Monthly Archives: July 2011

6 Tips To Foster Creativity

Creativity. I wish it were something that could be easily turned on. At the flip of a switch, life and work could become so much easier. But in the real world, working at fast pace day in and day out can be a challenge. Even for the most creative employees, the flow of ideas dries up sometimes.

How can you stay creative when your mind just doesn’t want to cooperate? Here are a few ideas that might help you shrug off the monotony of the daily grind and open your mind for innovation.

Identify Your Work Patterns
You know yourself better than anyone. When you’re faced with a challenge that needs a creative solution, take a look at your work. Is your mind fresh and ready to go as soon as you step foot in the office or do you need to go through your emails first? Make sure you slot time when your mind is at its best and your energy level is high to tackle a tough project.

Morning Routine
A bad routine can stop your productivity before the workday even starts. While creativity needs freedom and room to breath, having a morning routine can help harness and reel in those creative juices and put them to work. If you need a cup of coffee and to peruse through emails to jumpstart your brain, just be sure to allocate your time wisely. There’s work to be done and procrastination can add stress and hinder your creativity.

Don’t Be Distracted
Allowing yourself to lose focus can slam the brakes on your creativity. Instant gratification is the way we do business, and with the power of the Internet at our fingertips, distractions can be a mouse click away. Social networking, viral videos, news, and games can quickly take your attention away from work. If you’re easily tempted to check what’s going on in the Twitter world, try disabling your Internet to be more effective with your time managemet.

Get Feedback From Others
Listen to criticism about your work with an open mind. Critics with valid points can take your idea and help mold it into creative genius. Plus, as you learn to grow from criticism, you won’t be afraid to put your ideas out there and start proposing new solutions.

Allow Yourself to Be Inspired
Look for inspiration all around. Creativity can cease when you’ve been focused on the same thing for too long making it hard to think outside the box. You might find movies or listening to music a good way to get your creative juices flowing. Not all of us can pop in a movie when trying to approach a new project, but when you are out and find inspiration, jot down your ideas or leave yourself a voicemail at work to check into something further.

Take a Break
Sometimes all the tips and tricks cannot prevent the momentary loss of your creativity. There are times when the only cure is taking a breather in the form of a day off from work, taking a vacation, or using a weekend to rejuvenate, can help your mind recover. Rather than calling in sick, call in well. It’s best to plan this type of time off a bit in advance to prevent the stress of an unexpected absence. Taking a step back and allowing your mind to relax can help revitalize your creativity.

Being continuously creative and working at a high-level during the daily grind can be difficult. But by implementing a few tips, you can keep productive and generate creative ideas.

Working From Home – The Case on Telecommuting

Telecommute_July2011_web At the beginning of July we asked our readers about telecommuting, and 95% of respondents said they would change jobs to have the ability to telecommute. Why is the desire to work from home so strong?

Benefits of reporting for work at home
When Express Employment Professionals asked what the biggest reason to telecommute was, 66% responded, “to eliminate commute time and costs.” Time spent in a car can seem like time wasted. And with gas prices in the U.S. averaging over $3.50 per gallon since March of 2011, spending your paycheck to get to work can be really frustrating.

Only 10% of respondents cited “fewer interruptions” as their reason for wanting to work from home. This response is lower than other studies that have shown the productivity benefits of employees who telecommute. A study out of University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Northwestern University showed that telecommuters had higher job satisfaction than office-based workers, citing that they were able to focus on work because they weren’t caught up in long meetings, co-worker interruptions, and office politics.

Express also asked employers about telecommuting and 56% of respondents who allow employees to work outside of the office saw “increased employee morale” as the biggest benefit. This may coordinate with the work/life balance that telecommuting can bring. A Brigham Young University study showed that employees who worked from home didn’t experience the strain of work/life balance office workers feel. This is coupled with the added benefit to employers that workers who were telecommuting could clock an extra nine hours a week without feeling a reduction in work/life balance.

Striking a deal
If you want to ask your employer if telecommuting is an option, here are some tips to bring up the topic.

  1. Ask about the company policy on working from home. Just because you haven’t been allowed to work offsite, doesn’t mean its not allowed. In your next regular meeting with your manager, ask about the company’s view on telecommuting. It may be acceptable in some positions and unacceptable in others, so seek to understand why and learn more.
  2. Explain the benefits to your employer. Your manager may not care about your commuting during skyrocketing gas prices, but he may want to know how you can meet your deadline for next week’s audit. If you need a break from workplace distractions to get more work done and meet a deadline, you may be able to negotiate time out of the office. Another scenario may be having to meet a home repairman. Instead of asking to use vacation time, offer to work from home on a specific project while you wait for your air conditioner to be fixed. It’s a win-win, your work gets done, and you’ll stay cool.
  3. Don’t let them down. Of course productivity is important, whether you’re working in or out of the office, but it’s critical you get your work done when being allowed to telecommute. With 45% of leaders saying “decreased productivity” is their biggest concern in allowing employees to work from home, you don’t want to prove them right. When you’re scheduled to work outside of the office, let your manager know what projects you’ll be working on and then follow up with them on your progress. Respond promptly to phone and email messages, reinforcing that you’re focused on work. Some offices may want you to be on the clock during your traditional hours, while others may allow you to flex your work hours when telecommuting. Either way, you’ll need an agreed upon time that you’ll be working. If you have children, make sure you arrange for childcare so you can get your work done without distractions. Don’t forget to take all the supplies you need home with you, and remember to bring all of your work back with you to the office.

Telecommuting needs to be an option that benefits both the employer and employee. While there are pros and cons to working outside of the office, the most important thing is that the work gets done, and gets done well.  

Time to Replace Your Objective Statement

ObjectiveStatement_July2011_web With increasing regularity, job seekers draft a résumé with an opening “objective statement” section without realizing this can be a turn-off to employers.  Objective statements, by definition, are a declaration of what you want out of your next position.  Think, “A stable position with room for advancement”.  However, employers rarely hire an applicant based on what the applicant wants, but rather based on what the applicant offers

Objective versus Qualifications
In today’s demanding job market, the most effective job seekers are utilizing a “summary of qualifications” as the opening section to their résumé in lieu of a traditional objective statement.  This summary of qualifications states what you are offering to a potential employer in terms of expertise and experience, causing the potential employer’s first impression of the applicant to be a synopsis of the positive impact you’ll make, rather than what you are demanding from your next employer.  At the end of the day, employers only invite a handful of applicants in for an interview and it makes sense that those job seekers who demonstrate what they offer, instead of highlighting what they demand in their next position, will be those lucky few chosen for the interview.

Change It Up
When you start your résumé with an objective statement it may say, “Seeking an administrative position that works closely with customers and keeps the office organized and efficient,” instead of telling them what you want try kicking off your résumé with an objective statement like this, “Organized administrative professional who types 55 words per minute, has supported a staff of eight in a fast-paced environment and effectively managed an office expense budget of $50,000 annually.”  By shifting the initial focus of your résumé to what you bring to the table instead of what you are looking for in a job, you’ll help the potential employer picture you contributing to the team.

Common Mistakes Young Professionals Make and How to Avoid Them

CommonMistakes_July2011_web Barely a month ago, graduations took place across the country. Résumé and cover letters were sent out, jobs were landed, and now young professionals are entering the workplace for the first time. If you’re a new employee or know someone who is, it’s important to remember your first impression and work ethic can make or break your climb up the corporate ladder.

With the current economy, distinguishing yourself from the masses can be that added edge you need to find success. While it is important to standout, you don’t want it to be for the wrong reasons, like making some career rookie mistakes like these.

The Know It All
Yes. You may have spent the past four years in college preparing for your exact job. Maybe you’ve even had a few internships as well. That doesn’t necessarily mean you know everything there is to know about your field. Experience has to be earned, it’s not taught at school. So be open to learning through new projects and taking advice.

To avoid this hazard, you must know one thing – you don’t know it all. You may have some great ideas and out of the box thinking, so don’t be afraid to share them. But don’t approach every problem as if you have the only solution. Finding the appropriate approach is key.

The Rulebreaker
Young professionals have the unfortunate label of rule breakers. Whether or not the title is deserved, do not give credence to it. Follow the rules to a T and you can reinforce your credibility and show you have respect for the regulations. Do not waltz in 15 minutes late everyday, be punctual or better yet early instead. Stick to your company dress code and dress for the job you want. Bending small rules just isn’t worth it in the long run and there are better ways you can ensure your success.

The “InstaLeader”
While you now have the opportunity to contribute to your team, avoid trying to become head honcho on day one. When entering a new workplace, you want to come in and hit the ground running with your best effort. Don’t come in and try to take over. Instead, be supportive on team projects. Keep in mind that you are no longer striving for A’s on report cards, but actual professional success. Sometimes bringing your “A” game means earning respect, following instructions, deferring to others, and effectively work within a team.

The Twitter Screw-up
The popularity of social networking is skyrocketing. Websites like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and the new Google+ offer plenty of options to stay connected. While it can be a fun and easy way to stay connected, it’s hard to know exactly who is reading. To limit access to your profiles, you may consider not befriending or connecting with certain people on some sites, and select strict privacy setting to maintain control of your online reputation. You may want to err on the side of caution with your personal online content to prevent it from creating a negative impact on your professional life.

For social sites designed for professional networking, such as LinkedIn, always check for typos as you would with your résumé and make sure your content is an honest and accurate representation of your work history. Glaring mistakes or inconsistencies can hurt your credibility.

The New Guy
Mistakes are bound to happen as you enter your career and can even be part of a good learning process at times. The good news is that very few of them are career-enders. Your professional development depends on how you learn from them and move past them. Just remember to maintain a positive outlook when these bumps come along. And accept responsibility for your mistakes, admitting you are new and still learning.

It may seem like there is a lot to keep in mind when planning a successful career, but to avoid burning bridges and ensure a successful future, it is work well worth it.

Beat The Heat: Dressing Professionally Cool

Summercasual_webJust in case you might have missed the past few months, there is a heat wave hitting the United States. According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, temperatures are shattering records in the South and Southwest, while average precipitation has been well below average.

With scorching temperatures setting daily record highs, the summer look might just be pool clothes. But work doesn’t stop in the summertime, and it’s important to remember to know where to draw the line for acceptable work attire. Whether you’re starting a new job, or you’re a workplace veteran, you should know that what you wear represents yourself as well as your organization.

Dress codes don’t go by the wayside just because of the temperature. We’ve shown you how to warm up in the wintertime, so here are some tips to help you keep cool and professional in the summertime.

When putting together a work outfit for the summertime, think of breathable cotton fabrics. Wrinkle resistant linen-cotton blends can make a nice replacement for wool suits and lightweight fabrics will give a welcomed relief in unbearable temperatures.

Keep the Sleeves
Even though you might have incredibly shaped arms, resist the temptation to go sleeveless. It’s widely considered that tops with sleeves are deemed more appropriate for the workplace. If you were to go sleeveless, keep it covered with a thin cardigan or jacket.

Don’t wear sandals. Not only can flip-flops look unprofessional, they can be distracting and noisy. Open toed shoes are usually considered inappropriate in a business setting. For a little more breathing room, consider peep-toe shoes as an alternative.

Long hair can make you feel hot, especially in this scorching heat. Men, try getting a trim to cool off and cut down on maintenance. Women, try tying up your hair to keep your neck cool. Quick updos can help you achieve a simple yet professional style.

Summer Colors
When picking out summer work clothes, be sure to think about colors. Keep in mind that while some lighter colors are cooler than darks, extremely bright colors can be distracting. Stay with lighter more natural shades like neutrals or whites, which will direct fewer rays from the sun and keep you chill.

Men may consider changing to bamboo socks in the summer, they are more breathable than cotton and are said to keep you two to three degrees cooler. Ladies may try thigh-high and knee-high styles of hosiery to provide a slightly more comfortable alternative in the summertime.

Keep it Covered
Remember that just because some companies allow shorter sleeves during the hotter months, you still need to keep your tattoos covered up.

Maintain your reputable image by dressing appropriately year round. A consistent look will help project reliability and credibility.

Even though tuning into the morning news just to hear the weatherman say, “It’s going to be another scorcher” has become all too normal, you’ll know how to stay chill and dress appropriately. And don’t forget to check your company handbook on dress codes before contemplating any changes to your wardrobe this season.

Question of the Month: Do you Telecommute

WorkfromHome_web According to predictions made by technology researcher IDC, more than 75% of workforces in the U.S. will be mobile to some degree in 2013. While the amount of workers telecommuting stalled during the recession, it is still often seen as a win-win arrangement for both employee and employer. What are your thoughts on mobile workforces? Let us know by participating in our survey.

Google it.

GoogleIt_web goo•gle – transitive verb: to use the Google search engine to obtain information about (as a person) on the World Wide Web

Google is no longer just a trendy title, especially in an ever-changing digital world. The term has become synonymous with an Internet search and is used so often that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2006. In the workplace a quick Google search can help you get your job done, when it comes to certain research or solutions. 

Most casual Internet surfers utilize Google by typing in a few words in the search bar and hope what they’re looking for pops up. They can waste precious time if what they are looking for isn’t obvious or popular.

Computer whizzes can giggle at a frustrated basic searcher’s expense. Admittedly, I sometimes sarcastically send a pre-searched link from to show how easy a search can be if you know how to really use Google.

Here are a few quick tips to help you transform from a hapless Internet newbie, to an unstoppable information-gathering wizard, or at least a knowledgeable Google searcher with a lot more time to spare.

Narrow Your Search
Google will search for the exact phrases inside quotation marks. If you were looking for information about temporary work, rather than typing the words temporary work into the search bar, try putting the words in quotation marks.

Example search: “temporary work”

Using the plus and minus signs will also help narrow your search. Add them to words without a space in front of them to include or exclude specific words from your search.

Example search: “temporary employment” +retail

Search for File Types
There is also a wealth of information not contained on online websites. A lot of info can be found in pdf documents, word files, powerpoint slideshows, etc. You can hunt for these by typing in filetype: into the search bar. When downloading files though, always be sure to avoid suspicious websites that might be harmful to your computer.

Example search: “interview etiquette” filetype:pdf 

Search within Websites
If you’ve located a website you believe contains the information you need, but can’t wade through pages and pages of information, try using Google to search within the site. Simply add site: followed by your website link into the Google search.
Example search: cover letters site:

Use OR to Replace Keywords
By putting the word or between two words, Google will interchange those two keywords in your search.

Example search: How to write a résumé or cover letter

Don’t Let Inactive Websites Stop You
Occasionally, webpages might crash or go out of service. If the information you are looking for is located on an inactive website, try clicking the cached link next to the Google link. This accesses the stored web cache

Use Google as your Toolbox
Need to check your calculations or forgot a unit conversion? Google has you covered. Type in the information you need into the search bar and Google will handle the rest.

Do you need to find the exchange rate from US dollars to the Euro? There is a converter built into Google.

Example search: 10 usd to euro

Making something for an office luncheon and can’t figure out the recipe? Google can make the conversion for you.

Example search: tablespoons to “2 cups”

Google can even tell you the exact time in any time zone.

Example search: time Surfers Paradise, Australia

If you need to check your calculations and can’t find a calculator, just use Google.

Example search: 5*20=

Knowing how to find the information you need can be indispensable to your current position or your job search. Being able to find or gather information quickly can be just as important as recalling it from memory.

With such a powerful tool like Google at your fingertips, knowing the right shortcuts can make life so much easier and save your invaluable time. Soon enough, you can even Google how to surf the web like an expert on your own and avoid being left in an analog world.