Giving a Helping Hand with Holiday Volunteering Can Give Back to You

Holidayvolunteer_nov2011_webWith the holiday season in full swing, you may be busy getting all of your holiday planning together with seeing family, taking extra days off from work, and gift buying. What may not be on your mind is volunteering. With several charities and nonprofits needing extra help with holiday festivities and programs, the need for volunteers increases. Donating money will always be a welcome gift to any charity, but if money is tight and not in your budget, consider donating time for a cause you believe in.

It’s commonly known that volunteering has several benefits when looking for a job, but what you might not realize is that volunteering through work or while employed can have several benefits you may not realize. Here are some ways volunteering your time during the holidays can help your career while helping your community.

Stress Relief

More workers are feeling stressed at work than ever before. With sluggish hiring trends in the U.S., employees generally have to deal with more responsibilities without the help of co-workers and even more when employees go on vacation. Stress is notorious for being a health issue, but being stressed out the entire time is going to affect your productivity too.

You could release stress with a vacation or spa day, but even small vacations and simple spas can be expensive and take time to plan, which could add to the stress you’re trying to get rid of. However, you can relieve tension by volunteering your time and efforts. There’s something about the feeling you get from helping others. It allows you to release endorphins and you end up feeling as if you’ve just had a vacation, except you haven’t had to pay a penny for it.

Sharpen Your Skills

Earlier this year, a survey was conducted by the University of California San Diego Extension's Center for Global Volunteer Service where respondents showed that volunteering was beneficial for developing important skills in the workplace. 73% of respondents who had volunteered said it helped in their development as a leader at work, 61% reported it helped with their creativity and resourcefulness, and 73% felt it increased their intercultural awareness and sensitivity.  

No matter who you volunteer for or what task you have agreed to do, there is a learning experience if you’re willing to put in the time and effort. Many local charities don’t have the resources to hire people, so look for opportunities to donate your job skills when volunteering. Not only will you practice your craft and skill, but you’re also helping out a worthwhile cause. 

Can’t Get No Satisfaction

When you’re stuck in the daily grind, sometimes it’s hard to stay positive about your company or position.  During the holiday season, it can be even harder when there’s extra work to be done, but not extra time to do it. Taking the time to volunteer will help you recharge your batteries and learn to appreciate your employer as a whole, especially if you can find holiday volunteer opportunities through your company.

Deloitte, an audit, financial advisory, tax, and consulting firm, published a volunteer impact survey this year. Deloitte found that 55% of employees who frequently participate in a company’s sponsored volunteer activities are likely to rate their corporate culture as very positive, compared with 36% of employees who don’t volunteer.

We all know volunteering is the right thing to do, but sometimes giving our time costs more than donating money. We often don’t think about the benefits that can come from offering a little time and energy. What kind of success stories have you had when volunteering through your employer or on your own?

Bouncing Back From Job Rejection

Rejection recovery_nov2011_webJob searching for an extended period of time can put a strain on your positivity and well-being. As the months drag on, you can sometimes feel like your emails and résumés are being sent to this mystical void where no one sees them. The few employers who respond to your résumé send you the typical rejection letter.

With a sluggish economy, more and more people are facing this type of rejection. It can be discouraging to receive rejection letter after rejection letter or even no response at all, but there are ways to turn that negativity around. If you remember these simple steps, you can bounce back from being rejected during your job search.

It’s Not You, It’s me
Sometimes, there isn’t a particular reason you weren’t chosen for an interview or offered a position. You could have marketed yourself as a competent, capable candidate, but reasons outside of your control could have been the deciding factor. To employers, it’s about making a good match. Hiring managers could have had a better connection with another candidate during an interview, you might not have been a good fit for the company culture, or you were too strong a candidate and maybe they felt you were overqualified and would leave at the first opportunity.

During my job search, I was asked to interview with a paper supply company for a project manager position and was given a vague job description. I got the hiring manager’s attention because of my publishing background. After 10 minutes into the interview, I learned the position managed pre-published projects and made sure the process of packaging and shipping went smoothly. I was expecting to write and create content for these projects. So, sometimes the jobs and your skills and expectations don’t mix, and it’s no fault of your own.

A Learning Opportunity
Feedback is necessary for development. If you weren’t offered the job, consider asking your interviewer what you can do to improve in the future. Be respectful and clear that you are seeking feedback for improvement purposes only. You might disagree with some of the feedback, but do not get aggressive or defensive. Thank the interviewer for their time, make note of their comments, and discuss them with a family member or trusted colleague after to find what you can change.

Be prepared to put a plan in place to make changes if possible when you receive your constructive criticism. Take the time to clean up or focus your portfolio, learn some of the latest trends in your field, or take some courses on the latest software being used by your professional peers. Discuss with friends and family what you can do to strengthen yourself professionally and keep them in the loop with your job hunting endeavors. Having a support team can help keep you positive.

Remember What You’ve Learned
A lost opportunity is your chance to consider other positions. Take what you have learned from the experience and use it to prepare for the next opportunity. Each new job posting or interview is a new chance. Don’t be held back by negativity you kept from previously rejected applications. You took what you learned and are a better candidate for it. 

You may have been passed on by one organization, but if you’ve been effectively job seeking, you’ll have multiple opportunities to work towards and your previous rejection won’t be your only hope. You may have that one job or employer that would be ideal, but never lose sight of the job that will be right for you or help you become better at your line of work.

What are some ideas that could help you stay positive through a wearisome job search?

3 Ways to Get In A Good Mood at Work

Goo mood_Nov2011_webWe’ve all had those days at work where your attitude or outlook is holding you back from being in a good mood. Maybe your workload is piling up or you’ve had a conflict with a co-worker. Whatever the reason, you’re in a bad mood and still have several hours left in the workday. The key here is to break out of your negativity so you can get back to work, because if you think you’re grumpy now – hindering your productivity with a bad mood will only make things worse. So, how do you get into a good mood instantly?

Stage a Victory

Chances are you’ve got a list of things running through your head that need to get done. Is there a task on your list that has taken up permanent residency among your “to-do’s”? Now’s the perfect time to tackle that pesky task. This will take your attention away from your grumpy mood and focus it onto taking care of business instead. In addition, the rush of good feelings you’ll get from actually getting rid of, or getting a good start on, that project that has been hanging over you will put an end to unnecessary stress and frustration.

Reflect on Success

If you’re in a bad mood because you’ve failed at a task, take 10 minutes to take stock of your achievements. Most employees are held accountable to certain standards and goals on a regular basis, whether that is at weekly staff meetings, quarterly reports, or during an annual review, you’ll need to know how you are measuring up. Take some time to review your goals and see how they are matching up with your current productivity. It’s a great way to see how you’re contributing to the company and meeting or exceeding your goals. Additionally, this focus on your goals will recharge your focus putting you in a good mood to head back into your work day.

Address the Problem

If whatever is bothering you is within your realm of control, take direct action to solve it. If you need to apologize, don’t wait to do so. The problem – and your bad mood – will get bigger until you address the situation.  Once you’ve sought to resolve the conflict, you can move on. Wouldn’t that feel great? If what is bothering you is beyond what you can fix, take a few minutes to think about that. Is there anything you can do to improve the situation? If not, then why let it put you in a bad mood. All that is doing is letting something beyond your control take more control over you. Also, remember your allies and mentors. Send a quick email to your mentor or place a phone call to HR to get some advice that will allow you to feel like you’ve taken action, and then move on.

And if the ideas above don’t look like solutions for solving your bad mood, consider age-old tricks. Pump up your favorite type of music, likely setting off some memories of times you’ve enjoyed while hearing those tunes. Or take five minutes to take a quick walk around your workplace, giving you some time to cool off – and possibly locate some chocolate or other free office treat that is sure to improve your mood!


By Rachel Rudisill

Hand Safety: Staying Focused on the Task at Hand

Handsafety_nov2011_webWhile many have trouble seeing job safety as a major concern at their office job, those working industrial, construction, or other blue collar jobs work with highly dangerous equipment see it every day. When spending time working with hazardous machinery, chemicals, or tools, accidents can and do happen, and they usually involve the hands. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, hand injuries send more than one million workers to the emergency room each year.

Second to neglecting to wear protective equipment, a main cause of hand injuries is a lack of awareness.  Hand safety shouldn’t solely rely on proper glove use. One of the best and most effective means of hand protection is good hand position. To help keep your hands happy, here are some ways for you to stay focused on your job and keep an eye out for potential dangers you could be placing your hands in.

Ride Into the Danger Zone

Before working with potentially dangerous equipment, recognize the hazardous areas and develop a work practice to keep your hands away from the “danger zone.”  It’s an important preventative procedure to maintain an effective barrier between your hands and hazards when operating machinery.

When handling dangerous materials, try using tools like pliers to move or hold extremely hot or hazardous materials, determine if there are multiple energy sources on the same piece of equipment, or prepare for an unexpected slip or release when applying force.

Each tool and piece of equipment has its own danger zone that varies from model to model. Be sure to get with your manager and company Material Safety Data Sheet (MSDS) to learn what areas are the most dangerous.

Offhanded Placement

Jobs and duties can get repetitive, especially in industrial or construction work, which makes it easier for workers to get complacent and less compliant with safety standards. When workers start taking their safety procedures for granted, the little mistakes slip by and cause huge accidents. Many times, hand injuries happen because workers were not paying attention to where their unused hand was placed.

No matter what your job is, it is important to stay focused and be alert when any hand is near dangerous equipment. You can avoid harmful situations by being aware of your danger zones and keeping the unused hand in sight. Try shifting your body weight occasionally if you find yourself leaning too much. Better posture can lead to longer periods of standing without fatigue, avoid long-term complications like tendinitis, and will help keep you safer when using dangerous machinery.

Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

Having your task, hands, and tools within direct eyesight can help prevent hand injuries on the job. If you have to reach for something like a dropped tool or clogged machine part, make sure you can see where your hand is going to avoid getting your hand crushed or knocking over hazardous materials.

Keep in mind the area around you and check around your operating area for rough or sharp edges, kill-switches on machines, and maintain a clean and tidy workspace. This way, you can focus on your job and reduce the risk of grazing you hand on a sharp edge, tripping over something on the floor and catching your hand in a machine, or getting hit by a misplaced tool that gets caught in the machine.

Workers can become complacent when performing repetitive job duties and lose track of where their hands or bodies are placed. Gloves may protect you when an accident occurs, but being alert and aware of where your hands are helps prevent the accidents from happening. How does your company encourage hand safety?

When the Axe Attacks: Survive Being Laid Off

Survivefired_Nov2011_web“We’re letting you go” is one of the scariest and most feared phrases in the workplace. Losing your job can add more pressure and distress today because of the current economic uncertainty. It brings a sense of failure. No matter how hard you worked, they let you go anyway. You’re left with dozens of questions about what you did wrong and what you are going to do next. Sadly, each question might not have an answer in sight.

But life isn’t over, it’s a different chapter. Consider it a new beginning of your life with opportunity to find the work you enjoy, but it has to start with you. Here are some ways you can cope after receiving the pink slip and capitalize on your newly found freedom to turn it into opportunity.

Wait For it

The first few days after being laid off are crucial, which should be dedicated to cautiously observing your situation. What you say or do during those first few days can follow you throughout your job hunt. It’s ok to feel angry, afraid, and apologetic. It’s human nature and should be expressed with your closest friends, relatives, or counselor. But try to avoid jumping into the job search with a heightened sense of emotion.

It’s important to get vision and clarity in your life before chasing a new job. Start by setting some personal goals to achieve during your free time. Try running or walking in the morning, taking up a hobby like playing the guitar or knitting, or finishing a project you’ve put off because you were too busy with work.  Once cool and collected, you’ll have a better chance of communicating your intention to others instead of appearing to have a chip on your shoulder.

Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself

When the dust has settled and you’ve got a better hold of yourself, take the time to review the most important factor of the separation: you. If you were given reasons why your performance or actions were not up to their standards, try researching and asking colleagues what some good practices are to improve the areas you are the weakest. This is a great place to start with how to become a better worker and employee. Taking the steps to improve will help you perform better in a job interview.

This is also a great opportunity to find out if your line of work is really want you want to be doing. Evaluating yourself can free you from a job where you felt used or underappreciated or wasn’t the best use of your talents. It can help you break out of an industry or company that offers no further growth prospects. You have a chance to explore new careers and fields, find a better-fitting job, or even start your own business.

Who are you? What do you really want to do? Why do you do what you do?

Option Oasis

Once your head has been cooled, you’ll be able to make good choices when options become available to you after you’ve been let go. You might have to talk to your previous employer about unemployment payments or health care extensions, but be nice. It would be in your best interest if you remained civil and calm when discussing these options with your previous employer. You’ll need as much help as you can get when figuring out expenses and other necessities while you search for other employment.

There are several options to consider when you’re ready to start looking for a new job. On top of regular networking, consider volunteering. Nonprofits are always looking for helping hands, and giving time will give you a great way to meet people and demonstrate your abilities. And you’ll be helping the community while you’re at it. There are also many ways staffing companies have helped temporary  and holiday jobs turn a foot in the door into full-time employment.

Losing your job can feel like an earth-shattering experience, but it’s ripe with opportunities if you stay smart, cool, and positive. It could be the chance you’ve been waiting for to change your life for the better. What are some ways you’ve coped after losing a job?

Recovering From Interview Blunders: Part 3

InterviewBlunders_pt3_Oct2011_webIn this series of blog posts about recovering from major mess-ups during a job interview, we shed some light on how to recognize the gaffe and apologize where those giving the interview will respect your upfront acknowledgement of the mistake and respect your desire to learn from it. Then, we addressed the importance of staying calm and professional instead of dwelling on mistakes that will distract you and keep you from presenting the best possible you. The final ingredient in the recipe of interview recovery is to move on.

Move on

Sometimes it’s all you can do. Moving on doesn’t mean to give up, it just means to get past it and get on with the interview. If you waste time in the interview dwelling on your errors, the interviewer may too. Sometimes, the worst feeling from a mistake is realizing the mistake after you’ve gotten home from the interview. If you really feel like you’ve made a grave error after an interview, and think it needs to be addressed, put it in the thank-you card and send it that night. It’s still important to stay positive and let the interviewer regret your mistake. Even when the interview is over and you’re home it’s important to stay calm. Don’t mention the experience on your Facebook or Twitter. If you’re asked, be polite and professional when discussing a potential employer.


Above all, the most important lesson to learn from your mistake is to always be prepared. This is the best way to avoid any sort of embarrassing blunders and mistakes. If you have any doubts such as name spelling or pronunciation, location, and other details, take a dip in your ego and call the interviewer for the information you need. It’s better to be cautious than make easily preventable mistakes.

It’s also important to keep in mind that sometimes it’s not a mistake at all. Interviews are tools meant for both parties. It’s just as much your chance to gage and analyze the employer as it is theirs. You may not have made any mistakes, but you feel like something isn’t right. It may just mean that the opportunity isn’t the right fit for you, and there may be something better for you in the future.

No matter how much you prepare, sometimes mistakes happen. If you apologize, and keep going in a professional manner, the interview doesn’t have to be a failure.

Recovering From Interview Blunders: Part 2

InterviewBlunders_pt2_Oct2011_webIn part one of recovering from interview blunders, we talked about the importance of acknowledging the mistake and apologizing. It could be worse to ignore the mistake and let it linger. Interviewers can be more forgiving than you expect, but what do you do after apologizing?

Falling down may be easy, but picking yourself back up can be the biggest challenge as you continue the interview. When you feel like you have a lot of ground to cover, just remember to keep your head.

Stay Calm and Professional

Many times it’s not necessarily the mistake that is judged, but how the situation is handled, that employers will notice. The important thing to remember is to remain calm and collected after a mishap, like receiving a phone call after forgetting to set your phone on silent, even though panicking may be your initial reaction. Don’t dwell on your mistake and focus on the question that is being asked so you can answer with confidence.

Always try to turn the situation into something you can use to show your professional skills. So what if you forgot your portfolio, didn’t bring extra résumés, or left a relevant fact off your résumé? If you’re quick enough, you can come up with a response like “I wanted to discuss the specific skills and accomplishments that are most important to the company. This way I can better demonstrate the sort of skills you are seeking.”

A good example of this is a scene from the movie The Pursuit of Happyness where Chris Gardner, played by Will Smith, was arrested the night before his interview and had no choice but to show up wearing his painting clothes. Being calm, collected, and aware of his situation helped him get the job he was after. You can watch the clip below.

Please note, the video clips herein and their sponsors do not necessarily represent the views of Express and are used for educational purposes only.

You can remember this point with a brief history lesson. During World War II, the British government released a motivational poster and slogan to raise morale. Despite it being a popular fashion trend in today’s society, it can still have a lot of meaning if you remember it during your interview. If you’ve made an interview blunder, just “keep calm and carry on.”

For part three, click here!