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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.

Making the Most of Multitasking with Technology

The rapid advancement of technology throughout the last few decades has led to huge leaps forward in our ability to collaborate, produce, and multitask in the workplace.  There is always something vying for your attention, and what begins as an easy way to streamline work and get more done at once can quickly become a confusing mess of tasks and programs to keep track of. By optimizing your technology and making the most of your multitasking capabilities, you can maximize the upside while minimizing the downside of the never-ending workflow.

  1. Consolidate

Most people are guilty of it: you have multiple programs that all essentially do the same thing. Did you share those notes on Slack or Evernote? Did you send that message from your personal or your work email?  It’s easy to see how the relative convenience of these applications can become horribly complex.

To eliminate this problem, you need to consolidate as much as possible. Pick the platform that best fits your needs and stick to it. At most, you should only have separate calendars for work and personal events, but the easiest will be to have everything consolidated into one. This enables you to see your day at a glance, rather than having to check multiple calendars against one another before confirming a meeting. This principle can be applied across all your technologies. Wherever possible, consolidate down to just one email, client, collaboration platform, and storage service.

  1. Integrate

The ability to integrate services, devices, and platforms into one another is incredibly helpful when it comes to getting more done at once, and you should take full advantage of this to optimize your multitasking. Now that you’ve pared down to just one calendar, set it up on both your work computer and mobile devices then integrate it into as many of the services you use as possible, so that you can multitask seamlessly between whatever device or program you happen to be using at the time.  This way, the next time you need to send an email confirming a meeting on your calendar while on a conference call, you can do it all from a single device.

  1. Automate

Automation is where multitasking starts to get really cool.  Services like If This, Then That (IFTTT.com) allow you to consolidate, integrate, and automate the various technologies in your life in a big way. From your car to your weather app, these user-friendly “applettes” allow you to automate your multitasking completely. You can mute your phone upon entering the office, send a text to your spouse when you leave, and have your garage door open when your car is in the driveway without even lifting a finger. Whether you use IFTTT or find other ways to automate your tech to best fit your individual needs, being able to automate your tasks will be the way that you turn the tables from having to multitask yourself to having multiple tasks complete themselves while you focus your attention on the areas that need it the most.

Finally, stop spending mental energy trying to multitask and automate these optimized technologies to do the legwork for you. Multitasking doesn’t have to be a trial-by-fire splitting of your attention. With the capabilities we have today, it can instead mean getting to focus on just one thing at a time, while you’re still simultaneously “doing it all.”

3 Tips to Boost your Credibility at the Office

Success in your career is contingent on one important thing: getting people to take you seriously. If you want to move forward in your career, then you need to make sure that you’re building credibility with the people that you’re working with. Here are a few things that you can do to build more credibility with coworkers, your boss, and hiring managers:

  1. Be a Good Listener
    People love to talk about themselves, and they want to be heard. When people are talking about themselves, it actually stimulates a portion of the brain to trigger pleasurable emotions.  If you want to make a good impression with someone, then you should ask questions and let them talk. This process will form social bonds and increase the likelihood that they will have a favorable memory of the interaction.
  2. Do Your Homework and Take Action
    It’s important to know what you’re talking about to add valuable insights and information to the project. The best way to provide value to the project is by researching the topic and preparing in advance so that you show up to the meeting with good insights to share with the group. Make sure to follow through with the things that you’re suggesting. You don’t want to be the person who is all talk and no action. The follow-up is even more important than the presentation of the idea.
  1. Master the Art of Public Speaking
    Whether you’re sitting in an interview or presenting an idea in a board meeting, you need to have the skills to clearly and succinctly share your message with the group. Pay attention to small details, such as the intonation of your voice, how many times you use filler words like “um”, and the clarity and emotion of your words as you speak. Try to incorporate stories into your presentations, stories capture the attention of everyone in the room and they leave a stronger impression than boring facts and statistics.

By implementing these tips, you can improve your confidence in the workplace, and that confidence will naturally encourage people to take you seriously. Make sure to maintain this confidence and stay humble at the same time, because finding the right balance will help you achieve higher levels of success in your career.

Enhance your career through employer paid training and development

On average over $1,200 is spent per employee every year on direct learning expenditures (Fortune.com). According to a report cited by Monster, employee training and development is a $4.5 billion industry and an important part of an employee compensation package.

Depending on your goals, you may be eligible to utilize the learning and development benefit for tuition reimbursement, technical skill enhancement and certification, leadership seminars or management effectiveness training.

Why does your company pay for learning and development?  Most employers find that offering this benefit results in a more engaged employee and results in higher retention.  44% of employees surveyed (HBR.org) consider employer paid training to be more important than a salary increase.

If you are not taking advantage of the opportunity for paid skill and learning enhancement, you should!

A few tips: Make sure to research the opportunity that interests you and know why.  Speak to your supervisor and make sure your interest in additional education or training is known. Find out about the approval process. In addition to your own training plan, take advantage of companywide seminars and training opportunities.

If your company does not currently offer the option, below are a few ways to make it happen: 

Build a business case:

Create a mini cost-benefit analysis. Show why an investment in you is a win for your employer. Research the skills-training programs your competitors and industry leaders employ, come prepared with some quantitative information on why it pays to invest in your training, and try to find current or recent projects and skills gaps in which additional training could be helpful. All of this information will help your boss make a case for the development investment.

Tailor your request:

In a perfect world, the training and development budget would be unlimited. You need to set your expectations appropriately and make sure that what you’re asking to be funded is within reason and relevant to the business. Get specific when you ask about developmental opportunities – find new technologies or skills that can add immediate value. Be reasonable in your requests for a learning budget and be specific about what you want to accomplish and how it can help the organization.

Prepare for the meeting:

Armed with your cost benefit analysis, and the information about why the training will be a win-win, making a learning budget request should be easy. It’s probably not every day that you have cause to build a business case and petition leadership for a budget. For that reason, even the process of asking for employer-paid training is a great developmental opportunity.

Don’t be discouraged your request isn’t approved right away. Continue to look for development opportunities to help the organization. Your ambition and acumen won’t go unnoticed, and you may find yourself getting some once-in-a-lifetime learning opportunities out of the deal.