Monthly Archives: January 2013

What’s Up at the Library?

job sources in a libraryWhen was the last time you went to a library? Grade school? College? Never? If you’re job searching, or looking for professional development, your library can be a great resource. The best part about libraries is that most of their resources are free. And you may be surprised about what your library has to offer.

Free Internet
With social media impacting job searches and many businesses requiring online applications, internet access is an important part of your job search. While you may be able to job search online through your mobile phone or tablet device, it may not be easy to apply or complete a profile. A desktop computer can be a better way to complete job search related tasks online, and give you a larger screen to make sure information is accurate and free of typos.

And while your Facebook friends or LinkedIn contacts might be great ways to hear about jobs, you may also want to check out your own profile with something more than an app on your phone. Mobile access to sites doesn’t always give you the full picture or allow you to easily manage your privacy settings. Consider using a desktop computer at the library for internet access that will allow you easier access to review your accounts and update your information.

Great Resources
Libraries often offer classes that could benefit you in your job search or skill building, like preparation classes for getting your GED, basic computer skills, tax assistance, and more. Not only will you have access to free learning, but it can also be a great networking opportunity as well. Researching online is great, but what if there is a person who has been really influential in your industry? Consider getting their biography at the local library, it can make for a great casual conversation in an interview. Another great topic to check out at your library is on leadership, with multiple philosophies, trends, and influential authors to help uncover what best resonates with your values. This knowledge can help you identify the type of workplace culture that fits you best and help you solve challenges at work.

Fun Activities
What about having some fun at the library? Libraries can host shows featuring local artists, classes on knitting or yoga, or an assortment of kid’s activities. There may be a reading club that interests you or a game club. How does an afternoon of Mah Jongg or Scrabble sound? For kids and teens there is everything from story hours to video game sessions. So when you need to take a break from your daily grind, consider your library!

What surprises or resources have you found at your local library? Share them here.

Celebrate Have Fun at Work Day!

Have Fun at Work DayGet out your noise-makers and party hats, because Jan. 28 is National Have Fun at Work Day! It’s not a widely known holiday, but it can be a very important one. Employees can only take so much when it comes to long, intense work schedules, stressful deadlines, and little to no freedom of expression before morale and productivity start to slip.

I don’t know how many times I’ve quoted Willy Wonka, “A little nonsense now and then is treasured by the wisest men,” or Jack Nicholson, “All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy,” when discouraged from injecting some harmless fun in school or work.  What most people don’t realize is that in most modern work settings, the more grueling a schedule or job is, generally the less productive people become.

Science Has Your Back!
There have been several scientific studies that connect fun with productivity. There are also reports of major companies like Google and LinkedIn shifting focus to their employees having fun by paying for activities like volleyball or bowling, or having rooms dedicated to foosball so employees can play a game when feeling stressed.

Use your imagination, and a little bit of best judgment, to come up with ideas to de-stress yourself and ease the tension among your co-workers and supervisors. It could be as small as bringing a festive game to share with co-workers to playing with a beach ball with fellow colleagues during a break if the weather is nice enough.

Laughter is The Best Medicine
A survey published by the professional development magazine “Training and Development” revealed that 84% of HR managers said employees with a sense of humor do better work. Since most adults spend a large part of their time at work, there should be more opportunities to have a laugh and enjoy yourself.

Despite what most people may think, laughing doesn’t always mean someone is goofing off. Having a good laugh can ease workplace tension, reduce conflict among your peers, and can fight lost work time caused by boredom. In many ways, laughter can lead to a more productive and meaningful work experience.

The famous inventor and businessman Thomas Edison said, “I never did a day’s work in my life. It was all fun.” While you may not have as much fun as Mr. Edison, take some extra time this week to enjoy yourself. You’ll be surprised how much you’ll accomplish without realizing that work is actually getting done.

Negotiate in an Interview Like Jack Donaghy

negotiate an interviewFrom the moment you contact a potential employer, negotiations have begun. How do you go about asking for what you think you deserve when an employer makes the final decision on offering you a job?

Fear not, there’s one business executive from the critically acclaimed TV show “30 Rock” named Jack Donaghy, played by actor Alec Baldwin, who can help shed some light on negotiating during an interview. Jack’s favorite time of the year is when contracts expire so he can play the negotiation game with his employees. Here’s what you can learn about negotiation from NBC’s favorite executive.

“In poker as in business, the key to success is to determine your opponent’s strengths and, more importantly, his weaknesses.”
Jack was able to gain the upper hand in a game of poker because he was able to identify his opponents’ “tells,” indicating they were lying. He carefully studied each and every person before so he could know when to play his hand.

Just because a potential employer is paying close attention to your resume during an interview doesn’t mean you can’t dissect their resume as well. Do some thorough investigating on your potential employer that could include other job postings to get an idea of salary ranges, marketing materials to find out how they stand out from the competition, and any annual reports on the financial health and longevity of the employer.

As G.I. Joe would say, “Knowing is half the battle.” The more you know, the better you will be at judging whether or not your demands are realistic, reasonable, and can provide value to the potential employer.

“I am confident, open, and positive. You are negative, pessimistic, and in danger of becoming permanently sour.”
Throughout “30 Rock,” Jack Donaghy works tirelessly on his appearance with peers and superiors. In reality, he focuses on appearance to a fault. While you shouldn’t repeat Jack’s cutthroat tactics to gain favor with powerful executives, you do need to provide a positive, professional, and enthusiastic manner when interviewing.

The key is to get potential employers to buy into what you can do for them and what you bring to the table so they offer you a job. Once you are given the job offer, then it’s your chance to start negotiating.  Employers want to hire someone who wants to work for them, not someone who is only looking for a paycheck or benefits. Put on your Jack Donaghy charm and make them fall in love with you first.

“Now you know how Bin Laden felt at this same point in his career, Mr. Speaker.”
While Jack finds joy in “winning” negotiations by coming out with the better deal, there is one tactic he uses that makes all parties in a negotiation happy– focus on their interests instead of their positions. Just like Jack had conflicting interests with a U.S. Speaker or didn’t want to pay his babysitter the same amount after switching to just nights, he often looks to understand why they want it.

When negotiating with potential employers, it’s always more effective to tell them why you think you deserve a higher salary instead of just asking for it. They may have policies in place you weren’t aware of or they might be willing to make other special arrangements that will meet your specific needs. If both of you know why there is a need, both of you can better find ways of meeting that need instead of just demanding what one side thinks it needs.

We all have needs. Even though the economy still isn’t in the best shape, you can still request to get compensated for what you can bring to an employer. Jack Donaghy knows what he wants and goes for it. As a job seeker, you should to.

The Great Job Interview Prep-Off!

Prepping for an interviewTwo job seekers compete, but only one will get the job offer. One uses practice and punctuality, while the other uses laziness and loitering. In this game of job searching, the difference between getting an offer and getting rejected is not only about being mentally ready, but also looking ready.

The National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) surveyed 457 employers who recruit new college graduates, and an overwhelming 92% stated “a candidate’s overall appearance influences their opinion about the candidate.”

Check out the showdown between these two rivals in this video that highlights the importance of interview preparation.

How to GO About Networking at Work

networking at workI can’t stress enough how important networking is. No matter your industry, personality, or situation, networking is one of the best ways to find a job. The connections you build during your job search will benefit you throughout your career.

But what happens once you get the job? Do you retire the Rolodex of connections or clear out your LinkedIn connections, and focus on the job at hand in your little workspace? NO! Developing connections and building relationships at work are just as important as building an outside network. Here’s how you can keep a strong network at work.

Go Small
We all know and work with that one person who seems to talk to everybody. While there’s nothing wrong with being social, it can be a time drain to build relationships with as many people as possible. It’s best to focus your attention on building a more efficient network of co-workers who all have different skill sets, opinions, and perspectives.

Go Outward
While it’s always good to build strong working relationships with those on your team or in your department, you should look to those you aren’t familiar with to build a good network. Keep in contact with people in other parts of your building or who do jobs that aren’t familiar to you. Networks can be powerful when you bring people together who don’t normally work with each other.

Go Weak
You may think I’m crazy for telling you to build weak ties instead of strong ones, but it really isn’t counterproductive. It feels like developing strong relationships will be the most beneficial, but binding weaker sticks together can end up being stronger than a single big stick. Those you are close to probably share the same social circles as you. Developing weaker ties with others outside of your normal circle connects you to a larger list of people you would normally never talk to.

Go to the Heart
We associate the place where everyone goes to converse as “the water cooler,” and that place can be a great resource for bringing people together. Those who frequent the hubs of conversations tend to be the ones who attract the most people. Instead of asking familiar faces if they can help you, try asking people at these casual gatherings if they know anyone who can help. It’s much easier for someone to say no if directly asked for help, but asking for a connection encourages them to think about the situation. They can stay passive while still helping out.

Go All Out
When building your network, don’t be afraid to use it to touch base with someone you’d like to meet. If you’re not the type to just barge into someone else’s workspace and introduce yourself, or if your target is just very busy and never has the door open, consider getting your boss to contact that person’s boss. Explain to your manager why you believe developing a relationship will help you in your career. If that isn’t an option, try to find out if you share the same goals or hobbies as a reason to talk.

Building a network doesn’t happen overnight. With some patience, generosity, and sincerity, you can build a great network just outside your workspace. With these suggestions, you can increase your network company-wide without wasting time or feeling pushy. How have you networked at work? Sound off in the comments section below.

Overcoming Being Overqualified

overqualified_Jan2013_webWhen you’re job searching, having your experience match exactly with the job qualifications is a long shot. So what do you do when you are overqualified for a position that you are interested in? How do you put your best foot forward? Here are some tips to help your job search move forward even if you’re overqualified.

  1. Check your pride at the door.
    When it comes to job searching, you are always trying to look like the best candidate and show off your best qualities. But, when you’re trying to land a job you are overqualified for, now is the time to fit in, not stand out. For example, if you can type 75 words per minute, but the job requirements are for someone who types 45 words per minute, put 45+ words per minute in your resume. If the job requirements asks for five years of experience and you have 15, put “more than 5 years” on your resume. Once you get the job, you can show them what an asset your experience is, but don’t overpower your resume or application when applying for a job for which you are overqualified.
  2. Use the job description as an outline for your resume.
    It’s wise to realize that when applying for jobs at large companies, it’s likely your application and resume must make it through an automated talent management system before arriving in front of a human. So, how do you make your resume end up at the top of the results? Use the job description as a guide. For every requirement you match, reformat your resume to match exactly with the requirement. It’s best to create a master resume that lists all of your skills, certifications, achievements, and education, and then pair that down for each job you apply for. The key isn’t to overwhelm recruiters and hiring managers with information on your resume, but to appear as a good match for the job. You can embellish on your skills and achievements in the cover letter or interview.
  3. Stay optimistic, there is no exact match.
    David Lewis, a former recruiter for Express Employment Professionals said, “I often told job seekers that there is no perfect candidate for any job. Everyone is either under-qualified or overqualified. Ideally, you need to find jobs where you most align with the requirements and then effectively demonstrate how well you match up.” It’s important to stay optimistic and focused in your job search. It can seem like you are reaching to fit in, but consider your options and stay positive.

How have you handled being overqualified for a job? Share your experience in the comments below.

3 Important Traits You Can Use in Any Job

Being a Team PlayerLanding a job takes more than just having education, experience, and a good reference. Employers want well-rounded individuals who can add value to the team and be successful in the position, whether it’s an entry-level or senior management position. Employers look beyond the resume and seek personal and professional traits in candidates that set them apart as the best fit for the job.

There are three important job traits that you can use effectively in any job. Demonstrating that you possess these traits will put you ahead of the game and help you land an interview – or even a job. If you don’t feel you have these skills yet, don’t fret. You can learn them with a little practice on the job, just like any other job skill.

Team player
This trait is critical because no one wants to work with someone that’s selfish, irresponsible, or unprofessional. Getting along with the people you work with is important, because employers don’t want the added stress of dealing with conflict among team members. Act with integrity, hold yourself accountable for your behavior as well as your assignments, and work with your team – not against them.

If you struggle with being a team player, start now by doing your part and getting your projects completed on time at your current job. Your team is counting on you to pull your weight and offering to help others with their assignments. Also, avoid creating conflict within your team. If conflict arises, handle it with professionalism, discussing the problem and creating a solution without yelling or pointing a finger.

This trait is more than keeping your files in order or your e-mail inbox cleaned out. It includes a variety of skills including time management, multi-tasking, and meeting deadlines. Employers look for individuals who are organized and can be relied on to handle more than one assignment, prioritize tasks, and complete projects on time. With organizational skills, you can handle what’s thrown your way in any job, and your supervisor won’t have to spend their time staying on top of you to get your work done.

To get organized, start by making a list of your assignments. Determine which tasks are most important, and rank them according to deadlines and the time it will take to complete each one. Don’t be afraid to ask your supervisor if you need help deciding which tasks are most important. If you have several small tasks, consider working on them throughout the day to allow time for your bigger tasks to be completed.

Employers want employees who are motivated to not only get the job done, but to get it done right. This type of worker is excited to work, enjoys what they’re doing, and successfully completes their projects every time. Employers like working with motivated individuals because enthusiastic workers give their all to every project and are likely to accomplish more than uninspired workers.

If you find yourself motivated about certain projects but not others, talk with your supervisor. You may be able to switch projects with another co-worker who could also benefit from trading assignments. But remember, there are almost always some parts of any job you won’t love. So, think about the positive aspects of your job, and don’t dwell on the less motivating things. When you think this way, you’ll be more motivated to work toward something positive and be able to do a better job completing your tasks.

Improving your interpersonal skills and time management techniques while on the job will prepare you for your next career move. Providing examples of how you exemplify these traits will make you stand out to employers looking to hire the perfect fit for their team. These traits are just as important as any other job skill, so practice them to become a better employee and a stronger job candidate the next time you’re looking for a new opportunity.