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6 Tips to Maximize Your Networking

Whether you’re looking for a new job or not, networking is a vital skill that you should be continually developing. As much as you might wish it to be different, your own skills and expertise at your job aren’t always enough. Often, it’s exactly like that saying: “It’s not what you know, it’s who you know.”

Who do you know? And what sort of relationship are you developing with your contacts? Here are 6 tips to maximize your networking efforts.

  1. Forget the speed-dating approach.

Quantity networking could be compared to speed dating. The results are minimal, you don’t really end up knowing the people, and they probably aren’t going to stick their necks out on the line to give you a recommendation. Networking is an investment that takes time, and like a relationship, it requires intentionality.

  1. Think beyond yourself.

No one enjoys being around a selfish person. If your goal is to take from others, that will become apparent to the people you’re trying to network with. Instead, look for areas that they need help in, and then become that source of help. Maybe you’re an expert in that area or you have a contact who could help them out. Whatever it is, make yourself useful to them first. Look to help others out, and not only your own goals.

  1. Get social.

There can be many benefits to using social media. It’s an avenue where you can follow up with connections and even make new ones. However, if your only goal is to promote yourself, people will soon lose interest in you and become annoyed at your self-seeking attitude that’s spamming their social sites.

  1. “What’s your favorite color?”

The answer to that question used to be the most important factor in determining whether you wanted that other kid to be your friend. While favorite colors really don’t matter anymore, having similar interests with someone can be a great way to connect with them. Do you share an interest in the same type of music? Remember that and use it to get to know that person better. Finding something in common creates an instant connection and you’ll be more likely to be remembered by that person, especially if you use that shared interest as a follow-up.

  1. Don’t forget to remember.

While you’re making all these connections, be sure to make mental notes. Connect faces with names, and names with interests and facts. If necessary, you can write down some of this information so that you’re sure not to forget it. Use whatever memory tool you like, just make sure you’re making those mental notes. Actively listen to what they’re saying so that you can have a meaningful follow-up with them later. This implies that you will eventually follow up (which is the whole purpose of first establishing network connections).

  1. Be on the lookout.

Put yourself out there. If you’re more comfortable with the behind-the-screen approach, you’ll need to put some more effort towards this one. You can make network connections at parties, conferences, events, asking others for introductions, classes, social media, etc. If you’re required to go to conferences or take specific classes for your career, take full advantage of the networking opportunities there.

Networking is incredibly vital in this day and age, but so many fail to establish quality contacts because of missing the mark in these areas. Basically, it comes down to treating the people you network with as just that: people. People meeting and getting to know other people. Implement these 6 tips, and watch how your networking quality improves.

Turn it Up! Use Music to Increase Productivity

You may have heard murmurings that music can help in productivity. But is that just an excuse or is it an actual scientific fact?

Studies have been conducted. Research has been gathered. The conclusion is: yes, music does help your productivity. However, not all music is the same, and not all times are right for utilizing music as your productivity tool.

Why is music helpful?

Music helps to focus your mind on the task at hand, depending on the situation. It also helps to put you in a better mood. When you’re engaged in a repetitive task, your favorite tunes can help to lift your mood. Another benefit of listening to music is how it helps you to get in a more creative mindset.

There is some connection between the brain’s function and the playing of music, and when it’s utilized correctly, it works magnificently.

When is music helpful?

Not all situations are ideal for listening to music. When you’re creating or working on something that requires a lot of concentration and creative effort, music can hinder the process because it splits your focus.

On the other end of the spectrum, music is helpful when you’re occupied with repetitive activities. When you have a clear objective and a set plan for accomplishing that, music can increase your productivity and your enjoyment of the activity.

Another situation where music is helpful is when your environment is noisy. Whether you think you’re tuned into it or not, this kind of background noise—people talking, other’s music playing, etc.—can be highly distracting. Your brain tries to analyze all of this new data, which is very difficult and splits your attention. Pop in the headphones and listen to some music, and you’ll find your productivity going up.

What kind of music is helpful?

New music isn’t going to be your best option. With new music, it is easy to get distracted, because you’re hearing it for the first time. Your body releases chemicals related to this, which causes the music to be more appealing to listen to than the task you’re supposed to be doing.

So when you’re working, choose music you’re familiar with. But another parameter would be lyrics. Sometimes, songs with lyrics aren’t the most helpful. When you’re working on those tasks that require more focus, the lyrics can be distracting. Just as if someone were talking to you while you were trying to write an important email. In cases like these, classical music or music with low-tones like jazz, indie, and bluegrass are better options.

Movie or video game scores or soundtracks can also be good options to listen to. They’re generally devoid of lyrics and are meant to amplify the experience and focus the listener on what is happening on the screen, not the music.

The conclusion? Yes, music can be helpful to your productivity. Just be careful in what kind of music you choose and when you listen to it. Oh, and bring your headphones. Nothing is more distracting at the office than hearing someone else’s music playing.

Stop Majoring on the Minors!

Stop Majoring On The Minors!

No matter how positive your outlook on life or how oblivious you may be, you can probably pinpoint some areas at your work that are frustrating. There is a difference, however, between minor frustrations and major, job-switching issues. To err is human, so you’ll never find a workplace free of issues. Instead, you need to be able to see when things really aren’t that big of a deal.

Conflicting Methods

When you come into a business, your boss has been doing things there for probably a good deal of time. Because of this, he or she will more than likely have a certain way of doing things. As a new employee, you bring valuable ideas and insight. When beginning your job, you may notice that there are more efficient ways of doing things. By all means, ask         questions about why they do something a certain way and/ or bring this up to your boss in a respectful way. But if they choose not to take your advice, don’t stew over it. Continue doing your best in an efficient, effective way, but remember: you’re not the boss.

Also, a little tip. If your boss has been in the business for years, they may have even tried out your idea before and it didn’t work. Experience is a great teacher.

Conflicting Work Ethics

You may have been raised with a different work ethic than the person at the next desk. Some, yes, are just plain lazy. If this becomes a problem for you getting your work done there is a way to talk to that individual directly, and if that does not work, bring this to the attention of your supervisor in a considerate way. You can only do the best at your job, and hopefully, your example influences other people.

Conflicting Priorities

Your time can easily get sucked away by seemingly ‘urgent’ requests. These can come in the form of requests from coworkers. Everyone’s issue or request is urgent to them, but you need to be able to determine whether that’s something you should take on for them. Sure, helping a coworker out is nice, but if it makes your own work suffer, then there’s a problem.

Whether it’s a problem with a set system in the company or with a person, some issues aren’t worth your time and energy. Go ahead and address issues when they come about, but if not resolved, don’t worry about it. Some issues just come with the territory and need to be recognized as such. Obviously, some issues mean you need to evaluate your options if you have first tried to rectify them.

 

How to become more efficient at work in 2018

Given the proper amount of effort and forethought, much of your daily work can be accomplished in eight hours a day. Wouldn’t it be nice to have that free time to pursue your life outside of work? Not only is that a possibility, it could become a reality for you.

So how does this work?

Think Ahead

  • Lists

As you are finishing up your workday, take some time to evaluate your tasks for the next day. Make a list of what you should do the next day, so you hit the ground running. A program/app like Wunderlist is a program that you can have available on your phone, tablet, computer so it is available wherever you need it. You can make multiple lists, both business and personal. This list can be private or shared with others.

  • Time Block

Many people find that working in blocks or time or “chunking” their work out during the day in 1 hour to 3 hour increments is the most efficient way to work. For example, I will turn off email notifications during a two hour timeframe and knock out a report or get my code documented.

  • Alarms

Set alarms on your phone to make sure you make all your meetings on time. This will stop you from getting distracted by other notifications when you check your time on your phone. Alarms can also be used for time blocking so you know you need to move on the next task.

Know Yourself

  • Your Space

Do you work better in a clean, orderly environment? Or is a little mess necessary for the genius to work? Whichever you are, be aware and take care of your office accordingly as you’re packing up and leaving. You don’t want to lose time cleaning the next day because you can’t get focused. You also know what your boss expects. If you’re used to dealing with organized chaos, make sure it’s organized enough to suit your boss.

  • Your Routine

What works best for you? Many people find it is best to do the least desirable piece of their work first, so they do not have it hanging over their head and cluttering their brain from being the most productive can be. Sometimes all it takes is one misstep for your concentration and productivity to be thrown off.

Do Work

The thing to remember is that you have a schedule or a to-do list for a reason. I know this seems obvious, but procrastination is a malady that affects everyone in any job, but manage to push past the temptation and find the reward. You must have the discipline to be able to stick to what works and will bring the desired results to get you more time to do whatever non-work-related activities that you enjoy!

 

Spin these 4 Common Job Hunting Weaknesses to Positives

When you’ve been at a job interview, have you ever dreaded the question, “What do you consider your weaknesses?” Yes, sometimes it’s a difficult one to answer. The worse answer you can give is that you cannot think of a weakness. Employers want to know that you are always looking to improve.

Most job seekers dread candidacy weakness questions because they don’t want to attract attention to their negative attributes and spoil the chances for the job. However, a weakness can be seen as an area of untapped potential rather than a personal deficiency. For this reason, several approaches can be taken in answering questions about your weaknesses.

Here are 3 ways you can put a positive spin on job candidacy weaknesses:

  1. Lack of experience
    Lack of experience is a top weakness among job seekers. If you are asked about working with a specific technology and you do not have experience in that technology, you should talk about a similar technology that you have worked with. If you do not have any experience and your education is recent, you can reference the technology you used in your studies. If you have no experience in the area the interviewer is asking about, speak about your skills and attributes that prove that you are a fast learner. If you are willing to put in your own time to learn that skill, let the interviewer know that you will study after hours to pick up that skill.
  2. Job hopping
    It’s undeniable that employers prefer job seekers with a stable work history. Stable no longer means decades of working at the same company. It typically means 2- 5 years with the same company. Changing jobs too quickly can make employers think it just won’t be worth their investment in training you. On the other hand, if you stay too long with your current employer, employers think you have not seen enough variety of how other companies operate. People change jobs for a myriad of reasons, for example a spouse was transferred, your employer was acquired and your position was eliminated, or you relocated to assist your elderly parents. In those instances, you can put your reason for leaving next to the dates on your resume to help you to secure an interview, also be sure and point out those reasons during the interview.
  3. I am assertive
    A number of people view assertive people as arrogant and dominating. Assertive people tend to exude self-assurance and confidence that may be misconstrued as being bossy. You may want to tell your prospective employer that you consider your assertiveness as a desirable communication skill where you are honest and respectfully interact with your co-workers. When you assert your views, you solve problems and take responsibility. There is a fine line between being assertive and aggressive and you need to communicate that you understand the difference. Being assertive is also a healthy alternative to submission.

 

 

 

Dump the Slump

It has arrived. Your eyes feel sandpapery as you struggle to keep them open. Your whole body feels weighted, but your computer screen continues to glare, reminding you that you’re not quite done yet or even worse you have to attend a meeting.

If you’re tired (ha!) of barely keeping your eyelids at half-mast, here are some ideas to help you out—short of implementing mandatory naptime at your work, of course.

  • Interact

Rather than sending that work-related email, go and talk to the recipient directly. Talking, smiling and laughing with others will go a long way towards helping you conquer the drowsiness and build relationships, which is key to growing your career. More than ever, employers are searching for candidates that can build business and vendor relationships. This one has double benefits, as it helps your body wake up and it also relieves the strain on your eyes.

  • Get Up

The benefits of movement cannot be overstated. Getting up and moving around can be one of the best ways to wake yourself up. Now, this doesn’t allow you to wander the office for the next 2 hours. Taking five minutes to get up, stretch, walk to the water cooler can have great benefits.

If your job involves having to go out of the office during the day, schedule any outings for this time of day. You’ll be up, moving, and active, and you won’t even have to consciously think of this step.

  • Snack

Not all snacks are equally good for you. A candy bar has a quick energy surge, but an even quicker drop. Opt instead for fruit or veggies, nuts or dark chocolate. Bring something that has good nutrition that you can also enjoy.

Don’t forget water either. Most of us don’t drink nearly as much water as we should, but staying properly hydrated can go a long way toward helping you to stay awake and alert throughout the day. Doctors recommend at least 64 oz. a day.

  • Plan Ahead

Lasting throughout the day without hitting a slump starts with getting a good night’s rest the night before. You know your limits, and you know the consequences of pushing those.

Also, consider what you’re eating throughout the day. Experts say that breakfast is the most important meal of the day for a reason. Find what you like, but also consider the long-lasting health benefits of those foods. Yogurt and whole-grain cereal are just a couple of the many options at your disposal. Same goes for lunch. Protein is a go for lunch, while you may want to cut back a bit on the carbs.

Just getting through the day can be a chore when drowsiness hits you like a truck. Don’t let yourself or your career be beaten by it! Plan ahead, interact, do a few cartwheels (it will certainly help your coworkers wake up:), or just take the stairs whenever you can. There are plenty of options to pull you out of the slump and the added benefit is that it can give your career a real jump.

4 Tips for Writing a Short, Focused and Impactful Resume

A resume is an important stepping stone to getting you an interview. If you applied online, assume your resume will be the view of a computer screen and you want the most impactful information to fit on that screen. With that in mind, here are a few easy tips to keep your resume short, sweet, and successful.

  1. Less is more.
    Many professional resume writers will attest to this: it’s much easier to write a long resume than a shorter one. Being concise on paper requires strategy, effort, and time. It’s much easier, but less effective, to provide a laundry list of weak job descriptions. Putting energy into a long resume “booklet” is a waste of time, because most hiring managers and recruiters are interested only in the professional summary and the most recent experience — both of which should fit easily within the first page.  A long-winded resume also signals that you’re unable to prioritize your skills and accomplishments, and prioritization is an essential skill in most professions. If you’re struggling to edit your resume down to size, ask yourself, “Does it relate closely to the job I’m applying for? Does this sentence make a strong impression on the reader?” If the answer is no, chances are it should be axed.
  1. Tell the hiring manager/recruiter/ talent acquisition specialist about your accomplishments, not your departmental objectives
    Your resume is not a copy of your job description. Resumes can come across weak and passive, merely listing what an employee was “responsible for.” Many resumes fall victim to this trap when instead they should highlight your skills and specific achievements. It’s the difference between “responsible for the network team” and “reorganized the network team to a 3-tier support model which improved our response time.” The latter is active, specific, and impactful – all qualities which a hiring manager is seeking.  By eliminating, or at least significantly abbreviating, the list of mere duties and responsibilities, your resume will become much more concise and focused, demonstrating what hiring managers really want: someone with a penchant for action. If it is important, include it, if not, cut it.
  1. There is strength in numbers.
    When listing your professional accomplishments, try to quantify as many of them as possible. Vague accomplishments prompt red flags. Specific examples like project completed before deadline (time and/ or money saved), reducing software license costs, size of team you managed directly (headcount), budgets, etc. help sell your resume to get you that interview you desire.
  1. Formatting IS important.
    Certainly, the content of your resume is the most important element of all, but even the most accomplished candidates can shoot themselves in the foot with poor formatting. Common blunders include text that is too frilly or too large (can seem juvenile) or text that is too small (can be illegible). Additionally, unless you’re applying to a truly out-of-the-box creative agency, most employers are looking for clean, simple fonts, not revolutionary typography. Indeed, the applicant tracking systems (ATS) that scan, parse, and rank your resume may choke if they encounter an uncommon font style. The moral of the story: keep font and formatting clean and simple. A resume with a sentence spilling onto an additional page will appear less assertive and compelling, sloppy even. The resume is often the first visual impression you make, so make sure it’s a strong one!

Assessments as Part of the Job Process

You have been through a phone interview and a face-to- face interview, now you are asked to take an assessment.

What does that mean?  Many employers use assessments as part of the interview tool kit.

We spoke to Leadership Alliance (http://www.leadershipall.com), a company that does assessments and asked questions we thought might be helpful to you:

Why are companies using assessments? 

Hiring managers are looking for an objective measure to help assess the critical competencies in the role.  Information from assessments can enhance understanding of a potential employee’s personality, preferred workstyle, culture, and skills.  Assessments focus on various factors, but overall, they are measuring cognitive abilities and work-related personality.

These assessments are expensive. A company is making an investment in the candidate and wants to predict fit and job success for the candidate and employer.

How are the results of my assessment used?

A good company uses this information as a data point.  Companies who use it appropriately use it consistently and as one factor in addition to traditional sources such as references, interviews, job track record, and academic performance.

Can I prepare for the test?

You can’t prepare.  The best thing to do is to get a good night’s sleep, eat breakfast, relax, don’t overthink it.  Our note – read the instructions carefully before starting.  If the assessment is online and you can choose when and where to take it, make sure you are in a quiet environment and have a glass of water available and turn off your phone. If you get stressed, take 3 deep breaths and get refocused.

Can people “game the tests” and manipulate the results?

People can try, but the test usually picks it up

What if a test finds my weaknesses?

If you are weak in something, that may not be an issue for the company, but it is important to know where you are most likely to find success in your new company. Often this information lets the prospective employer where they need to coach you to improve. Remember, everyone has opportunities for improvement.

What if I have a learning disability or dyslexia?

It is important to let the tester know if you need an accommodation when taking the test.

What if English is not my first language?

Notify the person giving the test that English is not your first language.

Final thoughts?

Companies give assessments because they want to know if you will thrive and be successful in their organization.  So, be yourself and don’t stress about the test!

Social Media Errors that are Affecting Your Job Hunt

What you say online could cost you your next job offer. Contrary to what some people may think, who you are online is not disconnected from who you are in your day-to-day work life. People filter their tweets and posts less and less, while potential employers are checking out social profiles more and more. No matter how sure you are that what you’ve posted, tweeted, or shared is private, it’s not. Here are some things not to include on your social media or any other online accounts.

Inflammatory statements

Especially with your professional accounts, you don’t need to state your political affiliation. As much as you might like to engage in a debate about your favorite or least favorite political candidate, resist the urge. You don’t need your potential employer viewing your professional account and finding long rants or heated conversations with other people. Everyone has opinions and expressing them is good. But there is a time and place for that. Social media, even if it’s your private account, may not be the best place to do so.

Complaints about previous jobs

If you actually say the name of your boss, coworker, or company, you could get passed over for the next promotion or job offer. Venting your frustrations online about your job or co-workers is never appropriate. Choose instead to talk it over with a trusted friend. What you have to say may be true, but it creates a poor impression of you. After all, if you lacked discretion then, your potential employer is probably wondering would you do the same to them.

Playing when you should be working

If you are posting and liking posts or tweets during work hours that may give your employer the impression you are not giving 100% during your work day.

Also, requesting time off work for a “family emergency” and then posting pictures of yourself on a beautiful golf course is not going to end well for you. Lying to your boss is obviously poor judgment and will reflect badly on you.

A good rule of thumb is to keep your personal and professional accounts separate. Don’t let the two mix. Stay professional on your LinkedIn and Twitter professional accounts. On your personal accounts, simply use good judgment.

Fun Pictures from College

Believe it or not, if you have a picture from your college days, maybe as a previous profile pic on Facebook, it could work against you. Especially if said picture is you doing a shot or some other questionable picture. Employers look through your posts and pictures and finding an image, even from way-back-when that is questionable could work against you.

Anything Illegal

Whether it’s a joking reference or not, avoid this at all costs. Online, you can’t decipher tone or context, so no one really knows what you mean by what you said. Any illegal activity on your part could get you in trouble with the law and would reflect poorly on your company. Don’t reference anything illegal and keep your reputation pristine.

Personal Branding and Marketing Yourself

A personal brand is all about what people know you for. Ideally, you want them to associate you with a specific thing, a niche so that when they see or hear your name, they think of success in that area. People need to think of you as a leader or expert in that area. Personal branding is all about finding what you’re good at, prioritizing, putting yourself out there, and sharing what you know with others.

Discover Yourself

So how do you start? Well, it’s not as mystical as it sounds. Very simply, think about what makes you unique. What do you bring to your job, business, the world that is different? What are your strengths? And then combined with that, what do you enjoy doing and are passionate about? You may be good at a certain thing because it was drilled into you, but if it’s not your passion, you won’t stick with it. Make a list of what makes you unique, what your talents are, and then cross-reference that with your passions.

Grow

Now that you’ve figured out what makes you you, grow in that area. Learn about it more, take your strengths to greater heights. Do what you need to become an expert in that area. You need to learn enough, be experienced enough, practice enough to be the go-to person in this area. Your personal brand is no use to you if you can’t do it well or even better than anyone else. This is continuous. You never stop learning, growing, and developing. Doing so is critical to successfully branding yourself.

Prioritize

You know what you’re good at, so don’t let your attention get snagged by other things. Set goals for yourself that are in line with your strengths and uniqueness. Prioritize the growth of your personal brand. Do what it takes to develop it. When other opportunities arise, use your goals as a measure of whether you should pursue them.

Share

Now that you’ve accumulated all this knowledge, it’s time to put it out there. You will never develop your personal brand if you don’t impart your value to others. Find the platform that works best for you, whether it’s social media, a website, or both and start making noise. Don’t be obnoxious, but participate in discussions, write articles, and generally make it known that you have some knowledge in your area. Use your network to spread the word. By helping people there, they’ll tell others, and so on.

Creating a personal brand is a great asset in today’s business world. It does take work and effort, but it’s not impossible or only available for the elite. In fact, it’s all about becoming one of those elite by being an expert in your niche.