they need. People can't help unless they know what is needed.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

What Should You Do if You Get Stumped in an Interview?

In my last blog post last week, I shared with you that I had an upcoming interview. That interview went well and I was scheduled for a second phone interview on Monday. Knowing she was interviewing me - a career services professional who teaches interviewing techniques - the interviewer must have prepared some extra-tough questions, because she stumped me once!

The interviewer asked me the top three qualities that I thought were necessary to succeed in the position for which I was interviewing. No problem, I easily answered the question. However, she then proceeded to ask which one I thought I had that was MOST important. I could honestly make a case for any one of these three skills that I knew I could bring to the table and I could not decide how to answer. I was stumped!

If you ever run into a situation where you don't know the best answer to a question, I want you to be prepared to handle the situation. We are often so concerned with how we are perceived in an interview that we are unwilling to admit to any kind of weakness. Faced with the situation of not knowing how to answer, I went with what I considered to be the best option. Here is how I answered:

"I can honestly say I bring all three qualities to the position. I also can make a case for any one of the three qualities being most important. You have stumped me, so give me a second to think about it." I then went on to say that I thought two of the three qualities could be taught in training, but the third quality was the most important and I offered my reasoning.

In an interview, don't be afraid to ask for more time. Don't be afraid to say that you are torn between several answers. Don't be afraid to admit when you get stumped. Any of these situations show you are taking the interview seriously, you are considering each answer carefully, and you have extensive knowledge of the subject matter.  Don't take yourself too seriously and show poise and confidence in the interview - no matter what comes your way.

The interviewer admitted to me at the end of the interview that she was quite proud that she was able to stump me, a professional, and that she put a lot of thought into the question. Quite honestly, it allowed us to build rapport and my being stumped was not perceived negatively.

** Update: as I wrote this blog post, I received an email requesting a final interview, so it must not have been too bad!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Top Five Myths about References

Myths exist in nearly every aspect of the job search process, from creating a resume, writing a cover letter, or taking part in an interview. The same can be said about the process of choosing job references, or those who can speak about you as a professional. Read - and heed - the top five myths about references below. 

Anyone can be a reference: There are some job candidates who believe that anyone can be a reference: a friend, a neighbor, or a family member. What these candidates fail to realize is that the quality of the reference matters significantly. A reference should be able to speak directly to you as a professional, not in any other role. Ensure that the references you choose can do so.

A reference will always have positive things to say: Candidates may assume that anyone that they have worked with will give them a glowing reference. Not so. Simply working with someone doesn't mean that they will give you a positive reference. When you are reaching out to solicit references, ask that person if they can give you a positive reference. A response of 'no' doesn't necessarily mean that you were a poor worker (though it could be educational for you to find out why they cannot). Ensure that your references will be able to support your candidacy.

You should only have three references: The standard is to provide three references to speak to your work habits and ability to perform in a potential position. However, consider providing a fourth or a fifth unless specifically asked not to. Providing more than three shows confidence that you have more than three people who can speak highly about you. It also will give the potential employer options for who they want to contact.

You can't direct your references: When you contact someone to be your reference, be sure to send her a copy of the position description and to remind her of certain projects or work that you did together that will reflect positively on your candidacy. Such pre-preparation will give your references something of substance to discuss, making them more comfortable and more effective for you when contacted by a potential employer.

You don't need to tell your reference they are being references: Nothing frustrates a reference more than not being forewarned that they will be contacted by a potential employer. Everyone who you give as a reference should know beforehand that they could potentially be contacted. If you do not direct your references as to what you want them to say about you, they should - at the very least - know that they could be contacted so they are not taken by surprise.

What myths about references have you uncovered? Comment about them below!

Sunday, November 18, 2012

High 5 Weekly Career Transitions Roundup: Thanksgiving Edition

We share some of the best career-related articles, interviews, blogs, etc., every weekend, so you have some great resources to prepare you for the coming week. This is our weekly roundup on job searching, careers, and the Thanksgiving holiday. Enjoy!

© Bellemedia | Stock Free Images & Dreamstime Stock Photos

Friday, November 16, 2012

Modern Jobs for Today’s Women

Women have many exciting career options today, and Women’s Health Magazine’s online edition has heralded several as “hot careers.”  Here’s a look at a few on the list.  

Green or Eco-Interior Designer
An eco-interior designer creates interior spaces that meet aesthetic, functional, and budgetary goals using sustainable, recycled, and toxin-free materials when possible.  They also look for ways to incorporate design solutions that minimize energy consumption.  Several colleges and universities offer degrees in environmental studies or programs with a concentration in sustainability to complement an interior design degree.   

Social Media Marketer
With more companies working to engage audiences through social media channels, a growing demand for social media marketers is not surprising.  These marketers develop and implement strategies that motivate target audiences to participate in a brand’s online social media communities, like Facebook, Twitter, and other emerging new media.   Goals include building brand awareness and loyalty while creating customers who are brand advocates.  To break into social media marketing, consider pursuing a degree in this field.  

Genetic Counselor
A genetic counselor works with patients who are at risk for a variety of inherited genetic conditions or those who want children who may be at risk for birth defects.  Genetic counselors consider family medical history and use risk assessment tests in determining the probability of the occurrence or recurrence of a genetic condition or birth defect.  Genetic counselors educate patients about the risks, help them to understand test results, present available options, direct them to resources, and act as patient advocates.  These professionals work in clinical or hospital settings. 
To learn more about hot career picks for women, check out the Women’s Health Magazine list yourself at