Monday, April 30, 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!

1. Don't Sabotage Yourself in Your New Job
"Give yourself some time to adjust and grant yourself the permission to learn gradually and enjoy your experience."

2. How to Start a New Career on the Right Foot
"The first step to planning your future is doing an in-depth interview — and not with a potential employer, but with yourself."

3. Make Your Job More Meaningful
"People with callings prioritize what I call craftsmanship. They want to make things happen and to be excellent in their fields, not just because of potential growth in their company but because they believe those things are intrinsically worthwhile."

4. Advice for Working with Millennials 
"They want a career and fun and a balanced lifeand to make an impact on the world. They don’t want to give anything up, and they really want to do a lot of good things for the firm and the community."

5. How to Expand Your Career Abroad
"Building an international career is a dream for many professionals ... How can you cultivate the contacts you need, or bridge the cultural gap?"

Elevate Your Screening for Career Satisfaction

We are in a constant state of screening.

Whether it's that person we just met, the new TV show that debuted, an album from a band you recently heard of, a product that will your life: all of these things have to go through an internal set of filters before you give them the internal "thumbs up." Screening helps us feel comfortable about our decisions and ensures that there is a fit between our values and what's being offered to us.

Employers screen their candidates for the same reason. They are looking for something (knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, ethics, etc) and you are offering them something. How well what you offer meets their needs is the magic question.

Desperate job candidates feel honored that they are given an opportunity to interview and they screen at a much lower level than they would if they weren't desperate. This is a recipe for career disaster. No matter how badly they want or need the job, critical screening is essential to ensure that it's going to be the right one. Strengthen your screening process by focusing on the following areas:

Requirements: Screen the requirements of the position by carefully reading the job description and parsing out any words or items that you don't understand. Ask about these in the interview. For example, what does it mean when a company requires that you "supervise functions of accounts payable"? Are you overseeing employees or just the operations of accounts payable? The differences could significantly impact your career, so getting clear on what it means is essential.

Culture: This is a tricky one, as it is hard to screen culture without being in it. However, it's not impossible if you ask the right questions...specific questions. Focus in on the aspects of the culture that are important to you and ask pointed questions about them, from the work hours and vacations to interdepartmental collaboration and supervisor meetings. If possible, talk with other employees (particularly ones in your role) to get a first-hand view of the company's culture.

Benefits: Screening around benefits means to ask questions about 401k, insurance, vacation time, sick time, or any other benefit that the company offers. A comprehensive health insurance plan may not mean as much to you as instant vetting in a 401k. Be thorough in your screening here.

The Extras: Finally, ask questions around those "extra" things that you may take for granted in a position. Will you have an office or a cubicle? What kind of computer is provided? Are you offered any kind of administrative support? Put yourself in the frame of mind of the position and what you believe is included and ask about it...what you learn may surprise you.

Job candidates do themselves no favors by surrendering their power and not screening thoroughly. To ensure a strong fit between you and the organization, be discriminate and comprehensive in what you ask.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Confessions of a Real Post Grad: Kendra Bevier

I will be interviewing different post grads to document their journey, give advice, learn from their triumphs and mistakes and so other post grads know they aren't alone. I will be talking to those lucky few who got their dream job right after their degree or those who went in a completely different direction than they had planned.

1. Explain to readers where and when you graduated, your degree and your current job/schooling.

I graduated from Central Michigan University in May 2011 with a Bachelor of Science. I double majored in psychology and family studies. Currently, I am attending Wayne State University on a part-time basis to get my MSW (Masters of Social Work) degree. I will be finished May 2014. I am currently working full-time as a barista at Starbucks.

2. You just described your current situation, is this where you thought you'd be as a post grad?

I'm not really sure. I kind of decided on a whim that I wanted to go to grad school right away so I didn't really know what to expect.

3. What is the best thing about being a post grad?

The best thing is being in grad school. I really love ALL my classes, unlike undergraduate where you always had to take many that weren't of your interest.

4. What is the worst?

The worst thing is since I am in grad school I had to move back home since undergrad. Living at home isn't all that bad, but sometimes you just want to be independent. Many of my friends still haven't graduated from undergraduate yet, so often when I learn what they are up to I get jealous and wish I was back there. On the other end, I have friends who found jobs right out of college and are living on their own and I get jealous that I am not there yet.

5. What advice do you have for recent post grads?

My advice is try not to compare yourself to others. Working towards your passion is what matters. Some jobs are going to pay more, some jobs are going to be less stressful. In my case, the additional schooling isn't always fun but I know that I am on my way to having a higher education and being able to find that dream job of mine.

Veterans Hiring Initiatives and Resources

A recent report by the Bureau of Labor Statistics showed the veteran unemployment rate for those who have served in Iraq and Afghanistan to be 12.1%. The number of overall unemployed veterans is close to the 8.3% unemployment rate for the rest of the population. The jobless rate for young veterans – age 18 to 24 – is a staggering 30%. In 2011, there were more than 250,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans jobless.

Veterans face some unique challenges in their job search. It is my opinion that we, as a society owe the military service members every effort we can give to assist them in transitioning out of the military or returning from an extended deployment. Here are some veteran’s hiring program highlights.

Feds Hire
This is based on an Executive Order that was signed by President Obama in 2009 that established the Veteran’s Hiring Initiative. This initiative is designed to help the men and women who have served our country in the military find employment in the federal government. Resources include links to hiring managers and officials, tips and advice on the federal employment process and a government agency directory.

The U.S. Chamber of Commerce and are partnering to present 50 hiring fairs for veterans and military spouses throughout 2012. Check their website to find a list of the upcoming career fairs dedicated to hiring military veterans.

The Veteran’s 100,000 Jobs Mission
A number of leading U.S. companies such as J.P. Morgan Chase, Delta Airlines, Verizon and AT&T, to name a few, launched the 100,000 Jobs Mission in 2011. Its goal is to hire 100,000 transitioning service members and military veterans by 2020. Participating companies offer job listings by Military Occupation Code or keywords and geographic location on the site.

Heroes Work HereWebsite Link
This is the Walt Disney Company’s veteran’s initiative that was launched in 2012 and aims to hire 1,000 veterans over the next 3 years. This encompasses all of the Disney Corporation’s companies such as the theme parks, movie studios, ESPN and ABC.

I would just like to personally say thank you for your service to our country. I hope one of these resources will point you in the right direction as you navigate the military to private sector conversion.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Avoid the Most Common Career Fair Mistakes

In today's online job search market, human contact is at a minimum. Career fairs are an excellent opportunity that - when done right - can be very valuable to your job search. In an earlier blog post I provided tips to help you make the most of a career fair. Today, I am going to examine some of the most common mistakes and how you can avoid making them.

Mistake:  An unfocused job search or an "I'll take anything" attitude
Solution:  There are few things that make a recruiter crazier than this type of approach to a career fair. Companies don't want to hire you just because you NEED a job. Before attending a career fair, research the companies, find out the type of positions they have open, pick at least 5 target companies, and figure out how your skills and experience can benefit each company. This approach enables you to make a concise, targeted presentation to each company when you visit their table.

Mistake:  Unprofessional appearance
Solution:  The career fair should be treated no differently than an interview in terms of your appearance. Should you wear shorts and flip flops to an interview? Should you take your children with you on an interview? Should you walk into an interview holding hands with someone? In case you are unclear, the answer is NO to all the above. Just like an interview, at a career fair you should dress to impress, attend alone, and pay attention to your non-verbal communication.

Mistake:  Asking inappropriate questions
Solution:  Never ask questions about salary, benefits, or vacation time. Instead, focus your questions on gaining more information about the company and how you can fit into the organization.

Mistake:  Grabbing free stuff
Solution:  Most every table has free stuff to give away. If you go from table to table collecting giveaways and then approach employers with a bag stuffed full of goodies, you will look unprofessional and will offer the impression that you do not take the job search seriously. Focus your efforts on the job search first, then if there is time discreetly pick up a few items - if you must.

Mistake:  Not taking advantage of the networking opportunities
Solution:  You should walk out of every career fair with a fist full of recruiter and HR business cards that you can follow up with in the coming weeks. In addition, network with your fellow attendees to make additional contacts. Today's job search market is referral-based, make contacts wherever and whenever you can!

Saturday, April 21, 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!

1. 8 Beliefs That Are Stalling Your Career
"Here are eight common misconceptions that can keep you from getting the projects, jobs, promotions, and the salary you'd like."

2. 10 Smart Things New Grads Should Do to Get a Job
"Act like a professional. You never know where you could meet a potential hiring manager... Online and in person, dress, speak, and act like someone you would hire."

3. Grads: A Lame Job is Better Than No Job
"So should you wait and keep looking for the perfect job? The advice from career experts boils down to one word: No."

4. Your Personal Brand Toolbox: The Informational Interview 
"They are structured conversations that enable you to learn and understand your target audience while enabling you to build relationships that lay the groundwork for your career success."

5. First Interview Do's and Don'ts for Women
"First impressions mean everything, especially in the interview process. What you say, do and wear will leave a lasting mark on your interviewer more than you think."

Friday, April 20, 2012

Networking Makes Good Business Sense

People in your network can be a valuable source of information that might include job leads, clients, and other resources.  For many, though, networking may not come easy.   Below are some tips that can make networking easier and more productive.

Start Small

If networking is challenging to you, start small.  Set a goal to attend a networking event or other networking opportunity once or twice a month, and then increase it as you feel more comfortable.  For many, networking one-on-one seems easier, so consider inviting a business associate to lunch as a way to get started.  Remember, regardless of how you network, it is important to be yourself.

Be Strategic and Then Evaluate

After attending a range of professional networking events, evaluate your experiences to determine which ones interested you and provided the most value.  These are the ones you want to revisit. 

Leverage the Internet

The Internet offers many opportunities to make professional connections through websites, like LinkedIn. You can also participate online through professional or industry forums and blogs.

Prepare before an Event

Your networking success at professional events will increase if you’ve prepared in advance.  For example, research the speakers and topics that will be addressed.  Investigate current trends or issues that might be of interest to those attending the event.  This preparation may help you generate a few open-ended questions to spark conversation with attendees. 

Reciprocate Assistance

When networking, there should never be an expectation that everyone is there to assist you or vice versa. However, when someone is able to provide professional assistance, it is nice to reciprocate when possible.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

The Top 3 Marketable Skills for Veteran's Spouses

In an earlier blog post, I addressed the most marketable skills that military service members possess. However, what about their spouses? I truly believe it takes a special kind of person to be a military spouse. The spouse may not serve in the military, but they are affected by the service nonetheless. Here is a list of what skills I believe most every veteran's spouse can market.

Adaptability and Flexibility
Adaptability can be defined as the ability to adjust to different conditions. Flexibility is the capability to bend, modify, or adapt without "breaking." The military spouse often follows their service member from one location to another, across the U.S. and worldwide. Throughout this process they learn to change, adapt, and modify to whatever situation, conditions, or location in which they may find themselves. This can bring value to a company by being open to change, being able to "hit the ground running," and being open to new policy, procedure, or technology.

Military service members work long hours and can be deployed for months or years at a time. The spouse who is left at home must take the initiative to care for the home and the family if they have one. No matter what comes their way, military spouses find a way to overcome challenges. I find most military spouses to be incredibly self-sufficient and strong-willed. A military spouse seems to naturally have a can-do attitude that translates well into the job market and can add value to most any employer.

Organization and Efficiency
When you have to move your family and household from Arizona to Korea and then to Washington, D.C. within the span of 18 months, you learn to become organized and efficient in order to make the process go as smoothly as possible. Military spouses learn to plan, they learn to organize, and they learn to streamline. Otherwise, when they do have to move (and they inevitably will have to) the process would be unbearably difficult. These planning and organizational skills combined with a common dedication to efficiency can offer unlimited benefits to an employer.

Confessions of a Real Post Grad: Nick Grenville

I will be interviewing different post grads to document their journey, give advice, learn from their triumphs and mistakes and so other post grads know they aren't alone. I will be talking to those lucky few who got their dream job right after their degree or those who went in a completely different direction than they had planned. We start with Nick Grenville, a graduate from Oakland University who moved to Florida after graduation and is struggling to figure out what he wants to do in life.

1. Explain to readers where and when you graduated, your degree and your current job/schooling.

I graduated Oakland University in 2009 (5 years after high school) with a Bachelors of Arts in Journalism. Currently, I am working in a restaurant and selling artwork on the side. Although I have been looking into writing grants for non-profit organizations.

2. You just described your current situation, is this where you thought you'd be as a post grad?

After graduating high school I thought I had my mind made up on what I would like to do for the rest of my life. In reality, I changed my major three times while in college before “deciding” what I wanted to do. Shortly after graduating Oakland University I ultimately realized that I did not like where that line of work would lead me either. Now after several years of working in kitchens, with a piece of paper hanging on my wall collecting dust, I discovered I might not have needed a degree after all. Conversely, a life without this education would be far worse.

I do think everyone should continue education via college or trade school. Similar to reading the newspaper or listening to NPR everyday, it is something not that difficult to do. A lot of people fear it yet all it can do is help. I thought I’d be a psychologist at this point in my life, however I am an educated man working in a kitchen.

3. What is your dream job?

I would love to solely sell my art through a gallery.

4. What is the best thing about being a post grad?

The best part is being able to say I have accomplished a goal of furthered education and having gained knowledge I might have otherwise missed out on due to laziness.

5. What is the worst?

The worst is not understanding why I didn’t take more consideration into what I wanted to do but hopefully everything will work out for the best.

6. What advice do you have for recent post grads?

Listen to your professors, link up with them and use them as a tool to help you find a job. Many of them have great connections and are willing to help people that are passionate about their degree.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to Leverage Education in a Career Change

So you are ready to take your career in a new direction. However, the completion of education was a critical part of the transition. Most likely, you don't have any industry experience to support your education within the resume. Let's look at some tips on how to leverage your education when writing a resume to support this career change.

Highlight your education.
Education often ends up as the last thing on a resume. However, when education is your most important selling point, it must take center stage on the resume. You still need to have a summary or profile section that highlights your key skills. However, your education will be the next section.

Use your courses and course content to load the resume with key words.
A newly graduated Aerospace Engineer may not have hands on experience designing propulsion systems for a rocket, but listing Propulsion Theory as one of your courses allows you to integrate this important key word into the resume. List a section on your resume under education where you detail areas of knowledge and expertise. This is a perfect opportunity to add in key skills and knowledge you gained in your education that will also add these ever-important key words.

Demonstrate hands-on application of your knowledge.
I often find that career-changers who are relying on their education spend as much room discussing their education on a resume as they do their work experience. After you list your degree or certification, focus on hands-on experience. This can come in the form of projects, clinicals, internships, externships, or extracurricular clubs.

Focus on relevant skills in your work experience.
No matter how relevant your education may be, if you only focus on irrelevant work experience and skills the employer will feel a disconnect with you as a candidate. For example, if you are transferring from telemarketing to being a medical assistant, your resume would focus on communication, customer service, and your ability to follow exact specifications. If your resume was awash with your talk time statistics and the call center dialer systems with which you are familiar, your resume would not be as effective.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Five Resume Reminders, Courtesy of the IRS

There are some things that you just shouldn't do.

I was reminded of this while watching CBS Sunday Morning today. A worker for H&R Block was explaining all of the ways that past clients had tried to lie on their taxes: making up home offices, inventing dependents that didn't exist, and other nefarious yet creative actions.

Not good. Not smart. You would never do something so foolish.

But you are.

Resumes-despite all of the advice dispensed by professional after professional-are still found violating these intractable no-nos. Follow these to keep your application materials from not getting a trashcan audit:

Do not put a photo or birthdate: Employers don't want this information on a resume. At the resume stage of the game it's too personal, with some HR departments fearing that-knowing this information-they could open themselves up to discrimination lawsuits. So keep it off. Note: the situation is a bit different here in Europe, where this practice isn't necessarily frowned upon, but in America keep the photo and birthday off.

Do not include an objective: Objectives boggle my mind. I know what your objective is: it's to get my darn job! Substitute a strong summary of qualifications statement in lieu of an objective to quickly summarize your qualifications and accomplishments.

Do not only list your work locations and dates of employment: Your resume should not simply be a chronology of your work history. Employers are going to want to see how what you have done in your past directly relates (or relates as closely as possible) with the position available. They want to know the details, not just where you worked. On that note, be sure to...

Do not omit your accomplishments: Your job duties ("Sold men's clothing") are different from your accomplishments ("Increased sales 43% during tenure in the men's clothing section"). Highlight your accomplishments in your resume, particularly as they relate to the position being applied for.

Do not lie on your resume: About anything. Ever. Period. And if you have to ask, you probably shouldn't put it on there.

Make a strong case to a future employer and outshine the competition by heeding these "do not dos."

Saturday, April 14, 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!

1. 10 Simple Tips to Networking Success
"But succeeding at in-person networking is not out of reach. Follow these 10 steps to ease awkwardness and emerge with terrific contacts."

2. 'Winging' It in Job Interviews is for the Birds
"Those candidates who “wing it” with answers to key job interview questions nearly always fall, almost immediately, into one of the many “traps” today’s hiring managers and human resources professionals routinely set for the unwary and un-coached job applicant."

3. You Already Know the Right People to Land Your Dream Job
"Furthermore, you don’t just look at people you know directly, but rather look at who the people you know also know. With social media sites such as LinkedIn, accessing the networks of your network is so much easier."

4. Getting the Most Out of Your Internship: Goal Setting 
"To optimize your internship, it’s important to have specific goals and a plan for meeting them.  At the highest level, your goals are: gaining valuable experience and growing your network."

5. Be Proud of Your Accomplishments, Not Your Affiliations
"Stand tall, because it's mastering the process of consistently delivering results that will truly distinguish you in the end."

Friday, April 13, 2012

Take an Internal Interview Seriously

Occasionally throughout your career, you may need to interview internally with your current employer. This could happen as the result of a promotion opportunity or your current job being eliminated or redefined due to a company reorganization or downsizing. Regardless of the reason, you should consider this interview an opportunity, and following are some tips to help you make it a success.

Skip the Casual Approach

Even though you are familiar with your current employer, do not approach the interview casually. Dress in business attire and conduct yourself in a professional manner. As with any interview, you will need to convince the interviewer that your experience, skills, and knowledge make you the right candidate for the job.

Check Your Attitude

Don’t be overly confident and assume you’re a “shoe-in” for the job even if you are an internal candidate with great relationships across the organization. Conversely, make sure your attitude isn’t one of frustration, particularly if you’re required to interview internally because of a company reorganization or downsizing.

Leverage Your Inside Knowledge

Use what you’ve learned while working with the company. For example, highlight your accomplishments on key projects, and demonstrate your understanding of the business and company goals. Communicate how your current responsibilities and expertise will transfer to the position you’re interviewing for.


Prepare for the interview by getting up to speed on company initiatives, products, clients, competitors, etc. Research the open position and the department and how both fit into the organization and support company goals. Be prepared to share examples of your professional achievements, and be ready to answer general interview questions but also those directly related to being an internal candidate, such as, “What is your opinion of the company’s recent decision to move forward with project x?”

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Three Key Ways to Avoid Unemployment Discrimination

There is a disturbing trend of online job ads that specifically require candidates to be currently employed. Although there has been talks of legislation to end these types of requirements, the fact is that there are still employers that are biased against those people who are unemployed. Here are some ideas of how you can overcome this type of bias.

Network your way into the company.
This is the best way to find a job in the current market, no matter your situation. However, if you have been unemployed for an extended period, networking becomes even more important to you. Use all types of networking such as attending job seeker networking events, using social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter, and starting your own professional blog to make connections and build your brand.

Fill your gaps in employment with experience or education.
Employers seem to have the hardest time accepting those job seekers who have been unemployed for an extended period and have no explanation for how they passed the time. Employers want to see that you kept busy, made the best use of your time, and kept your skills and knowledge current. Whenever you are unemployed, you must do something to fill in those gaps. Here are some ideas.
  • Take on a contract assignment or a temporary job.
  • Go to school or take just one class. Visit your local Workforce Connections office to inquire about gaining funding to pay for a certification or course in your field to boost your resume and explain your gap in employment.
  • Volunteer! Try to find a volunteer or internship opportunity within your career field. This gives you hands-on experience, keeps your skills current, and allows you to make networking connections. However, even volunteering outside your career field shows that you stayed active and involved and fills the gaps in your resume.
Start your own business.
Not all businesses require large capital investments. Start your own business - even if it is outside your industry - to show initiative, business management, customer service, and marketing skills.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Linkedin Tips and Tricks for Post Grads

Social media can be a great tool to use on your job hunt and Linkedin is the star. Using Linkedin to your advantage is a great way to make your mark as a post grad. Here are some tips and tricks on using Linkedin to help you land a fabulous job:

1. Review. Make sure your profile is top-notch. Fill it out completely using your resume as a resource. Add all of your past experiences, jobs, education and special skills. Make sure your photo is professional and appropriate. Make the heading of your profile interesting, not just stating "recent graduate". Say what you're looking for or showcase an amazing skill.

2. Participate. Join groups that relate to your career field and participate in discussions regularly. You never know who you may find in these groups to network with.

3. Connect. Link up with past employers, professors and people you meet in your real life job search as well as people from groups on Linkedin. You can have these people write recommendations for you or message them directly to find out about potential jobs.

4. Research. When you have an interview coming up, don't just research using Google. Find the company's profile on Linkedin and see what type of presence they have on the website. You may learn something unique that can give you an edge in the interview you wouldn't learn from their website.

5. Spark a conversation using status updates on your profile. Remember, this isn't Facebook, only use it to share professional updates or ask questions from other professionals.

6. When connecting with someone, be sure to complete the message portion of the invitation. Explain why you'd like to connect with them, but don't be obvious by saying something like, "I want you to help me find a job". Instead say something like, "I admire your work in (desired field). I would love to connect with you." Keep it short and sweet.

Linkedin can be a great tool to use for recent graduates if you put the time in to use it to your advantage.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Tell Me About Yourself. What an Interviewer Does Not Want to Hear.

This is most always the first question and quite possibly the most important question in an interview. How you answer this question sets the tone to how the interview will go. Make a misstep with this first question and you may lose the interviewer's attention for the rest of the meeting. In order to set you up for success when answering this vital question, I want to address what you want to avoid.

DO NOT offer any personal information.
The question itself is misleading, the interviewer specifically asks you to tell them about yourself. However, they really don't want to know where you grew up, if you are married, how many kids, dogs, and cats you have, or what you like to do in your spare time. What they want to know (and how you should answer) is what skills, experience, and knowledge do you have for this job?

DO NOT ask them what they want to know.
You may think that by asking the interviewer what they want to know about you, you are simply trying to focus your answer. However, what the interviewer sees is someone who did not prepare. This is one of those questions that you should write down and practice until you can deliver it naturally with poise and confidence.

DO NOT "wing it."
Although most hiring managers use this question as an ice breaker to make you feel comfortable and ease into the interview, they are also making judgments based on your answer. They want to assess your communication skills, they type of impression you will make, and how you can handle an "unstructured" communication environment. Going in unprepared is simply not an option if you want to make the best first impression.

DO NOT talk to long.
Be brief, concise and succinct. Highlight a few of your strengths, but don't tell your life story. I once asked this question in an interview and the candidate talked for 15 minutes! Hard as I tried, I have to say my attention waned around the 5-minute mark. As a general rule of thumb, try not to talk for more than 2 minutes at a time in an interview.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Lapsing v. Giving Up: A Primer for One's Career

For the benefit of our long-term health, my wife and I are completely changing our diet. Gone are the days of boxed macaroni and cheese (or "cheese-like powder," as I used to call it), fast-food restaurants, and processed food. In their place are organic fruits and veggies (beware the Dirty Dozen, however), whole-grains, and anything that isn't a "frankenfood." During such a transition (we went cold turkey), lapses back to old habits can it did for me this weekend as the temptation of such succulent Easter goodies (read: jelly beans) overrode my better judgment. I indulged mightily.

On the drive home from our holiday festivities, I thought about my behavior while, admittedly, nursing a slight stomach ache. I also thought about the recently published national jobless rate where-in March-it missed experts' estimates by only decreasing by 0.1%. What interested me beyond the numbers, though, was the news that people are still giving up finding work.

This baffles me while-at the same time-I can understand it. Being out of work can lead to many kinds of mental health/emotional disorders due to the stress that being jobless causes. Decreasing the stress is a must, but when you give up on something, you surrender your power to your circumstances.

Are you lapsing, or are you giving up? Ask yourself these questions:

How do my current activities support my long-term plan to find gainful employment?

What activities do I need to focus on now for the sake of my well-being?

What will I gain by giving up? What will I lose?

What am I empowering by giving up, and what am I disempowering?

The short-term pain of a lapse can lead to longer-term pains in your career if you don't tend to it. Reflect on your current situation and choose a path that leads to empowerment.

Saturday, April 7, 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!

1. Reading List: 10 Insightful Books for Career Changers
"With the economy improving, you might be considering a career change. Maybe you'd like to quit your present profession and do something completely different, even start a business ... Whatever the motivation, here are some helpful books to guide you."

2. How to Use Your Contacts to Land a Job
"Here are a few tips to help you get into that next gear and to make sure that you are working your contacts to help you get to where you want to be without being overly aggressive."

3. Passed Over for a Promotion: How to Deal
"Whether we like it or not, the workplace is full of politics. People trade favors and help make things happen for people they like. It’s not always a bad thing…it’s just the way the world works."

4. When Should You Quite Your Day Job 
"You need to know how much you're willing to lose before you even start thinking about starting something new."

5. 5 Ways to Probe a Company's Culture
"A lofty compensation package, spiffy title, and corner office are all great characteristics to look for in a job—but if you're looking for a happy job, a great cultural fit is equally important."

Friday, April 6, 2012

Reasons You May Not Be Getting Promoted

If you’ve been on the job a while and you’re hard working, competent, and qualified but not getting promoted, you may be questioning why. A clear-cut answer isn’t always obvious; however, the following may help you identify some roadblocks.

Not Going Above and Beyond

You may be meeting all the responsibilities and requirements of your current job, but not going above and beyond or stretching yourself by taking on new tasks or projects. If so, you may be perceived as lacking initiative or interest in learning and professional development.

Low Visibility

If your work isn’t highly visible to those with influence in the company, such as senior management, or if your work isn’t directly supporting your manager’s goals, it may be going unnoticed.

The Expert

Are you the only one within the organization with the knowledge and skills to do your current job—in other words, the “expert”? If so, this may mean that the company can’t bear to lose the value you bring in your current role by promoting you to another job.

Burned Bridges

If you’ve been caught in the middle of company politics or were involved in a confrontation at work, particularly with someone of importance, you may have burned your bridges. In other words, that person may be opposing your advancement. Another way to burn bridges is having the reputation of being difficult to get along with.

Perception is Reality

If management perceives that you are not ready for a promotion, in all likelihood you will not get one. Ask yourself: Are you demonstrating leadership qualities? Can you think strategically and generate ideas for achieving the company’s goals? Work on developing the qualities or skills management would need to see from you to be considered for a promotion.

Thursday, April 5, 2012

How to Deal With Difficult People

In an earlier blog post I discussed the 4-step approach to assertively request a change in behavior. As effective as this strategy may be, there are people - bosses, co-workers, mothers-in-law - where the strategy simply won't work. In these cases you will need to bring out emergency Step 5.

This final step of the process should only be used in extreme cases where earlier attempts at following the 4-step positive and assertive approach did not generate the results you desired. At this point you need to offer either rewards or consequences. Which of these two strategies you employ will depend on the situation and the person with whom you are dealing. Continuing on with the example from the earlier blog post, here are some examples of how you could offer the "office gossip" either a reward or consequence.

Reward: "If you are able to make the changes we discussed and are willing to stop talking about our co-workers when they are not part of the conversation, I know that our work environment will be so much more pleasant and productive."

Consequence: "If you are not willing to make the changes we discussed and are unwilling to stop talking about our co-workers when they are not part of the conversation, then I will be forced to take further action." At this point you need to clearly state the consequence, not as a threat, simply as a statement of fact, such as "I will have to inform Sarah, our supervisor, that our team dynamic is being compromised by your behavior."

It is imperative that you not make these promises lightly. Whether you are offering a reward or a consequence, if there is no behavior change and you do not follow through, all your efforts will be for naught.

Here are a few more ideas to help you deal with difficult people in all situations:

  • Never approach a difficult person or situation when you are angry, upset, or stressed out. Walk away from a situation so that you can calm down, think about your approach, and speak in a planned manner.
  • Try to see the situation from the other person's point of view. An assertive communicator goes into a situation or conversation believing that everyone intention's are good and trying to see the other person's side of the story.
  • Treat the other person with respect. Never talk down to them or act as though they are incompetent or unworthy of your respect - no matter how you may feel inside. This will only escalate the problem.
  • Know when to take your problem to the next level. If you have exhausted all your assertive communication options and the problem is not resolved, take the problem to your manager. However, make sure you have tried your best to handle the problem on your own first.

How to Dress Professionally When the Weather Heats Up

Post grads certainly know or must learn the importance of dressing professionally when interviewing or while on the job. Your resume might get trashed if you come to an interview dressed less than impressive or you can lose your credibility by dressing inappropriately at the office. Yet what do you do when the sun starts shining and you're always in tank tops and shorts in your free time? How do you look professional but not sweat to death?

1. First of all, when dressing for an interview, always dress professional and cover up. A few hours of being hot and uncomfortable are worth it because it may help you get the job. Suits for men or women are usually the best bet. Even if you discover the office is causal dress, you still want to be overly dressed in professional attire to show that you're serious.

2. If you have a job, check their dress code and ask questions if it seems unclear. It is better to check, ask co-workers or ask your boss if shorts or other hot weather clothing items are acceptable and appropriate before getting in trouble for wearing them.

3. Once you understand your company's dress code, now is an excuse to do a little shopping. Shop at stores that carry professional work attire with prices a post grad can afford such as JC Penney, Sears, or Kohl's. Remember, you don't need a ton of new outfits but a few key pieces that you can mix and match.

Good luck, post grad! When you look the part and know your stuff, you're sure to snag a job or go up the job ladder in no time.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The 4-step Approach to Requesting a Behavior Change

We have all experienced a situation where we had a communication barrier or wanted to change a co-worker's or boss' negative behavior. Often, we blunder into this situation unsure how to handle it and the outcome is even worse than the original problem. Alternatively, we ignore the situation, hoping it will go away, and silently suffer. I would like to present you with a 4-step process that I used to teach in a professional communication course that I believe will work in most any situation.

Step 1 - Validate the Person.
People have filters in place that affect how they perceive communication, these could be the result of their attitude, prejudices, past experiences our other influences such as stress. You can not control their filters, but you can control your communication style. Keep your style assertive, yet positive. To start the conversation off on a positive note, start with the person's name, acknowledge their value and worth, and offer them a compliment.

"Sally, I really enjoy working with you because you are really good with diffusing upset customers and building customer relationships."

Step 2 - Objectively Describe the Situation
You can't hope to change the behavior unless you clearly and objectively describe the behavior. Don't use labels or inflammatory language. Simply state, in neutral terms, the behavior that you find upsetting or that you would like to change.

"We are a good team here at the ABC Company. When you say negative things about our co-workers and they are not around to hear them or to defend themselves . . . . (to be continued in Step 3).

Step 3 - Express your Feelings and Thoughts
Be very careful to use "I" statements in this step, never say "you make me feel." No one can make you feel something, you are in charge of your thoughts, emotions, and reactions. Remember to take accountability for your feelings, since you are the one asking for the change.

" . . . . I feel uncomfortable because I am afraid it might undermine our team environment."

Step 4 - Specify the Change you Would Like to See
At this point, you are able to ask for the change. The reason this is so effective is that you approach the issue from your point of view and ask the person to understand and accept your feelings. Most of the time, people don't think of how their actions affect others.

Ask the person for just one observable behavior change. What you ask for should be related to what you have been discussing and should be something with which you can both identify. Be sure to ask for the person's agreement with what you are asking before you end the conversation.

"I would like it if you would stop talking about other people when they are not a part of the conversation. I think that if we could all keep our negative thoughts or judgments to ourselves, we could be a much stronger team. Would you be willing to make this change, Sally?"

This approach is a very positive, professional, and assertive way of dealing with issues that works to protect the relationship of the two people talking. Of course it will not work every time. Some people are just difficult. Check back on Thursday for a discussion on what to do when the positive approach does not work.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Leadership Lessons from a YPO

After relocating to Minnesota over two years ago, I didn't know a soul. I had just begun a position at a local college and was slowly growing a social network there, but I desired to branch out and get to know others similar in age and industry. I had heard that the local Chamber of Commerce supported a young professionals organization (YPO) so I thought I would join to check it out and see how much my career would benefit from the opportunities they provided.

Lesson #1-Get involved: A lesson I had learned years ago, you can't expect someone to take you by the hand and guide you toward opportunities for leadership and civic participation. Proactively seek them out and-if they resonate with you-get on board with them.

I hadn't even gone to an event yet when they contacted the membership to solicit new applicants for their leadership council, the board-like entity that helped guide and direct the organization. With an air of "why not?", I shot them an application without really expecting to be accepted. In fact, I had just skimmed the email that informed me that I was accepted, almost deleting it. It looks like my gamble paid off, and I was about to go on a new leadership journey.

Lesson #2-Take the risk: In my mind I had nothing to lose and a lot to gain by becoming more involved with the organization. I didn't question my worthiness or buy in to any other self-created "rules" about why this group wouldn't benefit from my contribution. It's great to be a member of an organization, but joining its leadership team will provide even greater opportunities for personal growth.

I had been with the group for less than a year when one of the members wanted to coordinate an event for a week-long fundraising campaign for local nonprofits. Having been a transplant from St Louis, MO-home of the trivia night-I proposed that we coordinate one to raise money for another local organization. Together with a small group of volunteers from the YPO, we put on a wildly-successful trivia night that raised over $2000 for the organization, helping to put it in the black and helping our group gain more notoriety.

Lesson #3: Make your mark: Don't keep your ideas to yourself because you never know which ones may be the ones to take you and your group to another level.

There is something that you can take from every experience, so long as you stay aware of the possibilities presented to you and don't underestimate your impact. My résumé is much stronger due to my experience in this YPO. Stay aware, present, and go for the opportunities.