Archive | August, 2017

Everything You Wanted to Know About References

August 31, 2017


References can be a nerve-wracking task that you have to deal with during an already-stressful job search. Who will you ask? How will you ask them? What will they say about you? Here are a few tips that can help.

  1. Keep it professional.
    You may have plenty of personal references who will say great things about you, but professional references are always best. That can include former bosses and coworkers, mentors, and any connections you’ve made while volunteering or during an internship.
  2. Keep it in the past.
    If you’re applying for a new job while you have a job, references can be tricky. You should avoid asking anyone at your current company to speak on your behalf. Think about your previous working relationships and who can best speak to your abilities.
  3. Ask a former coworker.
    References don’t have to be a boss or manager. A past coworker can speak to how great you worked on a team, and that’s an insanely important quality to hiring managers. Be sure to ask someone with whom you worked well. Bonus points if you worked on a lot of successful projects together.
  4. Fill them in on the details of the position.
    The more your reference knows about the job you’re applying for, the better they can speak to your specific skills that are relevant to the job. Send them your current resume so they can brush up on your background.
  5. Give them a call.
    A reference should be someone you feel comfortable giving a call to instead of an email. You’re asking them to dedicate a chunk of their time talking you up–the least you can do is pick up the phone. Plus, you may need to use them as a reference again in the future. Keep the relationship going!
  6. Follow up.
    Don’t forget to send a thank you note for their time–even if they never get called! Also, give them an update if you get hired.

Image via Ant & Carrie Coleman/Flickr.

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What Should You Be Researching Before a Job Interview?

August 29, 2017


Got an upcoming job interview? That’s great news! There’s no doubt that you’ve been spending a lot of time quizzing yourself on common interview questions and deciding which experiences and stories from your past are most relevant to this opportunity. But the job interview isn’t just about you. Here are three more things you must research before the interview:

  1. The company.
    Thanks to Google News, you can find the latest articles written about the company with whom you are interviewing. You don’t want to be caught off guard by an awesome new product launch, a merger, a study, or a great piece of recent press. Check their social media updates as well as the Press Releases section of their corporate website for more recent news.
  2. The people.
    If you know the names of the people with whom you will be interviewing, look them up on LinkedIn! Try to get a better understanding of their title and background. This will better help you compose relevant questions for each person during your interview.
  3. The industry.
    Learn more about the industry itself as well as the competition. Familiarize yourself with some buzzwords, some challenges, and any exciting new developments or technology. Set Google Alerts or subscribe to an industry publication for the latest updates.

Image via Gabriela Pinto/Flickr.

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Three Things You Shouldn’t Say at Work

August 24, 2017


Wouldn’t you love to be the smartest, most competent, most respected person in the room? It all starts with one person: you. The more respect you have for your own thoughts, ideas, and skills, the more respect others may in turn have for you. Slights tweaks in your language can have a big affect on your career success. Eliminate the following phrases from your workday and see what happens!

“I think…”
Saying “I think” is the same as saying “maybe” or “hopefully.” They are words that indicate that you are already questioning an outcome or questioning your own abilities. Try “I believe,” or “I know” instead. Speak with confidence instead of already instilling doubt in your work.

“I’ll try…”
If you need something desperately and someone responds with, “I’ll try,” how does that make you feel? Not great. “Try” inherently means that it may or may not happen. Instead, say “I can” or “I will.” Again, confidence is key and you don’t want to sound like you’re giving a half-hearted effort before you’ve even started.

“I may be wrong, but…”
There’s no need to instill doubt in your forthcoming thought before the words have tumbled out of your mouth. Let others judge whether or not you are incorrect in your assessment. Respect your thoughts and ideas, and give yourself a little more credit!

Image via Marc Wathieu/Flickr. 

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How to Return to Work after a Voluntary Career Break

August 22, 2017

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These days, “gap years,” career breaks, and sabbaticals are becoming more and more common. This voluntary time off doesn’t have to be a year-long endeavor. It could be three months. It could be three weeks. It could be five years. It’s whatever you need to do what you want.

Er, what is it that these people are doing on these career breaks? They’re often expanding their knowledge by gaining skills in a new field or they’re taking time off for a little soul searching–and likely traveling around the world along the way.

Whatever it is that you’ve done during a career break, you must figure out a way to tie it back to your career path. A sabbatical can even have a place on your resume if the experiences you had are relevant to the position you’re applying for. That requires advance planning for volunteering, educational programs, passion projects, collaborations, or freelance work.

When a hiring manager sees a career break, there are a few things that can help you stand out from the other applicants. They may see that you have:

  • a willingness to take risks
  • independence
  • confidence
  • an ability to cope with many people and many situations
  • career clarity

That last point is an important one. After taking a break, you should return focused and confident in the career path you are following. Explain how your sabbatical helped you get to that point and that you’re ready to commit to a steady job again.

Image via Christine und Hagen Graf/Flickr.

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How to Make Career Decisions More Easily

August 17, 2017


Your career path will be full of questions now and in the future: Is that the right job for me? Should I apply for that promotion? Do I want to take on that project? Does going back to school make sense? Do I go right or left?

Answering these questions is not easy–unless your career goals are clearly defined. Think about it on both a macro and micro level: when your goal is clearly defined, you can approach any decision with one simple question, “Will this help me reach my goal?” If the answer is yes, then move forward. If the answer is no, step away.

If your goal is to lose weight, you could approach each temptation with one question. As you look at the bowl of ice cream, ask yourself: will this help me reach my goal? The answer is no, so move on. If you are debating between grabbing dinner with friends or going to an exercise class, ask yourself: which will help me reach my goal? The answer is the exercise class.

The same strategy can be applied at work. If your goal is to be the global marketing manager of a consumer products good company, think about what that goal entails: an MBA? International experience? A second language? Experience managing others? Now write this goal down, as well as the steps it will take to get there.

The next time you have to make a decision, you’ll be better prepared to make an educated choice. And you’ll feel more confident doing it.

Image via David Mulder/Flickr.

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The Two Words You Should Avoid in Your Next Interview

August 15, 2017


It’s no secret that great speakers probably perform a lot better in an interview setting. After all, they are great at communicating an idea (“Hire me!”) and are comfortable while they do it.

For the rest of us, interviews can be a time of anxiety and doubt. Literally every word can be a struggle. That’s why we use fillers such as “umm” and “like.” But those aren’t the two words we’re telling you to avoid during your next interview. It’s something that likely strikes, you know, closer to home.

*Record scratch* “You know” are those two words. They slip so easily into conversations especially during an interview setting. These two words are used so carelessly that we’ve forgotten what they mean. Oftentimes when we say “you know” the person doesn’t know! That’s why they asked!

While “you know” isn’t the end-all be-all when it comes to assessing a successful interview, removing it from your vocabulary will help your overall communication style become more succinct, clear, and effective. And isn’t that what you want in an interview?

If you’re afraid those two little words will slip into the conversation when you’re under pressure, practice talking about yourself in front of a family member and ask them to interrupt you each time you say “you know.” Also, try speaking more slowly and thoughtfully. It’s ok to pause and think as opposed to rambling with filler words as you try to gather a response.

Do you have any tips to avoid using filler words like “you know” and “umm?” Comment below!

Image via Kate Dreyer/Flickr.

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The Truth About Being the “New Kid”

August 10, 2017


Whether you’ve recently transitioned from college to the workplace or you’re a seasoned new hire at a company, you have one thing in common: you’re the new kid! And even though you’re an adult, you may still fear sitting alone at the lunch table. But let’s be honest–you have bigger things on your mind right now like, “How will everyone know that I’m not an idiot?” Proving yourself in a new position is not easy, but these tips can help.

  1. Be outgoing and friendly.
    Even if you’re shy, the first week on a new job is the perfect time to step out of your comfort zone. The more people you can meet the better. Introduce yourself, put a smile on your face, and shake some hands.
  2. Talk about yourself.
    The first week on the job is one of the few times you get to blab about yourself without seeming conceited. Consider which experiences or talents you’d like your new coworkers to know about. Be sure to ask questions too so you don’t seem too into yourself.
  3. Invite yourself.
    Certain group dynamics and workplace traditions will have already been established once you walk in the door. During the first few weeks is your chance to claim your seat at the table–both literally and figuratively. It may feel uncomfortable but you can’t rely on anyone else to pave the way for you.
  4. Be your own cheerleader.
    As the new kid, you’re on your own. You must be your own advocate and make sure the transition is going well and that all your questions are being answered. Don’t be afraid to speak up, make requests, or ask for clarifications.

Image via Enokson/Flickr. 

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How to Balance Multiple Interviews

August 8, 2017


You know the drill: when it rains, it pours. After weeks of feeling like you’d never get hired again, you suddenly have a handful of job interviews in your pipeline. You like the short commute to Company A, but Company B is giving you a better title, while Company C is an exciting industry you’ve been dying to get into. But you’re getting ahead of yourself–you’re in different stages of the interview process for each company and there’s no job offers on the table…yet.

Talk about a stressful–but good!–situation to be in. There are a few different conundrums you may find yourself in. Here’s what you can say when faced with these situations.

The Dreaded Question
Company B asks where you stand in the job search process. This is not an uncommon question, and it won’t work against you if you happen to be interviewing with multiple companies. In fact, you’ll look like you’re in high demand. Be truthful. Tell them. Say something like:

  • “I’m in the early stages of the interview process with a few companies right now, but I’m very excited about this opportunity.”

The Early Offer
If you get an offer from Company A but you’re still waiting on the final interview or an offer from Company C, and you’d like more time to see how that goes, you can try these two tactics:

  • Tell Company C: “I’m incredibly interested in this opportunity, but I have a pending offer from another company. Do you think you’ll have a final interview scheduled and/or decision made by X date?”
  • Tell Company A: “I’m very interested, but is there any way I can have another week to consider this opportunity?”

The Drop-Out
What if you want to accept the offer from Company A and drop out of the interview process with Company C? Be respectful, and don’t burn any bridges. You never know when you may be knocking on their door again! Say something like:

  • “I’ve so enjoyed this opportunity and I feel that in the future, Company C may be a great fit for me. Right now, I’ve decided to move forward with a different opportunity that I just couldn’t pass up. I’d love to stay in touch though and I hope our paths will cross again. Thank you, again, for your time.”

The Leaving You Hanging
What if the job search with Company B comes to a halt? And you need it to keep progressing at the same rate as your other opportunities? Again, be truthful. Go ahead and say:

  • “I’m getting very close to the end of the interview process with a couple companies, but I’m very excited for the opportunity with Company B. When do you expect the next round of interviews to occur?”

Image via Marina del Castell/Flickr.

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Career Advice From the Future

August 4, 2017


Doesn’t everyone wish they had a crystal ball? Well, maybe you don’t need one. If we asked 10,000 seasoned professionals what their best career advice would be for their younger selves, we bet it could be summed up in the five points below. In other words, consider the following bits of wisdom as advice from your future self.

  1. It’s not the end of the world.
    You didn’t get the job? The promotion? The deal? In your long career, this moment will become just a blip on your radar. You have plenty of time to rebound. Accept your current reality, and move on. The future awaits!
  2. Paying your dues will pay off.
    Patience, patience, patience. You may feel stagnant in your career right now, but every position is a stepping stone that will get you to where you are meant to be. Get very clear with your career vision and then trust the process.
  3. What goes around comes around.
    Be kind to everyone. Work hard. Think positive. Start building a good reputation, and it will pay off in the long run. Your consistency will be recognized and respected.
  4. There’s no one right path.
    Don’t worry about other people. Focus on yourself. Only you can make the right choice for your self and your career at this moment. The journey may not be a straight line and that’s ok. You’ll learn a little bit every step of the way.
  5. Baby steps pay off.
    Speaking of little steps, every seemingly unachievable goal was achieved one step at a time. Little by little. Make small changes in your every day life and you’ll reap big rewards in the long run.

Image via Dibus y Deabus/Flickr.

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Internal Learning Opportunities at Spectrum Brands

August 2, 2017


Olympian Jackie Joyner-Kersee once said, “I maintained my edge by always being a student; you will always have something new to learn.” We agree with Joyner-Kersee! That’s why we offer employees internal learning opportunities so they can further their career and become more successful at their jobs on a day-to-day basis. Here’s a glimpse into some of those ongoing educational programs at Spectrum Brands.

Great Leaders Series: The Ascent
The Four Imperatives of Great Leaders include Inspiring Trust, Clarifying Purpose, Aligning Systems, and Unleashing Talent. In this two-part in-person course taught by Spectrum Brands’ certified Learning & Development team, leaders from all departments and locations can unleash their teams’ full capability against company priorities. Members of our Distribution, Finance, IT, HR, and Engineering teams have found success with this course.

Here’s what employees have to say:

  • “I attended it last year and very impressed – and applying what I learned ever since.”
  • “Every leader and manager needs this class.”
  • “I can apply this content tomorrow.”
  • “A great opportunity to meet leaders from other segments of the business and have meaningful and relevant leadership discussions.”

Insights Discovery
This is another course offered to Spectrum Brands employees by certified Learning & Development specialists. Teams from St. Louis, Lake Forest, and Middleton have attended and are using it to more clearly communicate and build better relationships at work – and home! Insights Discovery focuses on improving personal, interpersonal and team effectiveness; helping you understand how you’re perceived by others; introducing a simple, yet impactful framework about strengths; providing a common language about strengths and what drives our behavior in the workplace; and is grounded in the work of psychologist Carl Jung.

Here’s what employees have to say:

  • “This is a great way to get to know teammates – we understand each other so much better now!”
  • “Now that I know my color and how to spot someone else’s, I can communicate in a way that makes sense to them – even people I thought were challenging.”
  • “I took this knowledge home and was amazed to spot different leading styles in my family – adjusting to someone else’s style takes conscious effort but is so worth it!”

Photo Credit: Spectrum Brands employee Jennifer Kalka; Great Leaders: The Ascent graduates in June of 2017. 

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