September 18, 2014

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How to Apply for a Job Within Your Company

Applying for a job within your current company — now maybe that’s something you didn’t think of! But your own company offers plenty of opportunities right in your own backyard whether you’d like to simply get a promotion or whether you’d like to completely change departments. As an employee of the company, you’ll have a leg up on the competition — right? It’s true. You have an insider perspective on the business and access to a lot of information that others don’t have.

Forbes wrote a great piece called 7 Tips for Applying for a Job Within Your Company, and they made a good point: just because you work for a company doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed to land the job. You still have to prepare — perhaps even more so — for the interview. You can’t count on your familiar face being the only key to landing this position. You still have to prove your worth, your qualifications, and your desire.

Here are two tips that are especially important and can give you a leg-up on the competition. Firstly, talk to your current boss. If you can get your boss to endorse you for this position, that’s a recommendation that will be taken very seriously by the hiring manager. Secondly, set up meetings with individuals who currently hold the position. Ask them what makes them successful, what is most challenging, and any advice they have. Those are two steps you can take that outside candidates can’t necessarily take. Beyond that, you’ll have to prepare for the interview as if it was any other interview.

Read the whole piece at Forbes.

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September 16, 2014

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‘More Hours’ Doesn’t Always Mean ‘More Productive’

The typical work week is 40 hours per week. Now imagine if you were given 20 of those hours completely uninterrupted — no meetings, no emails, no phone calls, no Facebook surfing, no pesky coworkers gossiping at your desk. It seems almost unimaginable right? Unfortunately, that says something about how much actual ‘work’ we do in any given day. If we’re truly working less than part-time hours in a full-time job, what are we doing wrong?

The truth is we have to be more productive with the time we’re given. Instead of coming in early and staying late, is there a way to double-down extra hard in the few hours we have to get work done each day? After all, sometimes we confuse being ‘busy’ with being ‘productive.’ Here are a few strategies that cut out the busy work and allow you to be more productive in the little time you have:

  • Don’t accept a meeting unless you absolutely know you have to be there.
  • Block off an hour or two of your schedule to get work done each day — no exceptions.
  • Don’t draft up a long email when a quick phone call can get the task accomplished more efficiently.
  • Don’t touch anything twice — deal with the little things immediately instead of adding them to your growing to-do list.
  • At the end of the day, think about which three things you must accomplish tomorrow.
  • Don’t feel like you have to respond to email immediately. Disable the notifications that interrupt your workday.
  • Let the phone go to voicemail if you have to.
  • Ask for help and delegate as much work as possible.
  • Take occasional five-minute breaks and a short lunch break away from your desk to re-energize yourself.
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September 12, 2014

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How Twitter Can Help Your Career

Some may say social media is a waste of time. Others say they don’t get it. Still more say it’s a fad. But when it comes to Twitter, there is actually a reason to understand this fad and waste time on it: your career. Not only can Twitter help you find a job, but it can also help you build a long-lasting career. Think we’re crazy? Read on then tweet this article if you agree!

Twitter can make you smart.
We’re all busy. But reading quick 140 character bites about our industry is doable. Follow the right publications and people, and you’ll be learning new things and keeping up to date with only a few spare minutes each day. Learn your industry hashtags and search them on Twitter to see what people are talking about right now in your field. Twitter instantly connects you to the information you need.

Twitter can help you network.
Only on Twitter are you actually encouraged to follow and interact with people you don’t know! Beyond the celebrities and comedians you’ll find thought leaders in your industry both local and worldwide. Read their stuff. Respond to it. Start a conversation. Build a friendship. You’ll meet new people digitally that can eventually transfer into a real world relationship. Whether it results in a friendship, a mentorship, or a job opportunity, it’s all good.

Twitter can help your cause.
Whether that cause is establishing yourself as an expert in your field or networking your way into a new position, Twitter can help you do it. The tweets you send out can help define your online image and present yourself in the best light possible. Tweet a mix of industry articles, personal tidbits, and conversations with others. Twitter is a two-way conversation with you and the world — what is it that you want to say?

 

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September 9, 2014

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How to Hack Your Resume


How can a one-page report be so challenging? Creating a resume and selling your story is no easy task, especially if you already have a few obstacles to overcome. Here are a few hacks that will help you jump over those hurdles and put you on a straight path to a new position. (Just remember to be truthful along the way — these are hacks, not tall tales!)

Problem: You’re unemployed.
Solution: Start a business.
That’s right — you’re the president of You, Inc. Actually, don’t say you’re the president. Give yourself a dream title that encapsulates your skills and the position you hope to land in the future. Whether you’re doing freelance, consulting, or pro bono or volunteer work, list all of the projects here. Just because you’re not getting paid for it doesn’t mean you can’t take credit for it.

Problem: Something weird comes up when you Google your name.
Solution: Use your initials to your advantage.
If you happen to share a name with a criminal, a similar candidate, or a random person who’s already taken all of the “Google juice” for your name, try going by your initials. Instead of Katie Smith try K.L. Smith or Katherine L. Smith. Be consistent across your resume and LinkedIn profile. Hopefully your newly chosen professional title will generate some good Google mojo.

Problem: Your accomplishments don’t sound that great.
Solution: Show off some statistics that will help sell your skills.
Let’s say you’re consulting in the short term while you look for a new job. Set a small income goal or client goal for yourself — and then beat it. Now you can share an impressive percentage increase surrounding your financial goals or client goals. See how that works? There are many ways to put this in action. Just make sure you can explain your claims and back them up.

 

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September 4, 2014

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The 3 Mantras of Quitting

Quitting can be scary and exciting and great and terrible all at the same time. It’s an awkward time for a job seeker because landing a new position (yay!) means severing ties from the old one (boo!). Transitioning from one job to the next is not always fun but there are ways to ease into this change. Here are our top tips:

Don’t tell anyone you’re searching for a new position.
Even if you tell only one person that you’re thinking of leaving your job, the word will get around. At the very least, that person may think differently of you and may reconsider your help on a project now that they have knowledge you may leave soon. But what if it takes you six months before you find a new position? And what if your boss finds out you’re searching? That’s a conversation you don’t want to have. It’s better to keep your lips zipped.

Find a position that offers something your company can’t offer.
Don’t settle for a new position just because it’s different. Make sure the new company is willing to either pay you more or give you further responsibilities that were never available to you in your current job. This may take some soul searching on your part. What exactly are you looking for in a new position? What’s missing at your current company? Where do you want to take your career? Answer those questions first.

Work hard until the very end.
You may feel like “checking out” once you begin a new job search, but burning bridges will do you no good whether you decide to stay in your current job or leave it. Not only can job searches take longer than you think, you never know when you might need your old employer to help you out. And you definitely want to be able to use your boss and coworkers to recommend you in the future. That means you must leave on a high note. Even after you’ve put in that two week notice, work hard and be helpful so you can go out with a bang.

For more advice on what you should do when it’s time to say goodbye, read our post about the right way to leave your job.

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September 2, 2014

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Best Cities for Quality of Life? #1: Madison, Wisconsin.

5906144215_be327f738a_zOur new headquarters may be located in Middleton, but Madison, Wisconsin is our closest neighbor — and our former home. So when it scored the top spot on Nerd Wallet’s Best Cities for Quality of Life list, we were thrilled. The ranking was based on income, affordability, and health benefits as well as the local economy and work-life balance. Here’s what they had to say about Madison:

 

“If you’re looking to improve your quality of life, consider moving to Madison. The city offers a great work-life balance, high affordability and health insurance coverage rates, and a low unemployment rate. At the center of the city lies the largest public university in the state, the University of Wisconsin-Madison, which focuses on “improving the quality of life for all” in its mission statement.” – NerdWallet.com 

We might be biased, but we have to agree. Weekends are spent at one of the country’s best farmer’s markets, cheering on the Badgers at Camp Randall, or taking advantage of our multiple lakes and well-known bike paths. You can find us shopping on the bustling State Street, catching a show at the world-class Overture Center, or eating a local meal on the Capitol Square. Local events like the World’s Largest Brat Fest, the IronMan, and the Great Taste of the Midwest draw thousands of visitors to our city.

Just a few minutes away in Middleton, we love walking around our picturesque downtown, enjoying a craft beer at Capitol Brewery, or enjoying the day along a lakeside park. Middleton has won its own set of awards too. In 2007, the Madison suburb was named the Best Place to Live in the United States by CNN Money. Two years later, CNN Money ranked Middleton the fourth best place to live in the country (up from the seventh spot in 2005).

See the full list of best cities for quality of life at NerdWallet.com.

Image via gbozik photography

 

 

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August 28, 2014

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4 “Productive” Things That Aren’t Really Productive

Productivity is a tricky thing. We could spend hours and hours reading about it when in reality our to-do list is only growing longer. But every so often we need a good reminder on what is the most efficient way to spend our work day. The most important thing is to do what works for you. Don’t get caught up in productivity trends or absolutes — everyone works differently. That being said, there area a few “productive” things we find ourselves doing that end up hurting us in the long run. Here they are:

1. Multitasking.
Multitasking is a myth. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Yes, you can chew gum and walk at the same time but that’s about as far as multitasking goes. Doing things like responding to emails on your phone while you’re supposed to be listening and contributing during an important meeting will only make your day harder, not easier.

2. Obsessing over your to-do list.
Write it down, then get it done. If you’re a procrastinator and like to avoid what you’ve written at the top of the list, start your day by working on something small and simple. Once you’re feeling confident and motivated, move on to that big project. Cross it off and continue. If something takes longer to write down on your list than to actually do it, just do it. In short: less talk, more action.

3. Writing an email.
Sometimes a phone call or a quick meeting can wrap up a project or solve an issue much faster than a long and detailed email. Think about the best ways to use your time before you sit down at the computer.

4. Doing it yourself.
Part of learning how to manage your time is learning how to delegate. Sometimes that means you need to change your attitude especially if you’re the kind of person who feels that nothing can be done well unless you do it yourself. Just give it a try and see how it goes. You’ll likely be surprised.

 

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August 26, 2014

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Don’t Just Re-Read Your Resume

During the interview process, you have three chances to “tell us about yourself.” Your resume, your cover letter, and your interview. Each of these experiences should be viewed as a unique opportunity to expand upon your story, not a time to rehash what we already know. Since your resume is the first step in this process, assume we already know the basic timeline of your career. So what else can you say on a cover letter or in an interview? Instead of saying, “I meet all my deadlines” or “I’m great at multitasking,” you need to share experiences that illustrates these claims. These prompts should help get your mind moving and inspire you to share some quality stories about your career:

1. Jot down a list of your strengths.
Open a Microsoft Word document  or pull out a notebook and start jotting down your strengths. Circle the ones that are especially important to the current position and company that you’re applying for.

2. Dig through your memories.
In the same document or notebook, write down some great moments of your career. If you’re a recent grad, focus on brainstorming experiences that highlight your best skills. Circle the top three experiences that are relevant to this position and this company.

3. Show don’t tell.
Now take these bits of memories and weave them into a narrative. Decide what you want your narrative to be based on the requirements and qualifications needed for the position you’re applying for. There’s always more than one way to tell a story so make sure you’re telling it in the way that makes most sense for this job.

4. Rehearse.
The biggest interview tip we can give you is this: practice makes perfect! If you have three detailed narratives memorized — think of them as mini elevator pitches — you’ll be able to pull them out during a relevant part of the interview and wow your audience.

 

 

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August 21, 2014

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Headline Tricks That Will Get Coworkers to Open Your Email

There’s not one magic trick to get your coworkers to open and respond to emails (though we’ve written a post on how to do it in the past). There’s one thing we can all agree on though — headlines matter. Think of your own inbox and the amount of content you receive each day. Some is junk, some is important, some is interesting, some is from important people, and some is from strangers.

So what makes you open the emails that you do open? Often an intriguing headline. “Hey” is going to get looked over if “Are you available for lunch?” is sitting right beneath it. “Monday morning meeting” won’t get opened as fast as “Monday meeting cancelled,” and “A friendly hello” is not going to be read before “Introduction from our mutual friend Katie Smith” is. FastCompany wrote an awesome piece on subject line tricks and we’d like to share our favorite bits of advice from this article:

  • Subject lines with 41 characters or less have the highest open rates.
  • Include a call to action or a verb whenever you can.
  • Avoid words like help, buy, sale, and free if you want to avoid the spam filter.
  • Turn your subject line into a question.
  • When emailing a stranger, name drop someone you have in common.

Read the full article at FastCompany.

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August 19, 2014

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3 MORE Huge Career Mistakes We Hope You’re Not Making

We’ve already covered three career mistakes we hope you’re not making, but there are three more we’d like to add. Like we said, the smallest missteps can have much larger consequences than you think. The good news is that each step baby step in the right direction can have a big payoff. Do the opposite of what’s listed below and you’ll be surprised at how quickly you’ll find career success. Here are three more career mistakes that you should avoid:

1. Acting too modest.
Your career needs a little self promotion. Don’t be shy. Make sure your boss knows when you had a great meeting with a client. Make sure your coworkers hear about the project you just blew out of the water. There’s a fine line between sharing and bragging so make sure you don’t cross it. But do’t feel guilty about sharing your career successes with your peers and those above you.

2. Being too scared to ask for feedback.
You do things — that you probably don’t realize you do — that are both good and bad. When you ask for feedback, you’ll only learn. And learning from your mistakes and your successes is what’s going to fuel your career forward. Don’t ever pass up an opportunity to get an outside perspective on your work from someone you trust. Don’t ever let it discourage you — only let it make you stronger.

3. Not networking within your company.
Some people think networking is limited to people in your industry at outside events. But networking each and every day at work can be supremely helpful to your career. The more people that know you are the better. The more you understand the business the better. Having people who know you and can vouch for you is a good thing. You never know when one of those people will end up running the company and could give you a big break.

 

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