Monthly Archives: August 2012

3 Ways to Break into a New Field

Breaking Into a New FieldWhether you’re just starting out or looking for a career change, breaking into a new field can be challenging. So, how can you get your foot in the door when most employers want to hire people who already have some experience? The following tips can help you gain the skills you need to begin a new career.

1. Get the inside scoop through networking.
Attending professional networking events and making an effort to get to know people in your desired field is invaluable. It’s particularly beneficial to have professional contacts who can attest to your intelligence, character, and ambition when your actual on-the-job experience is minimal.

Try to get involved in a professional or industry organization that offers regular meetings with guest speakers so you can learn about the latest trends and developments in the field. And be sure you make the most of mingle time at these events. During these informal networking sessions you’ll have the opportunity to learn about the industry first-hand from those in the know. You’ll also have a good chance of hearing about job openings in the field before they’re posted elsewhere.

2. Test drive the job through temporary assignments.
If you’d like to find out a little more about a potential career while gaining hands-on experience at the same time, accepting a temporary assignment from a staffing agency is a great idea. The right staffing agency can find you a job in the field you’re most interested in joining. This will allow you to learn the ropes and build your resume while determining if the career is right for you.

Not only does working as a temporary associate allow you to preview potential careers and gain much-needed experience, it also opens the door to full-time employment. In fact, many Express temporary associates go on to accept permanent positions at companies they are placed with.

3. Help a good cause and gain experience along the way.
Doing volunteer work is an excellent way to help your community while increasing your job skills. If you’re new to the workforce or interested in changing careers, consider volunteering your time to pick up the skills you need.

Non-profit organizations are always in need of volunteers to help them with a range of tasks. To gain experience in your field of interest, call around to local charities and ask them if they could use assistance in those areas. Chances are, you’ll find several places that are more than happy to let you help their cause while boosting your resume.

Whether you’re searching for your first job out of school or ready for a change of pace in a new line of work, having the right experience will help you break into your new career. Networking, working temporary assignments, and volunteering are all excellent ways to build your expertise and make yourself an in-demand employee.

Associate Spotlight: Stephen Hughes

Express Employment Professionals AssociateEvery Express Employment Professionals’ associate has a story. To help tell these outstanding stories, we like to showcase exceptional associates each month on Movin’ On Up. It’s important to give credit where credit is due, and Express loves to share the stories of our associates as an inspiration to you while you strive to achieve professional success.

This month’s associate has a heartwarming story about overcoming obstacles. As thousands of soldiers return from Iraq and Afghanistan, many veterans with years, even decades, of military experience will look to build a civilian career. But, many veterans find it challenging to adapt their military skill set to a civilian job market. But because of this associate’s determination, and with a little help from Express, he was able to overcome these challenges.

Stephen Hughes
As a graduate of West Point, Lieutenant Colonel Stephen Hughes served 31 years in the United States Army. In 2012, Stephen started to look for his first job outside of the military. It’s easy to assume that someone who has traveled all over the world, seen the best and the worst that humanity can produce, and led soldiers in both peace and war, could easily find work. But, that wasn’t the case. He struggled for months looking for a job but didn’t find any leads, call backs, or interviews.

It wasn’t until he attended a job fair for military spouses and transitioning military members in Fort Richardson, AK when his luck changed. Rodger Hargis, Business Developer for the Anchorage Express office, had a booth at the fair. Having served 12 years in the Army, with many of those years on Fort Richardson, Rodger knew who Stephen was by reputation, but never met him in person. Stephen hesitantly approached the Express booth and introduced himself to Rodger.

“We talked for a few minutes and Stephen handed me a resume that truly resembled an ‘After Action Review Report’ from a military operation.” Rodger said. “We discussed the need to ‘translate’ his resume into ‘civilian’ terms and I offered our office’s assistance.”

They set up an appointment and sat down to go over the details, and Rodger asked Stephen for the opportunity to help him in his search for a new career. Rodger quickly looked for opportunities to place Stephen, but soon wasn’t sure if we was going to have any success.

Eventually, there was an opening for the Director of Operations position with the Arc of Anchorage. Rodger presented Stephen and the Arc loved him. The timing was perfect as he was officially separating from service on retirement orders. After extensive interviews, including one on Skype from the east coast, he was offered the position. Stephen has now been with the organization for almost a month and is excited about the opportunity to continue serving his community.

“While the nature of his service has changed, the heart of that service beats strong and true,” Rodger said.

If you are a military veteran who is struggling with the same hurdles Stephen was, check out this blog post on how your military experience can help you find a job. Search for the Express office closest to you for more information and help with your job search. If you know a fellow associate who would be a great candidate for our associate spotlight, let your Express office know. If you have an Express associate you’d like to feature on Movin’ On Up, let us know in the comments below.

Stop Swearing at Work with These Questions

How to Stop Swearing at WorkA recent survey by CareerBuilder shows that 64% of employers said they would think less of an employee who repeatedly uses curse words, and 57% said they’d be less likely to promote someone who swears at work.

Half of the employees surveyed reported that they swear in the office. With such a large percentage of employees swearing at work, it seems like this habit is not only a hard one to break, but also one that can hinder a career. Here are some questions to ask yourself that can help you break the habit and flush away your potty mouth.

Why do you Swear?
For some, swearing is almost unconscious. And because swearing can be naturally ingrained into their vocabulary, words can slip without you even realizing it. It’s important to be aware of how many times inappropriate language is used while at work.

The common trick has always been putting money in a “curse jar.” But, consider keeping a jar at your workplace that’s not for money, but placing inexpensive tokens, trinkets, or other knickknacks that can be found at hobby stores into the jar every time you swear. When your shift ends, you can see how many times you’ve cussed throughout the day. It may surprise you to know how often it occurs. You could make it a game for other co-workers to put their color token in the jar if they hear you swear and you don’t realize it.

If you’ve noticed that your profane language comes from moments of extreme stress or dealing with difficult co-workers/management, then it may not be so much your swearing problem as it is work environment issues.

What Are Your Alternatives?
If you want to break your cursing problem, you’ll have to treat it like any other bad habit that you’ve broken over the years. It’s going to take a behavioral change, which won’t happen overnight. Keep a thesaurus at your desk or workstation, and when you have some free time, look up some alternate words for the curses you have been using.

Swearing often occurs out of negativity, which can dampen the mood for other co-workers. Instead, embrace positivity and strive to change your problems instead of complaining. Consider even the smallest annoyance a challenge, and feel proud of yourself for taking care of it cheerfully and efficiently.

Are Co-Workers Crutches or Cheerers?
Research suggests that sometimes environment can cause people to perform certain behaviors, even if they’re actively trying to stop. Try limiting your interactions with co-workers who encourage your bad habit. If you can’t alter these interactions, try changing the social configurations like taking breaks at different times than those who tempt your bad behavior.

Your co-workers can also help encourage you. The typical curse jar may be clichéd, but you can give it your own spin to get your co-workers involved. Try bringing popcorn kernels to work, and have you and your co-workers put one in a jar every time you avoid using a bad work or your colleagues help you avoid swearing. Once the jar is full, you can have a popcorn party when you’re on break.

Breaking a bad habit like cursing is all about training your conscious mind to eventually implement it in the subconscious. What have you done to curb bad habits like swearing while on the job?

Career Possibilities Without College Degrees

jobs without college degreeThere’s this little technology company, you’ve probably heard of it, called Microsoft. It only has 90,000 employees and a revenue of more than $70 billion in 2011. This wildly successful company was founded by Bill Gates, who was the richest man in the world during the early 2000s. There’s actually something very interesting about Bill Gates that many people don’t know.

He never graduated from college.

While he is an extreme example of success without a college degree, there are things you can do to achieve your career goals without attending a university. Here are some hints to help guide you when looking for a job without a degree.

Start at the Bottom and Give it Time
Sometimes slow and steady wins the race, especially if you’re just starting out and have very little experience. Consider industries that let you work into management positions without a college degree like real estate, aviation, sales, construction, or transportation.

The entry-level jobs in these industries may not be the highest paying jobs compared to jobs requiring a college degree, but if you demonstrate hard work ethics and grow in experience, you could move into higher paying jobs. It won’t be overnight, but it’s obtainable.

It’s All Who You Know
Employers are much more likely to promote hire someone they know and are familiar with compared to a stranger. That’s why it’s important to connect with people inside and outside your desired industry. If employers are familiar with your accomplishments and abilities, when possible, they will be willing to look past college degree requirements.

Make sure your resume and cover letter are in top shape. Include a phrase like,“did not obtain a bachelor’s degree” or something to that extent on your resume so it will get picked up by applicant tracking systems’ keyword searches. That way, you’ll have a better chance of talking to a decision maker.

To help get your foot in the door, call employers and ask to schedule an informative interviews to find out what skills and abilities are most needed in your desired industry. You will improve your interviewing skills, make strong connections, and develop a stronger career plan.

Expand Your Skills
To help develop your skills and experience, consider taking an apprenticeship, freelancing, volunteering, or working through a staffing agency. These are excellent ways to learn real skills and experience from highly skilled mentors to position you to move up in your career without a college degree.

Do some research to see if you need any specialized certification or skills to be qualified to work in your desired field. Those are great questions to ask during an informational interview or when being trained by someone. Some certifications might not be necessary to work, but can help you develop and grow your skills so you can market yourself better.

There are several different paths you can take to achieve your career goals. You just have to find the one that works best for you. Hopefully, you can use one of these suggestions above and find real success in your job search. If you want to learn about some great jobs that don’t require a college education, check out this list to help you get started. What are some of your success stories of finding a job without a degree?

What Makes a Good Reference a Great Reference?

Job seeker and referenceLet’s say you find that perfect job opening. The job duties, hours, and requirements fit your career goals perfectly. Your heart starts to skip a beat as you think about the new opportunity you’ve discovered. You read through the list of requirements while your mind goes through a checklist of updates for your resume and cover letter. Suddenly, you get to the last sentence, “Please attach references with resume and cover letter…” Your excitement fades to panic as you wonder who you would ask and if they would let you list them as a reference.

How many should I list? Who should be included? How well do I know these people I want to by my reference? These are all questions that one usually asks at this point in the job search. Gathering a list of references can be a struggling point for many job seekers who are just starting out and haven’t built a strong network to pull from yet. It can be difficult, but here are some guidelines to help you pick and grow the best references that will help you get a job.

Variety is a great way to strengthen your list of references. When you have variety in your list, you can have contacts who know you from different perspectives and can make a positive statement about your skills, work habits, and other qualifications. This can make you look like a well-rounded candidate to employers. When submitting references, consider references from three aspects of your life:  professional, academic, and personal.

Professional references can highlight your specific skills and abilities that apply to the open job. While you should look for the most senior-level co-workers or leaders, you don’t have to list strictly supervisors or managers. Find a co-worker or manager who knows your work ethics and will give you praise. Professional references can also include vendors who you have worked with closely with in a position.

Academic references are great if you have just graduated from college or technical school. Not only can they help you find a job in your industry, they also can attest to your knowledge base and study habits. If you’ve been out of school for more than four years, and employed, focus on professional references a little more.

Personal references are considered weaker than others, but they can be used to your advantage. They don’t have to be just friends or family. If you volunteer or participate in community events, consider listing leaders who can vouch for your commitment and the soft skills you demonstrate outside of work.

Check out our list of good references to help you get an idea of who you can include in your list.

Once you’ve asked the reference to be listed, and they agree, that shouldn’t be the last time to talk to your reference. It’s important to keep in touch with your references to update them on your accomplishments and what you’ve done during your job search. You want to be fresh on their mind and current so they can provide that information to potential employers. Let them know when you’ve applied and interviewd for positions so they can expect a call.

Get your references involved in your job campaign. Let them know what you are looking for, update them on any progress you have made, and inform them of what jobs you’re seeking and what specific qualities your would-be employers want. Maintaining contact with your connections will help strengthen your list and give you more options to choose the right references for your job search.

While your references know of your skills and accomplishments, they might not know how to say it and what to expect. Some of your personal references might not have had much experience answering the questions in a manner that can make you desirable. Research some of the common questions employers ask references and send it to your references along with a copy of your resume to help them be prepared.

If you want to go a more drastic route, there are job reference companies that contact each of your references and report back to you what they said about you. These shouldn’t be necessary since you should have a trusting, working relationship with those on your reference list. But, the option is there if you genuinely feel like you need them. Overall, use your best judgment when coaching your references.

Getting a job can be much easier when you have references who can vouch for your hard work, dedication, and accomplishments. Once you are offered a job, don’t forget about your contacts and make sure to show your appreciation. Tell us about your favorite references. What made them unique or helpful? Why did you want them to be a reference and how did you meet them? Sound off in the comments below.