Monthly Archives: February 2008

Revive Your Job Search: Freshen Up Your Skills

The first part of this series is on making a solid first impression with a professional appearance. To read it, click here.

Make sure your skills are competitive.
Every industry has its own set of rules for what skills are currently in demand. Do you know what employers in your field are looking for in an ideal candidate? If not, you need to find out. One way to do this is by carefully reviewing help-wanted ads and looking for a pattern. Highlight qualifications that you see listed repeatedly. These are the skills you need in order to attract the attention of hiring managers.

After you’ve determined what abilities are in high demand in your field, you’re ready for the next step – developing those skills. If your skills are weak in a particular area, that could be what’s keeping you from landing a job in your desired industry. Remember that you’re competing with many other candidates for open positions, and those with the best qualifications often receive top billing.

Perhaps you feel you don’t have the time, energy or finances to improve your skills. That’s not necessarily the case. Have you thoroughly researched what it would take for you to increase your qualifications? Most likely, the time and money you spend now to improve your professional abilities will pay off through better job opportunities in the future.

Do You Have a Work Spouse?

These days, most of us spend as much or more time with our co-workers as our friends and family. That may be one reason why so many people are favorable toward office romance.

Harris Interactive recently released a report showing that over one third (36%) of workers surveyed said they’d consider an office romance. According to the 2008 Harlequin Romance Report, 57% of men and 61% of women in the workplace have had a crush on a co-worker, and well over half of both men and women who’ve experienced workplace crushes say they’ve gone beyond a crush to a relationship with a co-worker (Hat tip: HR World).

But for many, it’s not clear what to do about the deep bonds or constant flirtations that frequently arise between co-workers even when things don’t turn into actual romance. There’s even a terminology that has sprung up to describe this relationship – a “work spouse.”  When you spend most of your time at work – or during your lunch hour – with a co-worker, think about them while at home, or look forward to the next time you’ll get to see or talk with them, you may just have what some call a “work husband” or a “work wife,” even if things are platonic. 

Though general camaraderie and good will among co-workers is a good thing, it can be difficult to draw the lines and keep work relationships in check, unless you have some guidelines to follow.

How can you know if things have gone too far in a co-worker relationship? Experts say taking stock of your on-the-job relationships with these questions in mind can help you know if you’re crossing the line into dangerous territory with a co-worker.

  • Are you obsessing over your co-worker when not at work?
  • How would you treat your work spouse if your significant other were with you?
  • Do you compare your real romantic partner with your work spouse?
  • Do you cross the lines into physical contact with your work spouse, even if it’s just as simple as touch on the shoulder?
  • Are you treating your work spouse the same way you would treat other friends?

What do you think about office romance? Have you ever known anyone in a “work marriage”? Let us know in the comments section, or vote in our online poll.

4 Reasons to Recruit, Hire and Retain Mature Employees

Over the next 10 years, it’s anticipated that nearly 76 million Baby Boomers will reach retirement age, and there will be less than 50 million workers to fill the void. A recent study conducted by Strategy One, a marketing research firm, learned Baby Boomers wouldn’t consider themselves “old” until 74. The study, U.S. Boomers Insights and Implication Study, concluded that 78% feel they still have opportunities in life once they reach retirement age. And according to a blog post by Baby Boomer Insights, 80% of boomers plan to continue working well past retirement.

Though employers may feel that it’s essential to focus mainly on fresh faces to ignite new ideas and stir things up, it is important to realize that recruiting, hiring and retaining mature employees can also help your business. Below are four reasons to keep older employees in your workforce.

Experience – Mature workers possess on-the-job experience. They’re detail-oriented, focused and attentive. And these qualities, which have been perfected over time, can trickle down to younger workers, making older workers excellent mentors for younger generations.

Loyal – Employees in the Baby Boomer generation don’t feel the need to job hop or look for better opportunities. They’re socially and economically stable. They know the value of a good employer, and a loyal and dedicated employee is more productive and more likely to stay with the company longer, which reduces turnover costs.

Mature – They’ve been around for awhile, so workplace drama doesn’t rattle them. They have work and life experience and typically know how to handle complicated situations and understand workplace politics. Their maturity can help ground your entire workforce.

Strong Work Ethic – Older employees take pride in their work. Boomers may not burn through deadlines, but you can be sure that they’ll take the time to do their jobs right and put in the extra hours to make sure it’s quality work, resulting in fewer mistakes that can be costly for your company.

Before you start thinking it’s time to throw out the old for the new, remember the attributes maturing employees have to offer, and your business will reap the benefits.

Revive Your Job Search: Dress for Success

Dress for SuccessHave you been looking for a job for quite some time? If you’re beginning to feel discouraged about your prospects, take heart – you can improve your odds of landing a good job quickly by following the tips below.

Let your appearance make a positive first impression.
Appearances matter. To compete in today’s job market you need to consider what your look is saying about you. When was the last time you updated your hairstyle and wardrobe? If it’s been more than five years, it’s time to get a makeover. Sporting a dated look makes employers wonder if your skills and ideas may be old news as well.

If you’re not sure what’s in style, turn on the TV or flip through some magazines to get a few ideas. Then go to your local department stores and look for bargains on classic business garments such as button down shirts, tailored jackets and black trousers and skirts.

Once you’ve got the clothes, it’s time to take a look at your hair. Your hairstyle is one of the first things people notice about your appearance, so make an appointment at a reputable hair salon to get an updated look. Hair stylists can also help groom unruly beards, sideburns and mustaches in a fashionable way.

Parts 2 and 3 of this series will touch on keeping your skills up-to-date and expanding your job search.

Get Ahead by Becoming a Team Player

being a team playerThe workplace is made up of many individuals working toward a common purpose. As in sports, in order to have a winning team, the players must work together to achieve their goals.

Get Recognized.
Do you want to get noticed as an MVP? Then focus on developing a reputation as an employee who strives to help others succeed. When you build up those around you, you’ll foster good will among your co-workers and demonstrate to management that you’re a natural leader.

Be a Team Cheerleader.
When you go out of your way to cheer on your teammates and help them achieve the team’s objectives, it gets noticed. Your boss will be impressed when you demonstrate leadership skills like mentoring, training and encouraging those around you. And remember, many people can do good work as an individual but it takes an exceptional employee to be able to build others up.

Offer Your Support.
To become a better relationship builder, motivator and leader, look for opportunities to help your teammates. Is a co-worker stressed out by a tight deadline? Offer to pitch in to help complete the project. Does your boss seem discouraged? Lift their spirits by sharing good news or reminding them of recent team successes.

What type of team member are you? Do you cheer on co-workers’ successes or do you long for more individual recognition?

Are You Trainable? 3 Qualities You Need To Learn Anything

You may have noticed that a job offer or promotion doesn’t always go to the candidate with the most experience or best training. Instead, employers often hire and promote the candidate who seems most willing and able to learn the new role.

You might be asking yourself why a manager would ever pass up on a candidate with greater experience or more up-to-date skills. The reason is simple, really. While work history and capabilities are important, they’re no match for a willing attitude. In any new position there will always be new things for the employee to learn. That’s why the candidate who’s most trainable is often the preferred choice.

Becoming more trainable will not only make it easier to learn a new job, it will also boost your career by demonstrating to employers that you’re ready for any challenge. If you’re not sure how teachable you are, review the traits below and find out. If you fall short, don’t worry – once you know where you’re lacking, you can work on making improvements.

1. Enthusiasm – Eagerness to learn is a quality employers value highly in job candidates as well as internal recruits. A go-getter attitude makes learning any job easier, and enthusiasm increases a hiring manager’s confidence in potential employees’ abilities. 

If your outlook toward work tends to be more ho-hum than vroom vroom, you can kick up your career a notch by displaying enthusiasm during interviews or at your current job.

Remember, it’s no fun to train someone who doesn’t want to learn. That’s why when someone comes off disinterested, it’s no wonder employers are skittish about offering a position. So, slap a smile on your face and show some drive by demonstrating excitement about your work.

2. Humility – It’s impossible to learn new things if you don’t think those around you have anything to teach you. Author C.S. Lewis once said, “A proud man is always looking down on things and people; and, of course, as long as you’re looking down, you can’t see something that’s above you.”

In order to be trainable, you have to come to new situations with an acceptance that you don’t know everything. Being humble isn’t the same thing as putting yourself down or having low self esteem. It’s important to feel good about yourself and to display confidence, but that doesn’t mean stepping on other people or refusing to listen to their instructions.

You can show your willingness to learn by valuing the opinions of others and asking for advice from time to time. When employers see that you respect the knowledge of those around you, they’ll be more inclined to hire and promote you.

3. Commitment – Learning new things isn’t always fun. Sometimes, training can be frustrating or boring. But, dedication is what enables you to overcome hurdles and succeed in a new role.

Do you stick it out even when times get tough? Hiring managers know that there’s a learning curve associated with any new position. That’s why they want to hire and promote individuals who are willing to stay the course.

You can increase your level of professional dedication by always following through on your commitments, turning projects in on time and keeping your word. Employers will be convinced of your perseverance when you can show a track record of dependability.

Do you want to be an in-demand employee? If so, focus on becoming more trainable by demonstrating enthusiasm, humility and commitment. Your efforts will be rewarded with interest and respect from employers.

9 Tips to Safeguard Your Job

It’s always a good idea to perform well for your employer and be prepared for possible career bumps in the road, but with economic indicators pointing toward a possible recession, it’s more important now than ever to safeguard your career.

Here are nine tips to help secure your employment, or help prepare you in case you find yourself without a job.

1. Be in the know. Make sure you know what’s going on in your market. Read the newspaper, conduct online research or simply ask your boss what’s happening in the industry. Knowing what’s going on in your field and company will keep you from being blind-sided by potential layoffs.

2. Self-assess. Take a look at yourself and determine if you’ve grown in your current position. Make sure you have skills that set you apart from your co-workers. If you find yourself lacking in these two areas, put career development at the top of your priorities. Volunteer for more projects, or assist your co-workers on some of their tasks so you can grow beyond your current role.

3. Be a leader. Take the lead on projects if you don’t already do so. Be the one who others come to for career advice or the one they ask tough questions. Showing your boss that you can be a leader in your department will demonstrate your strong work ethic and dedication.

4. Vocalize your success. Sell yourself to your boss. Make sure they know what projects you’re working on and the successes you’ve achieved. This will show your boss how valuable you are to the company and that you’re capable of producing results.

5. Know top management. Make sure you’re aware of who the decision makers are and get to know them professionally. Getting in with top management who have the ability to protect your job will prove valuable during troubled times.

6. Be flexible. Don’t be so dead set on keeping your current position that you don’t see other job opportunities in your company. During times of recession, most job cuts happen in areas that cost the company money. Your willingness to transfer to a different department will increase your chances of keeping a job during possible layoffs.

7. Update your résumé. Be proactive. Make sure your résumé is reflective of your current capabilities and accomplishments in case your company starts handing out pink slips. Keeping a current résumé on file will help you get a head start on your job search in case you find yourself looking.

8. Network, network, network. Don’t wait until you’re out of work before you start joining organizations or contacting old friends for help finding a job. Get involved now in professional or social organizations and start making contacts sooner rather than later.

9. Continue your education. Learning new skills is always a good idea. It not only shows employers your willingness to improve and grow in your career, but it’s necessary when marketing yourself to other companies.

Economic downturns can be unsettling, especially when the job market takes a turn for the worse, but by following these tips, you can potentially safeguard your career and be prepared in case you need to search for a job.