Archive | October, 2015

6 Questions to Ask Yourself Before an Interview

October 29, 2015

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9647972522_eb1f0c3ca7_zCongratulations! You’ve landed an interview. Phew! Even though you feel relieved to have landed this opportunity, the work is only just beginning. In preparation, it’s important to assess why you are interviewing in the first place and what you want to get out of the interview. Here are some questions you can ask yourself and an example of a pre-interview routine that you could follow:

  1. Why am I interviewing for this job?
    This question alone will help you realize the level of importance of this interview. Maybe it’s practice, maybe it’s a make-or-break dream job interview, and maybe it’s just an opportunity to get your foot in the door.
  2. What is it about this job/organization that is enticing?
    Write out why this organization is a good fit for you. List all the pros. “I need a job” is not a good enough answer for why you want to work at a company. The interviewer will want to know why you’re specifically passionate about this job at this organization.
  3. What core skills should I emphasize in this interview?
    Write out the specific background, skills, and abilities you possess that make you the best fit for this job. Use those experiences as talking points during the interview. If you haven’t been able to touch on a major skill during the interview, find a way to get the interviewer to go in that direction. (Yes, you do have some control).
  4. What do I know about this interviewer that will help me connect during the interview?
    Use any personal info you have learned about the interviewer to connect with them during the interview—at least in the beginning during intros and/or at the end when saying goodbye.
  5. What information can I learn about this company/organization that will help me during the interview?
    Research the organization, but don’t stop there. Be sure to look up what has happened in the news lately as it relates to this industry or other organizations in this industry. Figure how you can work this into a conversation. It will impress your interviewers.
  6. What’s that one thing about me that I can rely on when I need to impress someone?
    Think about yourself and what you do best when you are one-on-one with people. Is it listening,  making connections,  making them look good, or summarizing the conversation? If you’re not sure, ask friends or former coworkers what they think your strengths are.

Image via Raymond Bryson/Flickr.

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When Starting Over Means Proving Yourself All Over Again

October 22, 2015

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4942572797_898ec7ec75_zYou have all kinds of experience in life, in your field, and in dealing with people. You’re a good communicator, you can sell yourself, and so much more. You’ve put in your time and you’re ready to reap the rewards. But if you’ve just started a new position, moved to a new company, or changed careers, you’ve got more work cut out for you than you think.

Being an experienced professional can come with its difficulties, especially when you’ve changed careers and find yourself in a more entry-level position than you once had. Here are a few scenarios you might encounter in a new work atmosphere.

Lack of Trust
Your new boss and co-workers may not know your past. In fact, it’s likely they don’t. If you haven’t specifically told them, they will see you only in the role you are entering into. Therefore, you may feel like you are being talked down to.

They won’t see it this way, but you may. Try not to take it personally. Slowly, over time, your co-workers and boss will begin to hear about your past experiences and see your current skills. Make sure you are an advocate for your own history. Now’s the time to toot your own horn!

Unwanted Competition
If you are a seasoned professional who has worked in any field for 10+ years, your boss or co-workers may feel threatened by your experience; even just your life experience. It may feel like a competition you didn’t see coming.

This is the point where you can focus on your communication. Be careful to get your message across without offending or sounding more knowledgeable than your boss. Sounds weird, right? But it’s true. Let them know they are lucky to have you, but be gentle about it.

Lack of Challenge
If you’ve taken a step or two down to follow a new career path, you may not feel as challenged from the get-go. You’ll be expected to show what you can do and learn the ropes first. Your past experience may not translate right away and this could be very frustrating. Patience is the key virtue during this time in your transition. Keep reminding yourself of that.

Eventually, the eggshells will harden and it will feel like you are walking on solid ground. There may be some cracked shells along the way, but stick to it. Pay attention to these potential pitfalls, but exude confidence and positivity in your attitude.

Image via Anne/Flickr.

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The Difference Between Company Culture and Meaningful Work

October 20, 2015

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8141902659_39e2f28fe1_zDuring an interview, potential candidates love to ask “What’s your culture like here?” Many people believe you can reveal workplace culture by looking at the benefits the company provides and the policies they follow. For instance, what’s the dress code? Do people work from home? Can you bring your dog to work? What types of lunchtime activities are offered for the employees? Is there team building? Will they pay for my college courses?

As a result, you may find yourself making a list of pros and cons of corporate benefits rather than actual culture. Benefits are important, as is the salary, but the culture isn’t quite as easy to pin down. And one person’s response can’t paint the perfect picture. This popular interview question actually begs to be replaced by a better question: “How is the culture created in an organization?” After all, you want to know if employees are passionate about their positions and whether or not they feel the work they do is meaningful.

In his article, Three Lies About Meaningful Work, Adam Grant shares that back in the 80’s, “the organization to which people belonged was the dominant driver of whether they found their work meaningful. A sense of purpose came from belonging to a company with a mission that mattered.”

This is no longer the case. It has become clear that meaning in your work comes from the connections that are built between the people—you, your co-workers, your team, your boss, your manager, and so on. And you are more in charge of the meaning that’s attached to your job than you think. (Read our last post on job crafting.)

Adam Grant puts it well when he refers to Studs Terkel and his observation that “work is about a search for daily meaning as well as daily bread.” He says that in order to find it, “we need to realize that meaning is about what we do, not where we belong. It lives in the relationships between people, not ideas.”

Learn more about how you can find meaning in your work over at LinkedIn.

Image via Windwärts Energie/Flickr.

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Try This Pre-Interview Ritual

October 15, 2015

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17150746928_976705aa17_zMany athletes have a pre-game ritual. It might include eating certain foods, listening to inspiring songs, a making a phone call to an important person. What’s your pre-interview ritual? It’s a good idea to have one in order to keep yourself on task, relaxed, and focused once you reach the interview.

Here are some ideas for a pre-interview routine that will hopefully help you land the job!

  • Prepare your clothes the night before. Make sure you’ve tried them on, and they’re pressed.
  • Print at least three copies of your resume just in case.
  • Plan out your route to the interview the day or night before. If you’re traveling somewhere you’ve never been, consider traffic and if there’s any construction on your way. Being late is unacceptable!
  • Pack your briefcase or bag the night before with a notebook, pens, business cards, resumes, notes on the organization, mints, a snack, a water bottle, something to read while waiting, and phone headphones so you can listen to your favorite inspirational tunes.
  • Make a to-do list the night before and write down anything you’ll need to do or grab in the morning. Getting it out of your head and onto the paper should help you fall asleep peacefully that night.
  • In the morning, don’t skip over your everyday routine—exercise, eat, listen to music or the news, drink your coffee in your favorite mug, or walk the dog. It will help you feel calm and ready to take on the day.
  • Call that one person close to you who is your rock. Get that pep talk you need, process it, and be confident!
  •  On the way to the interview, listen to the music that inspires you or a radio show you enjoy. Remember: focus on only good things that make you feel like the best possible you from this point on.
  • Self-talk before the interview—I can do this, I am the best person for the job, I have all the skills and experience they could need, I can help this organization thrive, I am a rockstar and will kill it in this interview.

Image via studio tdes/Flickr.

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5 Signs You’re In the Wrong Job and Need a Change

October 13, 2015

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3546059144_1b33dfdc0e_oAre you where you should be in your organization?

Stop and think about the department you’re in, or the job you execute, or the manager that you are. Are you selling yourself short and merely maintaining or surviving? Are you clocking the hours so you can get the check? How long has it been since you played devil’s advocate or challenged anything that your boss had to say?

These are all questions to ask yourself if you are getting an inkling that you career has stagnated. Here are some signs that you may not be in the right job for you:

  1. You’re crabby, crabby, crabby. Your crabby meter goes from 0-100 in a nanosecond. Everything sets you off. You blow a gasket because the binder clips have been moved again. Or, your co-worker has asked you for the umpteenth time to cover for him or her. Grrr!
  2. You’re constantly complaining at home. You find that all you do at home is complain about work to your family. This tells you it’s constantly on your mind and you can’t shut it off. Instead of enjoying your life outside of work, everything has become work, work, work.
  3. You can’t turn off the jealousy. As much as you want to be happy for your friends who are talking about their challenging jobs and engaging teams, it just makes you feel jealous of their good fortune. Try to keep in mind that sometimes this is all posturing.
  4. Your energy has plummeted. Has your energy level dropped below where it typically hovers? If your desire to do your every day work has waned, and this has continued for a long period of time, you might need to hit the road.
  5. What was once easy has now become difficult. The easy stuff that you used to do in your sleep is easy no more. It’s tripping you up! Maybe the easy has become so easy that it seems meaningless and you take it less seriously—sometimes to the point of really botching things up.

If your conscience has been telling you something is off, your conscience is probably right. Listening to that voice means you’re paying attention. The voice never lies.

Image via Yoel Ben-Avraham/Flickr

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How to Survive the Stressful Post-Interview Waiting Period

October 8, 2015

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4463478302_c7b380e78c_zYou could spend your time analyzing and conjecturing for days on end about how the interview went. You could tell yourself it went poorly because it was short, or that it was great because they asked how you see yourself fitting in at the company. When you’re searching for immediate employment and your bank account is running low, it’s impossible not to stress out.

But there is another way to get through the dreaded wait time post interview and pre offer. Suspend your judgement and analytical mind. Sounds tough, right? It’s possible. At this point in your job search, focus on the numbers game—the more people you talk to, the more likely you’ll get a new gig. Here are some ways to transform that worry into positivity and proactivity:

  1. Ride the wave of that last interview. Use the energy from your last interview to set up your next meetings and informational interviews. Make that response part of your routine.
  2. Have an “after-the-interview” ritual, just like you like you pre-interview rituals. Go to a special place and celebrate that you just took one more step in the right direction toward new employment.
  3. Make a job search calendar and work it. On the days that you have interviews, don’t excuse yourself from job search tasks—plan a schedule for each day and stick to it. Continuously engage in tasks that move you forward.
  4. Create a reward system for yourself. Perhaps there is something you will do or buy for yourself once you get a job offer. It’s your carrot at the end of the race.
  5. Exercise! Exercise! Exercise! Even if that means walking your dog three times a day—do it. Use exercise as a re-charging time. And don’t take your phone with you. Clear your mind temporarily, and you’ll feel much more motivated to get back in the game.

Image via Caro Wallis/Flickr.

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Out of the Box Networking Strategies

October 6, 2015

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15704185127_6830ffd2c3_zYou’re starving after the commute to get to this crazy networking event. Who knows where you put your business cards. Did you even remember to bring a pen? It doesn’t matter. You’re here, and the point is to make some connections. Well, guess what? Everybody is here for the very same reason. You can almost see the visual–a game of tops where everyone just keeps bumping into one another.

Why not try a new tactic: network differently? As Daniel Ally, contributor to Entrepreneur, says, the key question he asks to help expand his network is, “How do I add more value to more people in a shorter amount of time?” Some of his tips, like publishing articles, connecting people and following up, can work for any level of professional, while others like philanthropy and writing books may be reserved for those who are further along in their careers.

Ally’s tips are definitely different from the typical networking path, and you might even say they are closer to personal branding. But if you want to promote yourself, why not take it a few steps further than a resume or business card and publish an article or even write an e-book? An article or e-book is an extension of your resume and your talent, and the effort is sure to impress.

Serving as a guest-speaker is another great way to network and promote yourself. There are a wealth of meetings now with the onslaught of online meet-up groups. Joining meet-ups will also connect you with others who may want or need your service. It could be a win-win: get involved with a new activity that you really enjoy as well as get a chance to promote your brand.

Keep your options open when you walk into the world. That’s the key–you never know what’s waiting for you. Read more tips on “How to Network Like a Millionaire” over at Entrepreneur.

Image via Creative Tools/Flickr.

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Are You an Effective Leader? (Part Two)

October 1, 2015

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An effective leader is someone who…

Is passionate about work.

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Is compassionate.

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Motivates and inspires others.

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Offers positive feedback and gratitude to employees.
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Understands the big picture and can communicate employee’s roles in it. 

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Image credits in order of appearance: Peter Harrison/Flickr; Hartwig HKD/Flickr; Kari/Flickr; *brilho-de-conta/Flickr; Matt Brown/Flickr

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