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Skill building doesn't only happen at work

Every activity you participate in can be an opportunity to build or master skills.  Take a few minutes to evaluate how you are learning new skills and/or perfecting existing ones over the summer months:

  • Volunteering – think about the activities you do when you give your time to volunteer organizations - maybe you share your analytical, creative, technological, or leadership skills.
  • Family time – we sometimes forget that some of the most important skills we use in our jobs are mastered at home - communication, organization, time management, and problem-solving skills could all fall into this category.
  • Professional organizations – when you interact with peers in your industry or others, are you sharing your expertise?  Have you gained skills from these people that will translate into your work experiences?
3:58 pm          Comments

Summer Vacation Career Checklist

Heading on a summer vacation and still want to feel productive?  This is a great time to take a few minutes to create a ‘to do' list for your career.  Not only are you more relaxed on vacation, but you're probably able to take time to be reflective.  Here are some ideas to stimulate your thoughts...

  • What administrative tasks do you need to do (i.e., update your resume)?
  • When did you last update your online profiles? If it's been more than 6 months, it's time...
  • Are there new network contacts that you need to connect with online?
  • Do you have new responsibilities at work that you need to start documenting in preparation for your next professional development discussion with management?
  • Are there skills you want to learn (i.e., language, technology)?
  • Who do you need to write a thank you email to (personally and professionally)?
1:16 pm          Comments

Back to the office negotiations

The Today Show this morning had a segment on how to manage a few things in your job as you return to the office.  The tips were helpful and here are some additional ideas on how to prepare for your annual/semi-annual performance review:

  • Explain your value to the job/department - During the year, take note of your activities that produce results and gather information to bring to the review about how you personally have affected change/made an impact/contributed to the team.
  • Don't hesitate to brag - A performance discussion should always include recognition that you received - internally and/or externally. Share emails from co-workers/management/customers, formal recognition (awards), and details about verbal discussions where people identified you as an exceptional performer.
  • Make an appointment - This meeting should be planned out - by you and the person you report to. The most effective performance reviews happen with both parties have time to collect information about actions and activities. The preparation is crucial to having a productive discussion that helps you move forward in achieving your career goals.
10:19 am          Comments

Why you may not be getting that job

According to the news, there are many jobs available in different industries.  If you are a current job seeker who is struggling to find a position, here are some things that may be getting you blocked and ways to navigate the process differently.

  • Software is blocking your resume from human eyes. Applicant tracking systems are being used by many companies regardless of size. Some aspects of how these will interpret your resume you can't necessarily anticipate, but some are obvious. The biggest key is to read the job description carefully and use as many similar words as possible in your resume. This is especially important with technical skills and certifications/licensures.
  • Submitting your resume online is only one approach. If you are relying on your resume to be the only form of communication you use to initiate contact with employers, you are missing important job search activities. Email and/or call the HR department to confirm your resume was received and explain your interest in the position. Do you know the name of the hiring manager? Communicate via email to them and sell yourself - remember to attach the resume you submitted online too.
  • Let people know you are looking. You don't need to necessarily post on your LinkedIn profile that you are searching, but you definitely should message people in your network that could lead you to your next career opportunity. Don't forget to let your family and friends know that you are searching - never know who knows someone who can assist you.
11:42 am          Comments

Expanding your network for career development

Whether you are back in person at work or staying at home for your job, this is a good time to expand your network.  If you aren't on LinkedIn®, there may be alternative ways to increase your contacts depending on your industry.  No matter what online platform you are using, here are tips to be effective when adding to your network.

  • Personalize your request message. Avoid using the default message on websites when requesting that people connect with you or provide you their contact information. Be specific about why you are interested reaching out to them and keep your message brief.
  • Follow up once you are connected. Take the time to send a thank you message to anyone who honors your request. If you would like to talk to them about a certain topic or get to know them beyond the website (ie: send emails directly to them), this is a good time to get their information to communicate outside the site.
  • Be prepared to get more requests to connect. Once you start increasing your network, all of those people's contacts will now see that you are connected. You may start to get requests from people who aren't necessarily relevant to your career goals and network objectives. Quality is much more important than quantity for a valuable network, so don't just add people to have a certain number on the website.
5:25 pm          Comments

Effective preparation and execution for virtual career fairs

Employers may be changing the way they hire with our current social distancing, so as a candidate you need to be sure you prepare for the new methods.  Here are some best practices to help you present your skills effectively.

  • Location is important. Find a place in your home that you can be completely undisturbed with complete quiet. Since the interviewer will be able to see you, there should not be anything in the background that would be distracting to the employer. Try to find a blank wall that will keep the person focused on what you are saying.
  • Prepare as if you were going to meet with the interviewer in person. A video interview is just like an in person interview - dress for the interview by wearing a suit or equally appropriate attire for your industry and the position you are applying for.
  • Understand your technology. Identify what web platform or program you will be using and if you need to download it a few days in advance so you can make sure you won't have buffering issues for the interview. Determine how to position yourself for the best visual appearance on the webcam. Check your speaking volume and get a separate microphone if necessary. Detachable microphones are very affordable and can make the most soft spoken person sound confident and interview appropriate.
  • Practice with a friend to improve your skills. Have someone help you to establish what volume you should have on both your microphone and your speakers. Practice your speaking level with a friend. Get online with someone you trust and practice your tone and level of speech. Deliver answers to commonly asked questions, and questions you anticipate that are industry or position specific.

National organizations like Goodwill are helping job seekers find employers through virtual career fairs like this one - Goodwill Virtual Career Fair Event

10:08 am          Comments

How can an ATS change the way you job search?

Whether you know it or not, an ATS- Applicant Tracking System - may be looking at your resume long before any human does at your next employer.  These software programs search for the best candidates based on the resumes and/or online applications they submit.  After you submit your resume or application the system identifies words and /or phrases that are a match for the position based on the job description.   Here's what you need to do to keep your resume ‘in play' for this type of screening:

  • Be aware that this technology could be in play with any size organization. Don't assume that a small company won't use this program to maximize their hiring process time.
  • Closely evaluate the job description and tailor your resume language to fit the wording in the posting. Use the same keywords that are in the job description in your resume wherever possible. Don't overstate your skills just to ‘match' words - employers will figure out that candidates have done that eventually and they will no longer be considered for the job.
  • Upload a document in the format the company is requesting. Candidates can stay best prepared by always having a Word document that they can quickly update and then change into PDF if the company is requesting that format.
10:40 am          Comments

Three things you must do to start this decade

Now that a new decade has arrived, it's time to get ready for any career opportunities that may be headed your way.  Even if you aren't anticipating a job search, the start of a new year can help you dust off your documents, update your online presence, and increase your chances to expand your network.  So if you haven't already taken the time to do this - here are the three things to do now:

1.       Dig out your career documents and update them... Find your most recent resume and cover letter and make sure all the dates are correct, the content is accurate, and new information is added.  Don't forget to remove outdated things too - expired licensure or certifications, professional groups you don't participate in anymore, volunteering your haven't done for years, etc.  If you keep a ‘brag book', double check that you have added all of your 2019 documents so it's ready to go when you need it.  This is also the perfect time to start writing down information for a thorough and positive performance discussion with your boss.

2.       Check your online presence... When did you update your profile pictures on LinkedIn, Facebook, and any other career relevant platforms?  Review your profile information to make it current with organizations, your work experience, volunteering, training, technical skills, language skills, and any licensing or certifications you secured in 2019. 

3.       Plan your 2020 networking activities... Even if you have 500+ Connections in LinkedIn, you should have an annual plan on how you want to increase or modify your network.  This could include professional affiliations to join, specific groups you follow on Facebook or LinkedIn, continuing education activities you attend, or internal cross-training you ask to participate in.  The key is making a plan with multiple steps and options so if one doesn't meet your goal you can select something different to build your network in the new decade.

2:02 pm          Comments

Jump start your job search

Kids are back in school and for some parents it is also back into the hunt for a new job.  This is actually a good time of the year to look since companies are also planning for either the second or fourth quarter of their fiscal year.  So, if you are getting ready to put your skills on the market, there are some steps you need to take before you click away on job search engines...

  • Step One - dust off your last resume version and get it ready to go. Before you start adding content, remove anything not relevant to this job search and update ending dates on any organization involvement and work experience.
  • Step Two - add any training or technical or language skills that you may have learned or increased your level of expertise in since your last resume update. This includes any certifications or licensure that is new as well.
  • Step Three - double check your social media presence - LinkedIN, Facebook, even Twitter and Instagram if those are platforms that apply to your industry (graphic arts, entertainment, arts etc.) Make sure that you have a current/appropriate picture, and update anything that you also updated on your resume.
  • Step Four - communicate with your personal and professional network. Let your friends and family know you are entering the job market. If you have past colleagues that would be helpful with connections and/or introductions email them too.
  • Step Five - get your interviewing skills up to speed. Analyze the job descriptions you apply to and anticipate interview questions and then PRACTICE! There is no substitute for actually having another person you trust ask you questions and then give you constructive feedback on your answers to make you better.
1:27 pm          Comments

Ready for a transition?

If you are considering a career transition, it's important to evaluate what industries will be growing in the near term.   Some roles may be changing due to progress in technology so that should also be a factor to identify.  According to the Spring issue of HR Magazine, there are certain occupations that are in-demand worldwide.  These professions have been among the most difficult jobs to fill over the past ten years.

  • Skilled trades
  • Sales representatives
  • Engineers
  • Drivers
  • Technicians
  • IT
  • Accountants
  • Project managers
  • Office support
  • Manufacturing roles
1:51 pm          Comments

Skills every manager should have (or get)

Whether you are currently a manager or want to create a plan to become one, there are some key skills that you need to have for success in the workplace.  Here are a few that are not industry specific and can be necessary regardless of what level manager you are:

  • Problem-solving...Being able to identify solutions in project management and people management is crucial.
  • Strategic thinking...Looking beyond today's situations and planning for future goals not only helps develop a vision for your team, but it shows your long-term commitment to the company.
  • Negotiation...This is important in your team's collaboration and also in your ability to work with other departments internally.
  • Change management...We live in a global economy that is diverse and ever-changing. Showing your employer that you are not afraid of change and can coach others through those times increases your value to the organization.
2:42 pm          Comments

What makes an internship valuable?

This question can be posed from both sides of the internship relationship - the employee and the employer.  The answer is the same for both - an internship is valuable when it's result is a win-win for both parties.  As a student/employee you will want to produce work that contributes to the company while learning new skills and/or building upon existing ones.  As the employer, you want to have results from the employee that help your projects and overall goals while also developing a potential pipeline.

Here are some ways for employers to build internship programs that will result in the ultimate win-win:

  • Offer paid and unpaid internships. Paid internships are important for students to have during the summer and typically will be several hours a week since they aren't in school. Unpaid internships can be effective during the school year and should have part-time hours because the students will also be juggling school and extracurricular activities.
  • Plan the intern's work and offer varied tasks. Having a student show up without a plan for their day will result in frustration on both sides. Create a work plan with goals, timelines, and check in meetings so everyone can stay on track and consistently communicate changes.
  • Assign a mentor for each intern. Even if you have multiple interns in one department, each person should have an employee that will be their point of contact to ask questions, offer ideas, and get feedback from. There should be weekly communication with the intern to assess progress on work and address any concerns.
  • Determine strengths and potential long-term fit. As the intern learns about the company culture and begins to produce work, employers should be identifying what their pipeline needs are and how the intern could fill future positions.
10:46 am          Comments

Four skills entry-level hires need to have

A recent Wall Street Journal article addressed how the landscape has changed for both employers and entry-level new hires.  The expectations for skills will obviously vary based on industry, but there are some key categories of skills that people moving into entry-level positions should be able to exhibit in order to secure a job.

  • Communication - Even if your comfort zone is minimal contact outside your workspace, employers are expecting you to be able to interact. This can include communication with clients, internal contacts, and vendors.
  • Listening - This should probably more accurately be phrased ‘active listening/problem solving'. Being able to hear what issues are occurring internally or externally and then determine an action plan to move forward is an important skill in the workplace.
  • Numeracy - You don't have to be an accountancy major or have a background in math to show your abilities in this area. Knowledge of software programs using numerical information such as Excel will allow you to analyze information effectively.
  • Adaptability - Do you consider yourself a lifelong learner? Are you willing to take on a project even if you need to learn a new process or method to achieve the goal? Employers want to know that their team is going to learn new skills as their job changes and they move into greater areas of responsibility.
4:24 pm          Comments

May graduates need to be strategic in interviews

It's that time of year - college graduates are finalizing their studying and determining what they will be doing as a career starting this summer.  New college graduates should understand that there are certain ways to increase your competitive chances in the interview process.  A recent SHRM article shared some tips straight from the hiring experts that can help you beat the other candidates.

  • Personal presence is important and it includes assessing and modifying your social media. Be sure that the various ways an employer can ‘see' you all show your enthusiasm, confidence, and professionalism to be successful in the workplace.
  • Be a storyteller. Interviewers want to thoroughly understand how you have used your skills in the past to produce results in school, work, and extracurricular activities. Answer questions with specific examples that will make them feel like they were right there with you and be sure to include the impact you had in each situation.
  • Ask thoughtful questions. At the end of every interview you are given an opportunity to ask questions so plan in advance and to research to make the most of this chance. Think about questions that give you more information about the job responsibilities, opportunities to use your skills, and ways you can contribute to the overall team success.
2:25 pm          Comments

Highest growth jobs cross several industries

If you are considering a career transition, additional education or certifications, or a new path for your professional life you should understand what the projected highest growth jobs are.  According to the latest issue of HR Magazine from SHRM, the jobs that are expected to have the greatest growth by 2026 have a wide range of education and/or certification requirements.  Here they are in order based on the greatest number of new jobs:

  • Home health and professional care aides
  • Waiters, food service workers and cooks
  • Registered nurses
  • Software developers
  • Janitors and cleaners

So before you determine next steps for your career, check out these positions and whether they could be a fit for your future.

3:23 pm          Comments

Management skills you need for future success

Whether you are currently a manager or aspire to be one, the World Economic Forum has done the research across a wide range of industries to help you plan now for tomorrow's skills.  Creating a plan now to identify your current abilities in these areas will assist you in finding ways to build skills that are gaps you need to focus on filling.

  • People management
  • Coordination
  • Emotional intelligence
  • Strategic thinking
  • Executive presentation
  • Project management
  • Analytical skills
  • Understanding the impact of AI
  • Leadership ability
  • Change management
5:08 pm          Comments

Do you have the skills needed in the future workplace?

Late last year the Future Workplace research group - heads of human resources and corporate learning departments in Fortune 1000 companies identified the top skills workers will need to be successful for the future growth of their careers.  Not unlike the NACE Job Outlook Survey that is conducted each year - polling employers who recruit for entry-level careers at the nation's colleges and universities - this list is top heavy with soft skills that will be important for employees to have and develop.  Here are the top ten:

1.       Complex problem-solving

2.       Critical thinking

3.       Creativity

4.       People management

5.       Coordination - (think collaboration/teamwork)

6.       Emotional intelligence

7.       Service orientation (commitment to community/volunteering)

8.       Judgment

9.       Negotiation

10.   Cognitive flexibility

Further down the list are higher level skills - typically those necessary for successful paths in managing projects and/or people, and skills related directly to technology.

3:13 pm          Comments

The best gifts for your manager during the holidays

Not sure what to get your manager this holiday season?  Forget the shopping trip and give them a gift in the workplace.  These gifts will not only help the management, but they will also support your team.

  • Don't worry, be happy. Bring your positive attitude to work everyday this holiday season. This time of year can be stressful and/or emotional for you and your co-workers, not to mention your boss. Showing up each day with a happy face makes a great gift and improves the workplace environment.
  • Lend a hand. The holiday season is a time when people look to help others through volunteering or giving. Take this approach at your job. Ask your teammates how you can assist them on projects or planning for the new year. You can also ask your boss what you can do for him.
  • Increase the communication. This could be internal or external communication. Find opportunities for the new year to increase/improve your communication methods. Share these ideas with management to make the whole team more effective for 2019.
11:53 am          Comments

Three things to do at work before the year ends

Before the chaos of the year-end holidays start, take time to clean up some things around your workplace.  Not only will these steps help you end the year on a positive note, but it will also put you in a great position to start off the new year. 

Leave no loose ends...Whether you have a firm deadline on a project or not, see what you can get completely done so you can start new projects in January.  Make sure you communicate with any co-workers about collaborative items that you are trying to complete so their segments don't hold up your progress.

Out with the hold, in with the new... This is the perfect opportunity to grab a filing box and purge your 2018 work files that you won't need for 2019.  It's also a great time to start naming new files so you are ready to go for the new year.  And anything that is going to move forward from this year to the next, decide whether you want to re-name the current year file or create a new one.  Think about doing this exercise on your electronic files too.

Create your Q1 goals... Once you have determined your objectives for the first quarter, review them with co-workers who will be involved and also with your manager.  Establish any timelines and identify what resources you will need to get as soon as the year starts.  Getting prepared now will not only help you hit the ground running week one, but it will also show your boss that you are going to start the year on a positive note.

10:55 am          Comments

Communicating effectively during job search

Communication during the job search process is very important to successfully securing a position.  As soon as a hiring manager contacts you for an interview, your communication style and approach will be evaluated also.  There are two key components to consider when contacting anyone in the company you want to work for; method of communication and content.  Here are some tips for different situations:

  • Scheduling the interview - If you missed the call to schedule an interview, the best way to respond is to call the person back asap. If you need to leave a message, be sure to request a call or email back to confirm the time/date for the interview. Give the hiring manager a couple of options for the interview unless they only provided you one in their message.
  • Confirming appointments - The day before any interview - phone, video, or in person - it's crucial to call the person who scheduled with you and confirm the time and method. This is especially important if you and the interviewer are in different time zones. Don't do this via email - you want to speak with someone personally so there is no miscommunication.
  • Following up - After every interaction during the process, you need to follow up via email to the person. This includes any administrative personnel who have assisted you in scheduling. Keep these communications brief and showing appreciation for their time. In follow up to an interview, be sure to remind the hiring person what you discussed and the experience you have that makes you the best candidate for the job.
10:12 am          Comments

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