Changing Jobs during the Holidays

The holidays tend to be a busy and expensive time of year. If you’re in the process of changing employment, you already know the added stress job hunting brings. To make searching for and switching jobs around the holidays easier, follow these tips.

1. Understand that the hiring process may be slower due to personnel managers being out of the office. Be patient, and don’t get discouraged if it takes longer than usual to hear back from employers.

2. Since it can often take a month or more before you receive your first paycheck at a new job, keep costs down this holiday season. To save on gifts, consider playing Dirty Santa or drawing names with a group of family and friends instead of purchasing gifts for each individual.

3. Accept that as the “workplace newbie,” you may have last dibs on requesting time off. To make up for this, try to schedule a few days off between jobs. That way, you’ll get a few days away from work without having to request time off.

4. Consider taking a seasonal or temporary position to keep a paycheck coming your way while you’re searching for a more permanent position. Remember, both seasonal and temporary positions can be an excellent way to get your foot in the door and land a full-time job.

While changing jobs during the holidays can be stressful, it can also be a great time of year to start a new job. For example, workloads are often lighter toward the end of the year as major projects have already been wrapped up. This downtime can make learning the ropes of a new position easier. Additionally, the holidays are also a time for frequent food and festivities. These “lighter moments” can present an excellent opportunity for getting to know your new co-workers and discovering company culture first hand.

Have you ever changed jobs during the holidays? If so, what tips can you offer to others?

Professional Crossroads – How to Choose the Right Career Path for You

Professional CrossroadsHave you reached a point in your career when you know it’s time for a change, but you’re not quite sure what your next move should be? When you come to a professional crossroads, it’s important to look at where you’ve been to determine where you want to go in the future. Your past successes and even failures can provide excellent insight into what direction will ultimately be right for you.

1. To begin, make a list of all the responsibilities you’ve had through current and past jobs, volunteer activities and hobbies. Label the responsibilities you enjoyed and excelled at with stars or smiley faces. Then put a line or an x through the tasks you disliked, as well as those you didn’t excel at.

2. If you’re not sure whether you excelled at something, think back to the type of feedback you received on that particular task. Also, consider the level of accuracy and speed with which you completed the responsibility. If you consistently received positive feedback and were able to fulfill the role in a timely and error-free manner, you excelled.

3. Once you’ve organized your past and current responsibilities by category, take inventory of the tasks that you enjoyed and excelled at. These items are your road map to finding the career path that’s right for you.

4. Now that you have a clear understanding both of what you like to do and what you’re good at, you can look for careers that rely heavily on these skills. Of course, most jobs will probably still require you to spend some time on tasks you don’t find 100% exciting, but the important thing is to acquire a position where the majority of your time will be spent on tasks that you really enjoy and excel at.

When you’re working in a career that plays on your strengths and stimulates your mind, you’ll find that you’re more professionally fulfilled, productive and satisfied.

Are You a Workplace Fire Starter?

Work Fire StarterDo you enjoy coming to the rescue in a crisis? What happens when everything is peaceful and there isn’t a problem to solve? Do you find yourself starting little fires at work just so you can put them out later? According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, some employees take their love for providing solutions to the extreme. These individuals routinely create drama and chaos only to swoop in and be the “heroes” who come to the rescue by resolving the issue they created.

The article cites a case of an employee who habitually stirred up conflict among his co-workers. Once the situation reached a boiling point, he’d use his insider knowledge to solve the problem. At first, management thought this employee was very skilled at uniting people until they began to notice the pattern of workplace tension that followed him wherever he went.  Once management removed him from the early stages of group projects they discovered the conflicts stopped occurring.

Thriving on action isn’t necessarily a bad thing, unless it causes you to create tension where none previously existed. If you find that you love putting out fires more than you enjoy peace and quiet, take care that you don’t become a workplace fire starter.

When you feel your workplace is getting dull, instead of thinking of ways to stir the pot, brainstorm ideas for becoming more efficient and productive at your job. Not only will new challenges keep you excited, but your supervisors will also have a real reason to praise your efforts.

Do you find yourself looking for ways to become the office hero? What tactics have you used to add drama to your workplace? What have been the results?

How to Give Bad News to Your Boss

It’s tough to be the bearer of bad news, especially when the person you have to deliver the message to is your boss. If you have to share negative information with your supervisor such as problems with a project, mistakes on an important task or that you’re leaving the company, don’t freak out. Instead, prepare yourself by calmly going over the facts in your mind. If necessary, rehearse what you plan to say in advance. You can even write out your main points and bring the notes with you into the meeting, that way you’ll be sure to get it all out in a clear and concise manner.

The following tips can help you deliver sour news to your supervisor in a way that demonstrates your thoughtfulness and professionalism.

Don’t Expect the Worst. You might be tempted to blow a situation way out of proportion in your mind and imagine a terrible reaction from your boss. But, try to avoid getting too worked up. Worrying about how your boss will take the news won’t help the situation and will only rattle your nerves. Instead, stay calm and focus on communicating the facts effectively with your supervisor.

Don’t Beat Around the Bush. Waiting to give bad news won’t make it easier. In fact, this usually only exaggerates a problem. For one, waiting may result in your boss hearing the information through the rumor mill first. Additionally, putting off delivering bad news causes more stress for you. Take a day or two to prepare yourself, and then set up a time for a private meeting with your supervisor at their earliest convenience.

Offer Solutions. When it’s time to give your boss the bad news, make sure you are prepared to offer some solutions. Thinking ahead about ways to resolve the issue demonstrates to your supervisor that you’re a proactive thinker. When you concentrate on trying to resolve the issue instead of dwelling on what’s wrong, you’re making progress toward a positive solution.

When have you had to share bad news with your boss? What did you say, and what response did you receive?

Personal Discovery: Find a Job You’ll Love

Love Your JobWhat gets you excited? What are you best at? When do you really feel “in your element?” The answers to these questions can help you discover a lot about your strengths and what makes you happiest. Knowing what you enjoy and what you’re good at are two of the most important factors in finding a job you love.

To really feel fulfilled by what you do everyday, you must first examine your values, interests and talents. Once you’ve evaluated these areas of your life, compare them to what you’re doing now. If you discover that most of your working hours are spent on activities that conflict with who you are at your core, it’s time to find a new job. Life’s too short to spend hours working at a job that makes you feel bad about yourself.

To find a job you’ll love, think about what’s important to you. Are there particular causes that inspire and motivate you? If so, you might enjoy working at a non-profit or government agency that focuses on issues you feel strongly about.

Your hobbies are another place to look for clues about what jobs might suit you best. For example, if you enjoy scrapbooking, you might like working at a craft store or teaching scrapbooking classes.

Let’s say your passion is spending time with animals. While you probably can’t make a living by hanging out at home with your cat, more than likely you could find a job as a dog walker, pet sitter, animal shelter worker, veterinary technician, pet store clerk or groomer that would allow you to spend time working with animals.

Finally, think about what you naturally excel at, not necessarily what you’ve been trained to do well. These in-born strengths are your talents. If you’re not sure what your talents are, look back to a time when a task was particularly easy for you or you exceeded expectations on a project. Often times, your strengths and interests are connected. That’s because people usually enjoy things they’re good at – which is all the more reason you should try to find a job that utilizes your natural talents.

Do you work in a job you love? What do you love about it? Or, are you still looking for your dream job? What do you think it would take to make you love a job?

How to Write a Post-Interview Thank You Note

Thank You CardLess than 40% of job seekers take the time to send a thank you note after an interview, according to an article by MSNBC. But, this important follow-up can make the difference between receiving the job offer and being written-off as disinterested. In fact, because it’s such a rare step for most job seekers, it’s a very valuable tool to show your professionalism and enthusiasm for a job.

By being one of the few who take this important step, you can increase your chances of landing the job. The tips below can help you craft a winning thank you note.

Follow up quickly. It’s important to send your thank you note as soon after your interview as possible. Mailing it the same day is best. However, if the interviewers will be making a decision quickly, you may not want to wait for the note to arrive through traditional mail. In this case, consider hand-delivering or e-mailing a thank you note to ensure it arrives quickly.

Use correct spelling and grammar. The only thing worse than not sending a thank you note at all is sending one with lots of misspellings and grammatical errors. Before sending your letter, make sure you’ve thoroughly proofread it. If possible, have someone else look it over for errors as well. Rewrite your note if it includes mistakes – don’t scribble them out or use correction fluid. Sending a polished thank you note gives you another opportunity to let your skills shine.

Thank everyone who participated in the interview process. Often, job interviews involve meeting with multiple people. When you send your thank you note, make sure to thank each person you met with. To make sure you have the correct spelling of each person’s name, request a business card during the interview. While it’s best to thank each person individually, it’s also acceptable to send a group thank you. Sending a group thank you note is practical when you met with some of the individuals briefly or only interviewed with them in a group setting.

Restate your qualifications and interest. Not only is a thank you note your opportunity to express gratitude for the time interviewers took to meet with you, it’s also the place to restate why you’re the right candidate for the job. If there are any relevant details you forgot to mention during the interview, now is the time to share them. Also, make sure you end by professionally expressing your enthusiasm for the position.

When you make the effort to thank employers for their time, you set yourself apart from other candidates. By communicating your interest and gratitude in a concise and error-free format, you’ll leave a lasting positive impression.

Developing Leadership Skills

What does it take to be someone who influences others and spurs them on to success? Strong leadership skills aren’t just natural traits that simply appear without any practice. If you aspire to lead those around you, focus on developing your leadership skills now.

Build Team Unity. You can’t create a team from people who hate each other. That’s why in order to lead those around you, you must first establish team unity. Some ways to build unity are discouraging gossip, helping co-workers see the good in others and keeping a positive attitude. It’s far easier to tear a team apart than to build it up, so make sure your focus remains on the needs and success of the team as a whole, not just individuals among the team.

Encourage Others to Succeed. No one can succeed without some level of support from others. By helping your teammates get ahead, you’ll be laying the groundwork for your own future victories. Those you’ve helped in the past will feel loyal to you for what you’ve done for them. Not only that, but your reputation as a leader will grow as you help others to reach their potential.

Be an Example. Good leaders lead by example. You can’t expect those around you to admire you or aim to imitate you unless you provide an example of exemplary conduct with your own work. This means always acting with integrity and consistently producing high-caliber work.

By working on your leadership skills now, you can prepare yourself for future opportunities to inspire and motivate those around you. Remember, it takes more than just natural ability to be a great leader – practice is what turns potential into reality.