Monthly Archives: November 2011

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!

Recovering From Interview Blunders: Part 1

Avoid Interview BlundersInterviewing can be one of the scariest parts of the job search. While being asked to interview means a potential employer is interested and feels that you are qualified for the position, you still only have a short amount of time during that interview to promote the best possible you. From the moment you step into the building to the moment you leave the parking lot, your actions, words, and posture will be compared and contrasted with other potential candidates. It can feel like one false move could cost you a potential career.

That scenario can make anyone looking for a job, especially their first, seem dreadful. Interviews are as big of an opportunity for you as it is for the employer. It’s a chance for you to see if the company environment and position is right for you. But, it is still a nerve racking process for some, and what you do influences all employers final decision.

You may feel like making small mistakes will mean all hope is lost for getting the job, but don’t give up so soon! Check out these tips to help you quickly recover from a big blunder and still show an interviewer why you are right for the job.

Acknowledge the Mistake And Apologize

Interviewers are human too and often understanding of the pressure you feel, but they will expect some mild form of apology or redemption if you make a blatant error. If you end up being late and neglect to contact the interviewer, quickly apologize, but resist the temptation to make up an excuse, just state the facts.

Companies and leaders have faced tremendous scrutiny when hiding and ignoring their mistakes. Remember Enron? Transparency is important in today’s business world. If you openly admit to a mistake and apologize, the interviewer can be impressed by your genuine character.

People are more likely to forgive than what most of us might think. Owning up to your blunders can be very disarming, especially if you understand the value of the lesson you learned. If you walk in with a noticeable stain on your clothing, you can say, “I’m very sorry about the stain. I didn’t realize it was there. In the future I’ll bring an extra change of clothes.”

Sometimes it may take you a few bone-headed mistakes to learn your lesson. If anything, you’re now ready to face whatever comes your way and have a leg up for your next interview. Do you have any interview blunders? Please share what you’ve learned and how to become a better interviewee.

For part two, click here!

3 B’s to go From Holiday Help to Full-Time Hire

holiday help to full time jobStaffing Industry Analysts, a global publication specializing in staffing industry news, data, and trends, is expecting hourly hiring managers to employ more temporary workers this holiday season than in the past holiday seasons. With seasonal hiring trends expected to increase, now would be a great opportunity to get your foot in the door with a company through temporary holiday work. While these jobs may only last a few months, try to see them as auditions where you can showcase your skills to potential employers. Also, when working through a staffing company, your work for a holiday client could be a good way to demonstrate your talents for full-time work with other client companies.

Working a holiday job gives you a chance to understand the company’s culture and values from the bottom up and will help make you a strong candidate for promotion when the job you really want is available. Kurt Kuehn, senior vice president and CFO of UPS, Inc., started as a temporary driver for the holiday season in 1977 and worked his way up in the company to eventually become CFO in 2008.

Check out these three B’s to help you stand out from the crowd, make the most of your temporary job, and possibly turn it into a full-time career.

Be Available
To better your chances of getting hired, offer to work flexible hours like weekends, nights and days on or around the holidays. The more availability you have, the more likely you are going to get more hours. You should treat the hiring process as seriously as any other job you have applied for. Dressing professionally for the interview and sending a thank you note or email afterwards will help you stand out. If you have a professional background, inform your interviewer and ask how you could be considered for other roles after being in a holiday position.

Be Attentive
Now is the time to flex those soft skills. Once you’ve been hired, look for ways to use your talents and skills to improve your work. Try taking on some extra duties, volunteering to lead team projects, working in other departments, or performing other tasks when opportunities arise. Working hard with strong enthusiasm combined with fulfilling duties the full-time employees usually avoid will help get your managers attention and increase your chances of them thinking of you when they need to fill an open full-time position.

Be Assertive
You should keep in mind that you are temporary, and there may be tasks of full-time core employees you aren’t eligible for. You could be qualified and there could be tasks in other offices that relate to your previous education or experience, but that isn’t your role as a holiday hire. You’ll have to earn their trust with your availability and determination, and letting your work speak for itself.  If you are working as a temporary associate working through a staffing company, let them know you would be interested in a full-time job and want to take a larger, more active part in the company you are assigned to.

With the holidays quickly approaching, the demand for temporary hiring will increase. If you are looking for work or are between jobs, consider temporary holiday work to earn some extra money while opening some doors to help you eventually find the right job that best fits you. Do you have any success stories where you moved up in a company after starting in a temporary holiday position? We’d love for you to share in the comments below.

Showcase Your Soft Skills and Make Them Shine

Showcase Your Soft SkillsWhen looking for a job, you’ve probably come across opportunities requiring experience using certain types of abilities called hard skills. Hard skills are technical or administrative procedures related to an organization’s core business that are easy to observe, quantify, and measure. Like a dentist’s ability to fill a cavity or a carpenter’s aptitude for crafting a chair.

What are Soft Skills?

Soft skills are sets of interpersonal attributes that have to do with how people relate to each other: communicating, problem solving, listening, conflict resolution, giving feedback, and contributing in meetings. A secretary’s social ability to relate and take an active interest in visitors to an office is considered a soft skill.

Employers tend to put more emphasis on hard skills when describing a job, but soft skills play an important role in day-to-day operations and shouldn’t be overlooked. If you’ve just graduated from college and lack real world experience, are looking to switch careers, or are wanting to stand out from qualified applicants who share your skill set, you can bring attention to your soft skills on your résumé or interview.

Assess Yourself

You should have a list of hard skills and examples of what you’ve done with them from your education and previous work experience, but try to evaluate yourself and see what kind of interpersonal skills you have. Are you often in a leadership position? Have you produced good work when you were in a pinch? Do you know how to prioritize tasks and work on a number of different projects at once? Try listing your best qualities and adapt them to the job opportunities you are interested in.

Keep it Real

Think about specific examples of how you have used your soft skills. Just like hard skills, try to share how you used your soft skills to benefit a previous employer, school project, or group initiative. If possible, include any numeric data like money saved, teams managed, customers served, or people participated. Combining these examples with the accomplishment made from your technical skills will help you appear more well-rounded on your résumé and in interviews.

When you learn how to make soft skills work for you, they can go hand-in-hand with experience and hard skills to help you become more marketable and desirable to employers. What are some of your favorite soft skills and how have you used them to land a new job?