Monthly Archives: March 2013

The Mentor Test

stk20585pwhYou’ve probably heard the benefits of finding a mentor, how they can help with skill development and learning the ropes in the working world. Mentors can offer wonderful advice on how to handle some of the unspoken rules in the business environment, as well as help coach and challenge you in your career.

But you can’t trust just anyone with this role. Here are three things to look for when you’re selecting a mentor.

Find someone you respect.
They could be the hot shot sales rep in your business or the fastest on the production line, but do you respect them? Consider your personal values when selecting a mentor. One person’s style and method for getting to the top may not align with your values and work ethic. Even if you admire someone’s achievements, if you can’t respect the way they reached them, there isn’t any point in making them your mentor.

Find someone you trust.
Once you’ve established a mentoring relationship, you’ll be sharing your challenges and frustrations in order to seek advice and learn. This information is often best kept confidential. If you can’t trust your mentor, you may find yourself holding back or not offering your full side of the story, which then results in a relationship that isn’t as productive as it could be. Your mentor should be someone you can share your failures with so you can get advice and a different perspective – without worrying your story will become office gossip.

Find someone you can mutually learn with.
You’re never done learning, especially in today’s business environment. It’s best to select a mentor who is still working and growing in the business world, someone you can learn from and alongside. This is important when trying to learn how changes in production, financing, communication, and technology will impact your industry. If you have someone who can give you a historical perspective in the industry while going through a transition or change in your job or business, it will provide a unique filter to the situation and give you greater confidence.

Keep in mind, not all mentor relationships are formal. You may learn and take advice from someone on a certain project or at a certain stage in your career, and it won’t be until later that you look back and realize you were being mentored. However, it’s important to make sure you consider the source when taking advice on your career. Hopefully, these three things to check for will be a quick and easy reminder for you to filter guidance through.

What do you look for in a mentor? Share with us in the comments section below.

Feel Appreciated at Work

Appreciation at WorkDid you know that the first Friday in March was National Employee Appreciation Day? There may be several people with employers who took the special holiday to focus on employee appreciation. But, there are probably just as many, if not more, who never even knew the day existed.

The workplace can feel like a thankless place at times with shortening deadlines and increasing stress levels. So, what do you do the other 364 days of the year when it’s not Employee Appreciation Day? Here are some things you can do to feel a little more gratitude from co-workers and managers at a hectic workplace.

Appreciate Others
Many times, our interactions with other people can be boiled down to the famous line from the Beatles song “The End” that says, “And in the end, the love you take
is equal to the love you make.”

Basically, if you want to feel appreciated, try showing gratitude and giving out compliments to others. It might feel weird and out of place, but if you can influence your work culture with positive words, the appreciation will come back to you. Besides, doesn’t it feel good to make others feel good, too?

Take a Compliment
While complimenting and encouraging others is a great start to creating an environment of appreciation, you’re going to need to leave a little bit of modesty at the door. That means, you’ll need to be able to accept the compliments as much as you give them.

If you shrug off or deflect honest gratitude toward yourself, you could be discouraging others from showing their appreciation. If you just reply with “Just doing my job” or “It was nothing” you’re not giving co-workers or managers a reason to repeat the same gestures.

Toot Your Own Horn
If you want to talk to your manager about their lack of appreciation for your work, you might not get the results you are looking for with a negative attitude of, “I don’t feel appreciated for what I do.” Instead, create a positive environment by finding ways of making your boss aware of your accomplishments. Find clever ways of promoting yourself that aren’t blatantly directed toward yourself.

Focus on your accomplishments that have directly benefited your employer. What did you do to bring in more customers or clients? Did you do something that positively affected the company’s bottom line?

Respect the Routine
Sometimes you feel like there aren’t opportunities to demonstrate your good works when doing your job is business as usual. There might not be a negative standard to compare your greatness to. You don’t have to reinvent your place or role in the grand scheme of work, but little things like maintaining a positive attitude can quickly gain the attention of your co-workers and managers. They will know when you gave your workday 100% and will begin to wonder what your secret is.

Just because your employer may have skipped out on Employee Appreciation Day doesn’t mean you shouldn’t reward yourself. If you follow these guidelines, you can take pride in knowing that a job done well doesn’t go unnoticed.

Is Writing Code the Must-Have Skill of the Future?

With our world and daily life wrapping more around technology, you may want to consider learning to write code. In this video, successful people including Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Chris Bosh and discuss the importance of learning code in every industry and why it’s important for jobs of the future. The video – which has already received more than 9 million views – was produced by, in an effort to emphasize the importance of educational tools that teach code in our schools and offer access to training. So while you may have thought learning Spanish was the best transitional skill for your career, it’s quite possible that learning code is the language that will transcend into every career option.

Have you ever considered learning code? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.

Give Your Career a Boost With These Certifications

career boosting certificationsWhile you should always try to have specific examples of how you’ve been able to demonstrate and utilize your skills, sometimes it takes a certificate or recommendation from a credible organization to get the attention of a decision maker or hiring manager.

There are several industries and jobs that may not require a college degree, but do need a form of accreditation or certification. There are also certifications that, while not mandatory, can greatly improve your chances of getting a job, promotion, raise, or new responsibilities. Here are some in-demand certificate programs to consider that can help open doors in your career or job search.

Foreign Languages
If you work in a retail or customer service environment, having the ability to speak more than one language can make you a valuable asset to current or potential employers. It can be difficult to prove on your own, so having a certification in a language can be a significant boost. Contact your local community college, university, or distance learning center for relatively inexpensive programs in foreign languages that may result in a certificate, but not a degree.

Computer Support
Many large companies have their own IT department or specialists, but software is always changing and it can be beneficial for you to keep up with those trends through training like Microsoft’s learning and certification programs. IT workers could benefit from these programs.

Certified Clinical Medical Assistant
A great alternative to spending several years and lots of money getting a college degree in the medical industry, consider looking into a critical clinical medical assistant (CCMA) program that is offered by technical or vocational schools. A CCMA offers training in clinical and laboratory procedures, and administrative training that could help give you a boost in the medical industry.

Project Management Certification
If you have much experience in project management, earning a project management professional certification (PMP) is almost required. But if you are looking to move into management, earning a PMP from organizations like the Project Management Institute can not only get you ready, but also demonstrate to your manager that you are working toward management.

Sales! Sales! Sales!
It’s difficult to find college degrees specializing in sales, but there are several worthwhile certifications that can help you prepare and grow as a salesman. Since there are different fields and industries in sales, talk to a mentor or network with sales professionals to find out which industry-specific certification program you should consider if you’re new to the field, the National Association of Sales Professionals offers a general certification that can give you a starting point.

You don’t have to rely on yourself to gain extra knowledge and experience to stay on top of your industry and boost your career. There are several options that are cheaper and less time consuming than earning college degrees. What are some accreditations or certifications you have earned that helped your career?

Are You Networking Hard or Hardly Netting Work?

NetowrkingHave you ever heard, “It’s all about who you know?” It’s especially true when it comes to job seeking. Many open positions aren’t posted on job boards or classified ads, but are sent throughout the organization to see if anyone knows of a qualified candidate through their network.

According to The Wall Street Journal, 94% of successful job hunters claimed that networking had made all the difference for them.

While it’s still important to have an effective resume, transferable skills, and strong interview experience, you shouldn’t ignore the great value networking can have on your job search. Check out this animated clip that illustrates the value of building a web of relationships for your job search.

Cutting Out and Trimming Up Your Resume

Trim Your ResumeIs your resume weighed down with countless pages of everything from your previous work experience? Is it weighed down with awards and community service activities that have no relevance to the job openings? Does your resume have more pages than “War and Peace?”

OK job seekers! Let’s get that computer warming, ink flowing, and that vocabulary loosening because we are going to show you how to shape up your resume. Whether you need to put your experience on an elliptical or lift up your language, we can show you what to trim and tuck so you can have a ripped resume that will grab employers’ attention!

Aerobic Audience
You need to be aware of who will be receiving your application. Resumes are not universal and you will need to customize it to each job opening in which you apply. That means you should carefully decide which skills, experience, hobbies or community service, and objective statement to include, and which to remove.

Only the relevant information should be in your resume. Hiring managers’ time is limited and you need to get your most important information to them in the quickest way possible. So, consider leaving out a summer lifeguard job while going to college for a more meaningful internship or mentorship.

Minimize Responsibilities, MAXIMZE Results
Most employers aren’t that interested in what your normal daily activities were in your job as much as they are in what kind of results you achieved. When going over your resume, find ways of cutting back any unnecessary job duties and replace them with your accomplishments.

Employers also like to see tangible, quantifiable achievements.  When listing your results, consider things like the time or money saved, the number of customers you served or increased, or any new procedures or processes you introduced that increased efficiency.

Stop Hiking the Paper Trail
While you may feel like you need to include references or transcripts to cover all of your bases, it could be cumbersome and make it more likely for employers to pass on your resume.  If the job application or employer doesn’t request those items, don’t include them. It might be useful to have a few copies ready if you are called for an interview, but keep it reserved for when they are specifically needed.

Cut the Computer Skills
Typing emails and using standard computer programs can be used by the most average person these days. Most employers will automatically assume you know how to type, fax, email, and use Microsoft Office®, so including your proficiency in computer programs in a resume might not improve your chances of getting noticed unless you are looking for work in IT or as a programmer.

An important factor to remember when slimming down your resume is that, just like physical fitness, you have to keep working at it. Slimming down in real life takes a continual life change. So, keeping your resume fit will also require you to stay informed on current trends on resume writing and where your target job market is going.

Keep it up, and you can hit your career and job searching goals! What are some exercises you’ve done to your resume to make it more effective? Let us know in the comments below.

Want to Know How to Get Others to Support Your Idea?

supportidea_march2013_webSo you’ve got a great idea, a wonderful plan to act on and, you’re on your way to success. But you can’t do it alone. You’re going to need the support and approval of your manager and colleagues. Here are some tips for getting the help you need.

Making an Idea a Reality
While your experiences can result in great ideas, it’s best not to work in a vacuum. It will be easier to get others to support and take action on your idea if they can be involved early in the process. This can be as simple as asking for advice and feedback on your idea from a few peers and a mentor, or as formal as holding a brainstorming session to explore your idea and possible alternatives. Perhaps your idea won’t be the final solution, but it could be the catalyst to coming up with the perfect plan. Be open to letting others take hold of your idea and contributing to the overall success.

Gaining Your Manager’s Support
Often working on the front line can give you the experiences and perspective to come up with a great idea. Whether it’s a new product, process, or growth strategy, knowing how to effectively pitch your idea to your manager and leadership team can make all the difference. When sharing your idea, be respectful of the processes currently in place and the people managing those processes. If your idea addresses a challenge or focuses on the technology of the future, make sure you don’t dwell on the shortcomings you see in the current situation or process. Remember that your leadership team has invested time and talent into taking the business to this point. It’s key to demonstrate how your idea builds on their successful history.

Including Your Team
When it comes time to put your plan into action, recognize the impact it can have on your teammates. If your idea leads to a change in processes or implementation of new technology, try not to take it personal if there are some bumps along the way. Additionally, as others help implement your idea there could be changes to your plan. It’s important to stay focused on the overall success of the business without getting caught up in the details. And while celebrating your accomplishment is certainly deserved, don’t keep the spotlight on yourself. Share your success with your co-workers, those who helped formulate the plan, and those who put it into action. Remember, “Teamwork makes the dream work.”

Do you have a great story to share on how one of your big ideas came to life? Include it in the comments section.