Monthly Archives: May 2010

Unspoken Rules About the 8-to-5 Workday

EntryLevelLifeButton_A Transitioning into the workforce from school or switching from one career to a new one can be a scary move. It’s a big step, but one that you can easily make with a few pointers. Each job has certain rules and procedures that are common knowledge, but you might not have heard them outright or saw them on your orientation agenda. So, take note of these tips to you navigate the workday without breaking the rules. Following these rules will show your employer that you want to do a good job and be an employee they can’t live without.

Don’t be late. Check and double check your work schedule and be sure you’re at work on time. Showing up late – even five or ten minutes – could earn you a negative reputation. There are some environments that are more laid back with their attendance policy, but others are sticklers about not being a minute late. Be sure you know your company’s culture and don’t assume because co-workers are late it’s OK to follow their lead. You want to set a good example so you can get ahead, not follow a bad example because that could get you in trouble.   

Run errands on your own time. When you’re at work, you are there to work. Running errands on your lunch break is fine, but don’t use company time to go to the post office, grocery store, take a shopping trip to the mall, etc. The company pays you to work for them, so they expect you to work and produce results.

Avoid regular personal calls. The workplace is not the best place to spend significant time making or accepting personal phone calls. As many employees share workspace with other co-workers, make it a point to keep your personal affairs to yourself. Calling your best friend to have a casual conversation about an upcoming date is not appropriate. When you’re on company time, let friends and family know to leave you a message if they call you during the day and you will return their message when you leave for lunch or after work. If you do have to take a phone call at work, go to an area where you won’t be bothering anyone and limit the amount of time you spend on the phone. Check out more information about cell phone etiquette in the office

Know the policy on social media. With so many people having a social media profile on a site like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Myspace, it’s easy to stay connected and see what your friends are doing during the day. Before you decide to log-in and check one of those sites while at work, be sure you know you’re company’s policy regarding social media. You never know if someone is monitoring your internet activity. If they see you logging-in to Facebook during the day, you could get reported to your manager if it’s against the rules.

Keep loud music down. If you listen to music while you work, use headphones in public or shared spaces. Listening to music can help you feel more energized and can help you eliminate distractions. Just remember to keep the volume at a reasonable level so you don’t distract or aggravate any co-workers and you can still hear someone if they call your name. If you work in a factory or shipping facility, check your safety policy on this and make sure your earphones don’t create a safety hazard. You need to be able to hear what’s going on around you.

These are just a few of the many things to be aware of when it comes to workplace behavior and how to function during the workday. Be respectful of your company’s time, money and resources by following policies on issues like attendance, work breaks, and social media. On company time, you have to follow company policy. When you have a job, it’s important to keep in mind that you should adjust your habits to fit your employer during working hours, not vice versa.

Have You Googled Your Name Lately?

Do you ever wonder how much information about you is floating around in cyber space? If you haven’t ever searched your name online, you should try it just for fun. It’s important to be aware of what information others can access about you because when you apply for a job, an employer is likely to go online to research more about you. Gone are the days when an employer would only look at your résumé.

The web has become a medium for personal branding. It helps others connect to information that tells who you are and what you do. It’s important that positive results show up in a search about you. If no search results show up about you, it’s time for you to generate some results yourself. When it comes to online branding, you have to take some matters into your own hands. Here are a few tips to help you create your own positive online brand for yourself.

Choose your name. If you have a common name, it’s important to decide how you want to format it. For instance, Tom Z. White will show up better in a web search than just Tom White, simply because adding an initial or your middle name will differentiate you. As you begin to brand yourself, see how your name stacks up by trying an online identity calculator. Also, when you decide on what name you are going to use, be sure to stay consistent and use it with all your online branding and even on hard copies of items like your résumé, cover letter, and business cards. The name an employer sees on your résumé is the name they will search online. So it’s important that your information is consistent and matches up.

Create professional social media profiles for yourself.  For example, LinkedIn is one of the popular social media sites for listing information about your work experiences, interests, and education. You can upload your résumé, include details about your work history, and showcase recommendations others have made about you. It also allows you to make networking connections with others. Just be sure you’re aware of what your personal social media sites reveal about you because they may show up in a web search about you, too. A few other great sites like Brazen Careerist, Plaxo, and Friendfeed can also help you build your network and visibility.

Create a professional blog. A professional interest blog allows you to write about and share information on topics that interest you and pertain to your career. To maximize your results with this tool, be sure to focus on professional subjects and always include your name on it, so when you post information search engines like Google can recognize that it was created by you. As you post more content, the ranking of your blog will rank higher in search results. Find out more about creating a blog

Write for other blogs. With an abundance of blogs available to choose from today, many blogs and news sites are looking for additional content writers. If you don’t want to create your own blog, you can still write for someone else and include your name in it. This is also a great way to help your name get recognized in search results. So, start finding blogs that interest you and begin building relationships with those blog writers.  

Comment on blogs. Using your full name when you leave comments on others’ blogs will also allow you to show up in search results. You can leave thoughtful, professional comments on subject-matter blogs in your field of interest. This is a simple way to build your online presence, especially if you use a unique name when you post comments.

Create an online résumé. This is like your traditional résumé, except it’s kicked up a notch. An online version allows you to incorporate multimedia elements such as podcasts, videos, photos, and social media sites. It can also let you showcase a portfolio of your best work. Having an online résumé shows an employer that you go above and beyond. And because it’s housed online, you never know who could find it and offer you the next big job. Get more information on creating an online résumé.

These are some basic tips to help you create an online identity for yourself and get noticed more in search results. As businesses continue to evolve and our society becomes more technologically savvy, having a résumé isn’t always enough. You have to evolve with the times too, and following these tips can help you do just that.

Nightmare on First Day: Tips for Avoiding a Horror Story

EntryLevelLifeButton_C After all the interviews are done and you’ve been offered a job, there’s only one big thing left for you to do –  show up for your first day on the job. Yikes! Does the thought of your first day on the job send chills down your spine and make you want to scream? What if you get lost? Will you know anyone there? What if you do something embarrassing and everyone laughs?

The first day on the job is not anything to dread. Really. But, remember even though you got the job, your first day on the job says a lot about you, so be sure to always put your best foot forward. To help you make your first day a success, here are a few situations you could face, and tips on how you can handle them to avoid a first-day nightmare.
What if no one told you where to go? Instead of getting nervous because you don’t know where to report when you get to the office, just show up. When you arrive – and it’s always a good idea to arrive about 10-15 minutes early – check in with the administrative assistant at the front desk. Let them know you’re new and tell them you want to let your manager know you’re there. They will usually call your manager, who may give you directions or come welcome you themselves.

What if you’re thrown into projects you don’t understand? Some people think the first day on the job is just spent meeting new people and touring the workplace. That’s not always the case. Some employers may toss projects at you shortly after you arrive because they want to see your reaction and how you work under pressure. Face the assignment head on. Don’t be afraid to ask questions if you don’t understand something or you need more clarification about the project’s details. This shows initiative and is a good sign that you’ll ask for direction when you need it rather than struggling.

What if you don’t hit it off with your co-workers? Your manager may want you to meet with each employee to learn who they are and what they do, and share information about yourself. It’s important to understand that you will meet people in the workplace who have outlooks and beliefs that might differ from your own. But, remember to be professional if your views differ from theirs. The work environment is not the right place to debate who is right or wrong. Instead, focus on learning your job and listening to peers to get details on projects and how best to complete them.

What if things turn negative? No matter what conversations arise or what tone they take, don’t talk negatively about past internships, employers, or co-workers. This can hurt your career, especially since you’ll spend a lot of time in the office around your co-workers. Instead, keep an upbeat attitude, setting the tone for a professional reputation.

Following these simple tips will help you make the most of your first day and help you have a good start to your new career. First days can be scary, but they don’t have to be a nightmare.

Four Tips to Fitting in at Work

No matter who you are or how likeable you claim to be, everyone at some point in their life has had trouble fitting in. And, it has nothing to do with if you’re shy or outgoing, or whether or not you were prom king or your high school’s chess champion. Fitting in is a struggle we have all encountered and it doesn’t end in high school. It can be just as difficult to fit in at work. No matter where you are in your career, if you’re feeling like an outsider at the water cooler or in the cube, try these tips to click with your co-workers.

Be a Team Player. Nobody likes to work for or with someone who is not a team player. So, make sure you volunteer to help on projects at work or take some tasks off someone’s plate. If one of your co-workers has to stay late to complete an assignment, check to see if there is something you can do to help them get out of the office faster. Your co-workers will appreciate your willingness to help out and may even return the favor one day. Letting your co-workers know you’re on their team will help build camaraderie and trust between you and your teammates.

Go to Lunch. Instead of going home for lunch everyday or eating out alone, ask your co-workers to go to lunch at least once or twice a month. If you eat in the break room, invite others to share a table. Getting together to learn about your fellow colleagues gives you time to find common likes, interests, and hobbies. And it shows you care about them as a person, not just as a co-worker. It can be intimidating, but be the first to take the initiative and ask a co-worker to lunch. You won’t just be building team relationships, you could be building great friendships too!

Don’t Gossip. People don’t want to hang out with someone who is always talking about other people. So, make sure you keep your opinions about others to a minimum and don’t talk about co-workers who may rub you the wrong way. Even when co-workers entice you to join in on salacious gossip about the boss or another employee, don’t take the bait. Employees who don’t gossip about co-workers will be trusted and respected by the whole team!

Be Happy. It takes more muscles to form a frown then it does to smile, so try to come to work every day with a great attitude. People enjoy being around those who have a good outlook on life and who can make them smile, so be the one who makes someone else’s day brighter and be happy while you are at work.

While it may seem that some people just naturally fit in with others in the workplace, the truth is, everyone has had difficulties feeling comfortable with their co-workers at one time or another. So, don’t take it personally if you find yourself struggling to fit in, and follow these tips to make your day a little easier.

Five Common Words You Don’t Want On Your Résumé

In this recovering economy, the job competition can be cutthroat, and job seekers are suiting up and bringing their A game to the fight. Employers are getting hundreds and hundreds of applications and résumés for every job posting. And, since most employers spend an average of only 20 to 30 seconds reviewing each résumé, it’s important to make sure yours doesn’t fall through the ropes.

A résumé that is concise, scanable, and still packed full of the right information is a great start to get you noticed as a top-notch contender. And, including power words can add a strong punch. But, adding the wrong words can be a knockout that leaves your résumé down for the count. So, make sure your résumé doesn’t have these commonly used words before you enter the job search ring.

Responsible. A job is defined as a duty, a function, or something that has to be done. Every job is a responsibility. So it’s understood if you’ve had previous job experience that you were responsible for something. Your résumé is about listing your accomplishments, not your responsibilities. So, instead of using a vague and common term to describe your work history, give specific and quantifiable facts and figures to impress your perspective employer. For example, instead of saying “responsible for office sales,” provide information like “sold X number of units and increased company sales by 46% in 2009.”

My. Or me, or I. These are first person pronouns and should not be used on your résumé. Since it’s understood that it’s “your” résumé, words like “I” are unnecessary and redundant. And, they can make your résumé appear unpolished, unprofessional, and even too “you” centered. So, make sure your résumé isn’t sucker punched by first person pronouns. Instead, begin sentences with action verbs like reduced, developed, programmed, etc.

Successful. If you weren’t successful at something, you certainly wouldn’t have it on your résumé. Perspective employers want to know how you can impact their bottom line and grow their business, so show them you’re a champion who can provide results by giving detailed and precise examples on your résumé. Don’t waste space saying you were successful. Give specific instances that prove you were.

Dependable. Like the word successful, using broad, overused terms, including dependable or reliable, won’t distinguish you from other job seekers. To set yourself apart, offer tangible examples of your work experience. Use numbers and data. And focus on results. Demonstrate your dependability by conveying how previous employers relied on you by sharing your achievements and growth.

Team player. Hiring a team player is important to every employer. But, the term is liberally used on most résumés and has essentially become a waste of space. Demonstrate your ability to work with others by describing the teams you worked with and what you achieved together. For example, instead of simply saying you’re a “team player who works well with others” explain how by using examples like “worked with IT, HR, and marketing departments to develop companywide leadership training initiative for 3,000 employees.”

With a limited amount of space on your résumé – only a page or two – to present your abilities and work history, it’s easy to get stuck on broad, commonly used words to convey your skills. But you can add the clout and punch your résumé needs by concentrating on communicating how you were responsible, why you were successful, and when you were a team player. Quantify and explain your qualities. By focusing on your accomplishments and avoiding overused terms, your competition won’t stand a fighting chance.

After the Interview’s Over: Advice Most People Ignore and Why It Hurts Them

EntryLevelLifeButton_E So all the hard work you put into creating your résumé, building your references list, and networking with individuals in your field of interest paid off for you. You landed a job interview, and you feel like it went really well. So, what’s the next step? Following up. You haven’t received a job offer yet, so you still need to stand out in the interviewer’s mind and let them know you want the job.

Following up after an interview is a major part of the job search process that a lot of people know but choose to ignore. When you don’t show interest in finding out how your interview went, the employer could take that as a sign you’re not really concerned about working for their company. Instead of spending your time worrying and waiting after your interview, follow this advice to help advance your way to a second interview, or even better, to getting a job offer.

Ask about the decision making process. At the end of your interview, ask the interviewer what their timeline and process is for making a decision. The goal is for you to find out when you should expect to know their decision or next step. This way, you’re not just sitting around wondering about when they’re going to call.

Send a thank-you letter. This is common courtesy and an important gadget in your job search toolkit. Within 24 hours of your interview, be sure to send a thank-you letter to the interviewer. Sending a letter this soon after your interview will keep your meeting fresh in the employer’s mind and you can easily personalize the letter with key points you discussed. Thank them for taking time out of their day to meet with you. Also, use this as an opportunity to reiterate your interest in the job opportunity, your excitement for it, and what value you can bring to their business. Let them know you look forward to hearing from them, and be sure to include your contact information. And, FYI, if you make it to a second interview, send another thank-you letter after that meeting.

For more tips on writing a follow-up thank you note, click here.

Call the interviewer. After you submit your thank-you letter, sit back and wait. Be respectful of the interviewer’s time. Yes, you can be the squeaky wheel who calls the interviewer every day, but constantly contacting them to check the status of the job could end up causing you to lose points in their eyes, and even worse, miss out on a great job.

If you haven’t heard from the employer by the follow-up date they gave you at the end of your interview, contact them about the status of the job. Let them know you’re still interested in the position and ask them if there’s anything else you need to do or any other information you need to supply to help with their decision about you. 

Ask for feedback. If by chance you didn't get selected for the job, be sure to politely ask the interviewer for feedback on why you didn’t get the position. Also, ask if they can provide you with some tips on things you could improve on. This will help you better yourself for the next interview that comes your way.

Thank them … again. Regardless of the outcome of the interview, take a moment to say a final thanks to your interviewer for their time. Let them know it was a pleasure to meet them, and ask them if they have an account on LinkedIn or Twitter so you can stay in touch and continue to build a professional networking relationship.  

These are a few simple steps to help you make the most of following up after an interview. But, always make sure to contact your interviewer after you’ve met. In today’s job market, it’s important to stand out from the competition in a positive way, and following these tips will help you do that. Taking this initiative to go the extra mile in pursuing a job speaks volumes about your character to an employer, giving you a great advantage over those who don’t follow up.

Dress For Success: What to Wear for an Interview

EntryLevelLifeButton_D When searching for a job, it’s important to look the part. You want to dress like you’re professional, prepared, and capable – not like you just rolled out of bed. But, there are many different dress code policies in the business world, so how do you know whether or not to show up in the latest trends or go for the classic look? Follow these tips to pick out the best interview look that will get you noticed in a positive way.

Call the company first. To find out what the company’s dress code is, contact the company before your interview to find out how you should dress for the occasion. Speak with the receptionist or your company contact who helped set up your interview to get insight into what the company’s culture is like and ask what employees typically wear to work. They might be able to share some insight to help you get started.

Flex your style level. When you find out what the company’s dress code is, kick your wardrobe up a notch. For instance, if the company dress code is business casual, make it a point to dress professional. Not sure what the difference is between these two? Find out here. For example in a professional environment, men and women interviewing for the job could wear a nice pant suit. Just be observant of the company’s everyday dress code. If employees typically wear jeans and a polo, the executive look for your interview would be too much. Instead, go for slacks and nice shirt. 

Choose classics over trends. It’s a great thing to express your personality through your clothing choices, but for a job interview it’s better to err on the side of caution. Stick to basic colors like white, blue, navy, grey, or black instead of bright neon colors. And it’s still OK to reflect your personal style, but do it in a subtle, tasteful way. Choose one element of your wardrobe to play up. Some examples are a bright tie, a hip handbag, or shoes with a modern cut. If your interview outfit is classic with a little punch of color, you still look very polished and professional. In addition, women should choose simple jewelry like diamond stud earrings and a nice necklace instead of wearing large hoop earrings or several attention-grabbing necklaces.

An interview is a time for an employer to get to know about you, your skills, and your personality. You want to stand out from the competition, but not in a negative way. Have you ever had an interview gone bad because of something you wore? Share your thoughts on what not to wear here.