How To Build Your Leadership Skills

stefan-stefancik-257625-unsplash.jpg

At some point on your career journey, you will probably be handed a leadership role. Maybe you will be asked to lead a team project or give a presentation. Or maybe you will oversee an entire branch of the company. Maybe an Executive position is even in your future! For whatever role you may be handed, it’s important to continuously build on your leadership skills. This will ensure long-term career success and will build your confidence.

Here are a few ways to develop professional leadership skills:

1. Take a personality test. Taking a personality test can be helpful when trying to determine what your strengths and weaknesses are. While it is important to understand your strengths and use them to your advantage, it is also equally imperative to understand where you can improve. It’s important to remember that weaknesses are not your downfall but rather areas you need to develop and build. Understanding what those weaknesses will provide better perspective for how you function individually and with a team. Personality tests are a fun and interesting way to learn more about yourself and develop your leadership skills.

There are a lot of personality tests out there; the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) Assessment personally changed Holly’s life and early career trajectory, so it’s our go-to when working with clients.

“The MBTI® Assessment is the most trusted and widely-used personality assessment tool. Supported by over 50 years of scientific research, as many as 1.5 million assessments are administered annually to employees of Fortune 100 and 500 companies, students and alumni at leading colleges and universities, and individuals seeking personal and professional growth. The MBTI® assessment provides insight into how we interact with the world, take in information, make decisions, and structure our environment, providing a powerful framework through which we can understand our own and others' behavior.”

Learn more about how you can invest in the MBTI® assessment.

2. Become a better listener. A great leader knows when to listen and when to direct. Being able to listen to ideas and suggestions can be a challenging skill to master but can make all the difference. Improving your listening skills can not only be beneficial to you but to the entire organization. It builds trust, respect and shows that you care.

3. Take initiative by volunteering beyond your job. Most companies have important work that isn’t getting done. Ask your company if you can help in these areas. Volunteering for extra tasks can help you expand your skill set while simultaneously helping the company. It shows your boss and others that you are not afraid to get your
hands dirty and that you want to be a leader.

4. Be a critical thinker, not just a doer. It’s easy to get tasks done, but what about taking it one extra step beyond what is expected of you? Critical thinking can efficiently address problems with new ideas beyond conventional solutions. It can also can give you an opportunity to impact the future of the organization by taking a broad, long-range approach to solving specific problems and making key decisions. View your work through multiple frames using objective analysis, forward thinking and planning. It will make you a strategic leader and a valuable asset to your team.

5. Be a constant learner. The best leaders are the best learners! Continuous learning is the ability to constantly develop your skills in order to perform job related tasks effectively and efficiently. Be a lifelong learner and you will find yourself met with success, both for you and your organization.

Leadership skills are essential in the workplace because they show that you have good interpersonal skills, the ability to coordinate, motivate and shape others decisions.

Posted on May 30, 2018 and filed under Leadership.

The Most Important Person You Need To Impress During An Interview

brooke-lark-609911-unsplash.jpg

Do you know who the most important person to impress during an interview? While it is extremely important to impress your interviewer, impressing the secretary or assistant who is helping you is perhaps even more important.

Secretaries and assistants usually handle emails, scheduling, and are typically your first point of contact. Although it can be very easy to overlook them because they may seem unassuming behind their desk, they are the gatekeeper to the entire organization and are paid to weed you out. Leaving a good impression matters because secretaries and assistants can hold more responsibility and influence than most people assume. They absorb everything and filter out what’s important for their boss. Oftentimes, these are the positions that are most trusted in the company.

Showing that you are professional in all circumstances and to everyone, despite their job description, can be the key to getting hired. The following pointers can help ensure you leave a positive lasting impression with the most important person - the assistant or secretary!

  • Know and use their name (Ms. Smith, Mr. Johnson, etc.)
  • Arrive 10-15 minutes prior to the interview time.
  • While you wait, keep your phone out of sight.
  • Be polite and friendly.
  • Keep good posture and body language.
  • Be sure to thank them and say goodbye on your way out.

Remember, they have a relationship with the hiring manager and will reveal if you were rude or unprofessional. Make a positive and lasting influence on the receptionist and it might help your chances of success with the company; create a negative impression and there is a good chance your future with them has reached its end.

For more interview Dos and Don’ts, read this quick guide.

Posted on May 23, 2018 and filed under Interviewing.

How To Spend Your First Summer After Graduation

rawpixel-211022-unsplash.jpg

Summer is here at last! Congratulations on making it through sleepless nights, endless cold brews and hours of cramming for finals. Here are a few ways to make your summer as a graduate productive and enjoyable.

1. Take a trip! If you have just graduated, you have been through a very exciting yet stressful period of your life. From finals, graduation parties, and your actual commencement ceremony…odds are you are also exhausted! There is no better way to reward yourself for this huge accomplishment then to give yourself a break and take a vacation. Not only can traveling help you unwind from a hectic semester, it can also give you a global perspective which is essential in today’s highly connected world. Employers want seasoned candidates that have ventured out into new markets and cultures. Taking a trip abroad can help you jump into the workforce with a clear head and a fresh mindset.

2. Get an internship. If you’re not ready to jump in the workforce just yet, getting an internship can be a smart career move. Internships are a great way to build your network and gain experience without the long-term commitment. Internships can be paid or unpaid. Look for the paid internships, as this is a great way to gain entry level experience while earning extra cash this summer. Who knows… what may start off as an internship can turn into a full-time position.

3. Attend conferences and workshops. Summer is a perfect time to enhance your skill set by attending a local conference or workshop. Attending workshops and conferences can help you in more ways than one. Along with increasing your knowledge in a specific subject area, conferences and workshops simultaneously provide you with a space to network and meet like-minded individuals. If that is not reason enough, conferences/workshops can also help restore motivation and confidence while helping you build personal development skills.

While it is important to take a break to rejuvenate this summer, remember that your first summer as a graduate is the start of your career!

Posted on May 16, 2018 and filed under Career.

Career Tips for Graduates

md-duran-628456-unsplash.jpg

Attention all graduates! As we move towards summer we are also moving towards graduation. Have you begun planning the start of your career yet? There are many things you can do to give your career a kick start. Here are a few tips that will put you at the top of employer’s candidate list:

Tip 1: Polish up your resume and cover letter.

What have you accomplished in 2018? This is the perfect time to reflect on your achievements and projects. It’s also a great idea to get it reviewed and edited for typos and grammatical errors. Getting a fresh set of eyes on your resume will help you find areas of weakness you may have overlooked. If you need help, we offer resume and cover letter packages as a part of our career coaching services!

Tip 2: Start applying now!

It also takes time and research to find the perfect position, so expect this process to take a few months. Once you land an interview, the process at most companies is a long one, with multiple rounds of interviews. The sooner you start applying the closer you are to landing a position.

Tip 3: When sending in applications, expect a phone interview AND an in-person interview.

Many companies and recruiters will conduct a phone interview before asking you to come for an in-person interview. Make sure to research the company beforehand and be prepared to answer questions such as, “Why are you interested in joining the company?” and “What are your career goals?” Don’t forget to prepare your own questions to ask the interviewer - this is your chance to interview them too!

Tip 4: Polish up your social media profiles!

Social media plays a huge role in the search for a great candidate, so make sure you are abiding by social media best practices while on the job hunt. Do your social media profiles communicate who you are as a professional? If it does not, clean up any questionable content and redesign your profile to reflect your best self.

Tip 5: Know your worth!

Do you know how much you’re worth? If you don’t, websites like salary.com can help you determine what your fair market value is. Your fair market value is how much you are worth based on job description, location, education, industry and company size. It could also be beneficial to ask peers who are applying to positions in the same industry what they are expecting to earn. This can help you gain a better overall perspective and answer the question “What is your desired salary?” when it comes up.

Graduation is right around the corner so it’s essential to present yourself in the best light possible. Here are some additional tips on presenting yourself as a valuable asset to the team.

Posted on May 9, 2018 and filed under Career.

How To Follow Up When You Don’t Have Contact Information

kevin-xue-603417-unsplash.jpg

You just wrapped up an interview and hit it out of the park. Now what? Follow up with a thank you! But what if you don’t have the interviewer’s contact information? It’s a pretty common problem, but there are a few things that you can do to follow up:

1. Send a thank you note to the person who scheduled your interview. Although you may not have direct contact information for the interviewer, sending a follow up thank you email to the scheduler - Secretary, Assistant, or HR representative - with a note to pass along the message is acceptable. Here is a template email you can adapt for your own follow up:

(Add contact name),

I wanted to extend my thanks to you for scheduling my phone interview last week. I enjoyed speaking with (insert names of interviewers) and was thrilled to hear about the great work taking place at (insert company name). Would you please pass along my thanks to them as well?

If there is an update on the job process, I'd be honored if you would send me a brief note. I'm excited by the prospect of working with the team.

Thanks again for your time and assistance.

Sincerely,

(Add Your Name)

2. Do some research on LinkedIn or the company website. Check LinkedIn and the company websites to find the email address of the interviewer. Contact information on LinkedIn can be found on the right-hand side of an individual’s profile page.

3. Make an educated guess. Many times, if you have a company email from a secretary or assistant and your interviewer's full name, you can make an educated guess for their company email. For example, if the assistant’s name is Victor Gonzales and the email associated with him is vgonzales@company.com, it is likely that the email of the interviewer follows the same pattern.

Following up can be a difficult task especially when you don’t have the contact information you need. These tips and tricks can be helpful when trying to leave a good impression. For more tips and tricks, visit: Job Search and Interview Follow up Etiquette and I’ve Had an Interview. Now What?

Posted on May 2, 2018 and filed under Interviewing.

3 Reasons You Should Be A Mentor (Even If You’re A Newbie)

Mentor

Who is the person that has shaped and molded your professional career? This person will have given you advice, provided constructive criticism, and assisted in developing your skills - perhaps both interpersonal skills and “hard” skills. Whoever plays this role in your life is your mentor, even if you’ve never identified him or her as such.

Taking the step from being mentored to mentoring is a scary one for many professionals. You may feel that you lack experience or are underqualified to advise someone else in their career. Even if you are just a few months out of college, there is someone out there that will greatly benefit from being mentored by you.

Here’s Three Reasons Why You Should Be A Mentor

1. You are qualified to be a mentor. Sure, you might only be six months in to your very first job out of college or only a few weeks into your new position. But you are further along than someone. Maybe it’s the intern still in college or your new colleague that was hired last week. The bottom line: you are less experienced than some and more experienced than others. Model how you mentor on what worked for you and your mentor. You can even ask your mentor for help to get started.

If you want a structured mentorship experience, there are many mentor programs that can help guide you in the process of finding a mentee and how to effectively develop the relationship. Ask your company if they have a program and conduct research to find industry-specific programs you can join.

2. Mentoring a great way to develop your leadership skills. Getting your feet wet will always be the best way to learn to swim. Similarly, mentoring someone is the best way to learn how to be a mentor! Your leadership skills will be stretched and challenged, improving them in a very real and tangible way.

Asking for feedback from your mentee is an effective way to build your relationship and also to learn where you need to improve. You both can benefit and learn from each other, which takes the pressure off of you.

3. As a mentor, you can help others. Most job satisfaction comes from having a clear purpose and the knowledge that you are bettering the world in some way. Mentorship provides a way for you to invest in the life of someone who needs help in their career. Being a mentor provides an opportunity to see both short- and long-term results of the fruit of your labor. There is nothing quite like knowing you made a positive impact on the life of another human being!

Take some time to list the strengths and benefits you would boast as a mentor. Then, take steps to find someone to mentor!

Posted on April 25, 2018 and filed under Community.

Why You Need To Take A Vacation This Year

Vacation

When was the last time you went on a real vacation that didn’t involve home improvement projects, checking email from a hotel room, or meeting up with clients or colleagues?

Dreaming of sand between your toes, the view from a ski lodge, or the hustle and bustle of your favorite city aren’t enough to refresh and rejuvenate your mind.

If you are thinking of skipping your vacation this year, consider this list from LifeHack.org:  7 Reasons Why Everyone Should Take Vacations Even If You're Busy

Here’s the summary:

  1. Reduce Stress. Stress eventually leads to burnout and your work will suffer as a result. If you want to work at full capacity - take a vacation!

  2. It’s good for your health. Stress leads to physical and mental fatigue. Taking a vacation rejuvenates your body and mind back to optimal performance.

  3. Improve productivity. When there is an end in sight, you’ll be more productive. Allowing yourself to see a stopping point to refuel will improve your productivity dramatically.

  4. Boost creativity. Seeing and experiencing new things gives your mind a boost of creative juices to work with. If you are hitting a wall at work and just don’t know how to move forward, a vacation might be just the thing you need to conquer the issue.

  5. Increase your happiness. I think we can all agree that taking a vacation and doing the things we love most make us happy. For you, maybe it’s sleeping in. For others, maybe it’s waking up early to see the sunrise over the horizon. Whatever it is, do what makes you happy!

  6. Open your mind to new perspective. Vacations will always provide our minds will new perspectives. We meet new people, experience new things, learn new skills. When back at work, you could change how you view a difficult problem or project and illuminate the best way to move forward. A vacation provides a fresh set of eyes to see the problem at hand anew.

  7. You need time for your family and yourself. Last but not least, family-time and/or me-time is unmatched in both mental and physical health. You should be working to live, not living to work.

Take advantage of all of the vacation time your company allows by taking full weeks off at a time. Piecing together long weekends throughout the year is OK, but giving yourself a break for 5 workdays, plus 4 weekend days, equals nine full days of rest and relaxation. At the end of the year, you won’t regret taking the time off!

So where will you be going on vacation this year?

Posted on April 18, 2018 and filed under Career.

Spring Cleaning Your Career Assets

Spring Cleaning Career Assets

We’re a few weeks into Spring - have you tackled your Spring Cleaning yet? Washing windows, cleaning under the couch, scrubbing behind the toilet...these aren’t the most fun tasks in the world. Understandably, most people procrastinate to the point where they might as well just leave the tasks for the following Spring.

While it’s OK to put off your household Spring Cleaning chores, don’t delay Spring Cleaning your career assets, including your:

Why Your Career Assets Need Spring Cleaning

If you are planning to look for a new job in the near future, it’s imperative that your information and resources are up-to-date. But even if you aren’t actively looking for a job, it’s important to regularly update your career assets. In our digital world, you never know who is looking at your online presence!

If you manage a website for your work, ensure that the most recent projects and new skills are added. If you don’t have your own website, check to see if the company you work for has an online bio or other digital resources where your name and information is listed to ensure it’s up-to-date. No matter who is reviewing your information, you want to put your best foot forward.

Networking should happen even when you aren’t looking for a new position. When looking for connections, whether it’s for project collaboration, mentorship, or just professional friendship, having all of your most current information and skills available to share is key to strengthening those relationships. Almost everyone looks up connections on LinkedIn after they first meet, so keeping your profile strong and up-to-date is important.

Your resume and CV will be much easier to update when you need it if you are keeping it current. Instead of scrambling to pull together an amazing resume in a pinch, you’ll only need a few minutes to look it over and make slight adjustments.

Finally, how is your skill set these days? Now is the time to update your list of skills on your resume/CV, LinkedIn profile, etc. But it may also be time to learn more new skills or update certification on those you already have. Time moves quickly and many skills become out of date even after only a year. Keeping up with industry trends and the skills needed to keep pace with your colleagues are critical for career success.

Set a recurring reminder in your calendar to Spring Clean your career assets every year. The time it takes to keep these resources current are well worth the investment for a successful long-term career strategy.

Posted on April 11, 2018 and filed under Career.

5 Ways To Model Healthy Leadership

Healthy Leadership

The textbook definition of “leader” is the person who commands a group or organization. Does this describe you at work? In a community group? At school? Among your peers?

A leader inspires, motivates, and encourages. Ideally, a leader models behavior that others should follow. Realistically, leaders are human and make mistakes. A leader may make a choice that, if others do the same, is not best for the greater good of the group/organization. There are countless examples of unhealthy leadership models in government and corporations alike. Turn on the local or national news tonight and you’re bound to see a handful of fallen leaders making headlines.

While we will all make mistakes in our career, it’s important to intentionally take steps to model healthy behavior for ourselves and for the good of those who follow us. If we don’t do this, we’ll burn out and grow stagnant in our success. Our followers will do the same. There are easy-to-implement steps we can take to ensure we are great leaders and are instilling healthy habits in our followers.

Here are five ways to model healthy leadership in your career:

  1. Make work/life balance a priority. If you are regularly going home only to shower and sleep a few hours before returning to work, you don’t have a healthy work/life balance. Similarly, if you haven’t taken a vacation in years, you don’t have a healthy work/life balance. If your followers see you burning the candle at both ends year-after-year, you are setting a precedent - this is how you lead and what you expect from other leaders in your group. There is a lot of research out there about why taking time off is good for your brain and productivity, so make sure you are balancing your time.

  2. Surround yourself with wise counsel. Everyone needs advice. Even Presidents and Kings have cabinets and courts to advise them in many different situations. It doesn’t matter how high up the corporate ladder you climb, seeking the opinion of a trusted friend, mentor, or colleague will result in success. This success will either be in your decision making, in your relationship building, or both. Either way, it’s a win-win. There is never a downside to seeking wise counsel.

  3. Collaborate, don’t divide. One of your goals as a leader should be to raise up people who can become leaders, too. This multiplies your team’s time and manpower, resulting in increased productivity and overall success. It also lends well to the philosophy that, “two heads are better than one” when considering your options and making the most informed decisions.

  4. Actively listen. One way you can earn the respect of your followers is to actively listen to what they have to say. If they want to offer feedback on your performance, listen intently, then consider the how and when this feedback applies. If they want to propose a new or different way of doing something, don’t brush them off. Not only will you earn respect, you might be pleasantly surprised by their amazing ideas! Learn more about how to actively listen here.

  5. Practice humility. No one likes to work for a leader who is arrogant. Balance your strengths and skills with the recognition that you can always improve. Practicing the previous four models of healthy leadership will naturally instill humility, as you realize that there are many people who can help and provide assistance to reach goals better than you could on your own. It’s not about you - it’s about the team and the overall good of your team and the projects you tackle.

What else would you add to this list? How do you model healthy leadership in your workplace?

 

Posted on April 6, 2018 and filed under Leadership.

Working with Different Personality Styles

Personality Types

Different personalities playing themselves out in the workplace can be very frustrating, comical, and entertaining. That’s why TV shows like The Office and Parks and Recreation are so popular. People can relate to these real-world characters. Either you are one of the characters or you know one!

There are so many personality tests out there, but the most widely used and most trusted is The Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® (MBTI®) Assessment. Our team of Certified MBTI® Practitioners provide consultations, and we’ve seen incredible results for both individuals and teams. We typically work on identifying personality types, and then provide coaching on how to interact with other personality types.

Let’s think through some scenarios of how personality types play out in the workplace using the TV show “The Office” as our example. (If you’re interested, here is an entire conversation thread about each character’s MBTI® type. Below is a summary of one person’s opinion from that thread.)

The “Michael Scott”: Do you have a boss that is extraverted, craves attention, procrastinates and is impressively loud? This type of personality is a great leader but needs coworkers that can be “the voice of reason” as needed.

The “Dwight Schrute”: Do you work with someone who has an amazing attention to detail but lacks the social tact to go with it? Tasks are more important than people, and while the job will always get done, some hurt some feelings will be left in the wake of success.

The “Jim Halpert”: Introverted, but a goofball, this person doesn’t readily open up to those around him or her, which can cause relationships to take a long time to develop between coworkers. It can also cause feuds that may disrupt work efficiency.

The “Pam Beesly”: Very emotional and not the greatest leader, Pam isn’t incredibly productive but does bring good ideas to the table. She is loyal but easily gets bored with work.

Why Personality Types Matter

While the TV show characters are dramatic for entertainment purposes, we can all relate to working with many personality types. It’s difficult to work with people that clash with your standard way of operating. Even with these rifts, recent studies have shown that collaboration directly links to higher revenue. At the end of the day, we want our positions, our teams, and our companies to be profitable. The great news is that all personalities can learn to work together and form productive, profitable teams.

Successful collaboration within internal teams and alongside external partners requires effective communication, conflict management, stress management, and leadership skills. There are many tools, resources, and attainable skills that anyone can learn to collaborate with other personality types effectively. Hiring a career coach and MBTI® consultant is the best way to ensure success in this area.

Are you interested in taking a MBTI® Assessment or having your entire team do so? The Wilbanks Consulting Group provides tailored workshops to groups, and career coaching to individuals, allowing teams and individuals to move forward quickly with the clarity and agility required to excel.  Learn more about MBTI® and schedule your assessment today!

Posted on March 27, 2018 and filed under Leadership, Search Strategy.

How to answer “What’s your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?”

Strength Weaknesses

Interviewer: “What’s your greatest strength and your greatest weakness?”

Interviewee: “My strength is that I have no weaknesses.”

Please don’t answer the classic interview question like this. No one is weakness free! And while this isn’t a trick question, it is a question that is meant to reveal how you view yourself, your confidence level, and your forward-thinking skills. Most of the time, interviews don’t actually care what the strength and weakness are - they want to hear how you handle a self-assessment.

Here’s the key: There is always something you can be working to improve, and this question opens the door to show interviewers that you are actively working on an area or skill.

Here’s 5 easy steps to prepare for this classic interview question:

Step 1: Write down your honest answer to this question. You don’t have to show it to anyone at this point, so be truthful!

Step 2: Ask your best friend to answer the question for you. Ask them to be honest, but helpful. In all the time you’ve known this person, what do they see as your greatest strength and weakness?

Step 3: Ask a close colleague to answer the question for you. Your best friend will answer a bit differently than a colleague. Having the two perspectives will be insightful.

Step 4: Compare notes. Were any of the answers similar? How were they different? Do you agree or disagree with their assessment? Spend some time to think through the responses and form one coherent and honest answer that is appropriate for an interview. Bonus points if you can tailor your response to the specific position you are interviewing for!

Step 5: Come up with a plan to address your weakness. It’s important to not just answer the question with the strength and the weakness, but to include a plan of action for improvement that is already in place. Here’s a great example from an author:

“I’m really creative when it comes to brainstorming topics for my writing and I’m quick to lay out an outline. My weakness lies in catching the details. I sometimes struggle to catch the small stuff when editing, but I think being aware of the problem is half the battle. In addition, I’m working to improve on this by taking editing classes and allocating more time to review work before it leaves my desk.”

Everyone should prepare for this question. Having a thought-out and plan-of-action will leave a great impression with your interviewer.

Want more interview tips? Read How to present yourself as a team player.

What Is Your Body Language Saying During An Interview?

Body Language

Imagine you are at an interview and are sitting in a very comfortable office chair across from your interviewer.

You are probably imagining what the interviewer and the room look like. Forget about them. Imagine what YOU are doing in this scenario.

Are you shifting your weight in your chair? How is your posture? What are your hands doing? Where are your eyes looking?

Your body is always communicating to others. At home, at work, at the grocery store. The way you stand, your posture, your facial expressions, eye contact (or lack thereof), and personal “quirks” are all speaking something to those around you. Not with verbal words, but with body language.

If you’ve never thought about these things as they pertain to the job search, now is a great time to start. Your body language says just as much, if not more about yourself and your interest in a position than your words.

Posture

How you sit speaks loudly about your current mood and thoughts. Look down and observe how you are sitting right now. Are you laying on the couch with your laptop (casual)? Are you reading this on your phone while you pace the floor at the doctor’s office(impatient)? Are you sitting at your desk with your feet flat on the floor and back straight (productive)? Are you slouching (discouraged)?

Several years ago, I was interviewing a young woman who was sitting with one arm draped over the chair beside her and her legs spread widely - like a baseball player sitting on the bench. She was also chewing gum. I remember this particular interview well because her body language suggested she was not taking the interview very seriously and didn’t care one iota about what I thought of her.

Another interviewee’s brow was furrowed and his arms were crossed across his chest the entire duration of our time together. He didn’t seem happy to be at the interview, and exuded an arrogant demeanor by his stance.

Over the next several days, notice what your body is saying in different circumstances, personally and professionally. Ask the person you are with about what your body language is suggesting your mood or thoughts are. You might be surprised at how clearly your body language speaks!

Eye Contact

You should always look your interviewer directly in the eyes. It can be uncomfortable if you aren’t used to doing it. Practice looking directly at your own eyes in a mirror to adjust to the new habit. Try to match a pleasant facial expression with your eye contact. Once you feel you are ready, try practicing with others. When you are checking out at the grocery store, look the clerk in the eyes as you interact. You can practice this skill every time you speak with someone, making it a quick habit to strengthen.

During yet another interview I was conducting, one particular woman checked her watch every five minutes and kept looking behind me at the door. I cut the interview short as it was crystal clear that she was anxious to be done with our time together.

Put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes, by thinking of a real-world example. Have you ever been talking with a colleague or friend and he or she never looks at your eyes, but instead looks at their computer or phone? In that moment, their eyes told you that whatever was on that screen was more important to them than you and what you had to say. Eye contact reveals distraction and priority, and that’s especially true in an interview setting.

You can see how body language and eye contact are important. Don’t dismiss the powerful language your body and eyes speak. Pay attention in every aspect of your life and you might be surprised to find you are often sending messages that you thought you were keeping internally.

Posted on March 13, 2018 and filed under Interviewing, Career.

Tips for Handling Interview Nervousness

Interview

If you are taking the correct steps to showcase your value while applying for jobs, you will land an interview. Interviews are standard practice in the hiring process to ensure a candidate is not only qualified, but also the right fit for the company. It’s normal to be nervous for an interview - all eyes are on you!

One particular nerve-wracking interview that I had out of college was 3 hours long and involved me being shuttled from one office to another. I met with almost everyone in the small, family-owned company for “mini” interviews (over 10 of them!) and also had to take a three part skills test on a computer. Going in to a three hour interview, I was incredibly nervous. I was afraid that I would forget someone’s name, that I wouldn’t pass the skills test, or that the fast-paced interviews would damper my ability to showcase my value.

In that interview, and any interview you may face, the challenge is to think about it for what it really is: a meeting where both you and the interviewer are trying to figure out the best fit for the position.

Bottom Line: It’s not just you being interviewed, it’s you interviewing the company and your potential future colleagues. If you don’t think the workplace culture is a fit for you, then you don’t have to take the job if it’s offered. Keeping this mindset takes a lot of the pressure off of you and puts some on the interviewer.

Keeping that perspective, here are a few tips to manage nervousness and start your interview with confidence:

  • Research. Know as much about the company as you can before your interview. Most employers will casually ask, “What do you know about our company?” Stammering through a half-right answer won’t help your confidence or leave a good impression. Be prepared and know who it is your interviewing with.

  • Prepare your own questions. Remember, you are interviewing the company too! Come with a list of questions that you want to know as a potential employee. Here are some great examples:  

    • Can you explain a bit more about the company’s {insert project here}?

    • How are the company teams structured?

    • What opportunities for advancement come with this position?

    • What is your favorite thing about working here?

    • Do you feel that you have friends at work?

  • Put your best foot forward. This is an obvious one, but it’s so important. Dress professionally. Bring copies of your resume, just in case. Be on time. Act courteously and graciously. If you do these things, you can be confident you will make a great first impression.

  • Do a mock interview. It may sound or feel awkward, but practicing for an interview with a career coach is one of the best things you can do to prepare. This practice will empower you to answer questions with confidence and equip you with a plan for presenting your value.

Still feeling unsure of yourself? We’d love to help you build confidence and increase your chance for success. Contact your personal career coach today!

Active Listening

active listening

There is a big difference between hearing and listening. Have you ever been talking with someone and just knew they weren’t listening? When you ask, “Are you listening?” the response is something like, “Yes, I heard you!”

Perceiving sounds is hearing.

Mentally processing and understanding what you’ve heard is listening.

What is Active listening?

Active listening is a strategy that provides tools to not only listen intently, but also proves to your conversation partner that you are engaged in the conversation. Active listening is a skill that takes practice and will immediately yield positive results in whatever conversations you have on a daily basis.

During an interview, it is imperative that you are an active listener. If you aren’t engaged, it will reflect poorly on your professionalism, your qualifications, and your ability to work with others.

Strategies to be an Active Listener

There are five basic steps to follow in order to be an active listener. They are straightforward and easy to implement, so you can start practicing immediately!

  • Eye contact - Direct eye contact makes is clear that the interviewer has your undivided attention. If you are wandering the room with your eyes, you seem disinterested or distracted.

  • Acknowledge - Acknowledge that you heard what the interviewer said.

    • “That’s a great point,” or “I understand” are great acknowledgement statements.

  • Clarify - Ensure you heard and understand what is being said by clarifying.

    • “If I am hearing you correctly, the number one skill you are looking for in this position is exceptional problem solving. Is that correct?”

  • Paraphrase - Repeating back what the interviewer has just said is a great way to be an active listener. Of course, it needs to be natural, so don’t repeat back like a parrot. Paraphrase instead.

    • “I agree 100%. One of the biggest problems in the workplace is lack of teamwork and miscommunication.”

  • Respond - When asked a question or given a statement or fact, respond appropriately. Even if you don’t understand, it’s better to respond than ignore.

    • “Thank you for laying out the responsibilities of the role. I’d love to share a bit about how my skills can help in these areas.” or “I’m not quite sure I understand. Do you mind going over this again with me?”

Some of these steps may seem unnatural at first if you aren’t used to them. For example, eye contact can be very uncomfortable to some! Practice with people you know and trust first and then gradually start utilizing your skills with others. It will get easier with time!

The great news is that active listening is a skill that will help you in interviews and in every life situation, personally and professionally. You can use active listening to improve interactions with your colleagues, significant other, children, friends, and even strangers!

Posted on February 28, 2018 and filed under Search Strategy, Leadership.

How to Present Yourself as a Team Player

Team player

One of the most common interview questions is, “In what ways are you a team player?”

It’s a tough question to answer, especially if this is an area of weakness for you. In every interview, you should expect and prepare for a variation of this question.

Why Do Interviewers Ask This Question?

There isn’t a job on the planet that doesn’t include working with other people. Even if you work from home, you still have to check in with someone to receive your instructions, or at the very least, to get paid! If you own your own business, you have clients or customers. If you are an author, you have an editor or publisher. If you work with computers, you have a supervisor. You will always have to work with people!

Hiring managers need to ensure that workplace disputes are minimized by hiring folks that are open to constructive criticism, direct feedback, and can adjust their working style based on the needs of the entire team. Employees that have strong team players are more satisfied in their positions. Happy employees result in higher project success rates and lower turnover. Thus, teamwork is important to companies, because it is all around better for business!

How To Present Yourself As A Team Player

Step 1: Find the truth. The first step to answering this question is to examine yourself in order to answer it truthfully. Take a few minutes to brainstorm how you’ve been a team player in the past, while on the job, at school, or while completing a community project. One variation of the team player question is, “Tell me how you’ve been a team player in the past,” so having this information in your back pocket is helpful.

Step 2: Write out your attributes. Once you’ve brainstormed some past examples, pull out the attributes you exemplified that made you such a great team player in those situations. For example, you might write “strong communication skills” or “ability to implement colleagues’ ideas for a positive solution.” Try to list 3-5 attributes.

Step 3: Prepare an answer using the position as the backdrop. Look at a job posting and envision how you could be a good team player in that specific role. Answer “How are you a team player?” by putting yourself in the role you are interviewing for. This is a great strategy to show you understand the position and its responsibilities, highlighting you as qualified and valuable. Here’s an example of what this might look like:

“I love working with others. In this role as account manager, I would brainstorm with others solutions to the client’s problem at hand, allowing everyone to provide their ideas and work with the entire team to process the best option. Some people are great idea-generators while others are effective “devils advocates.” Using everyone’s skills together will improve the quality of the solutions we propose to our clients.”

Pro tip: You can use this three step method to prepare for any interview question!

Prepare For Your Interview With A Career Coach

Our team of professional career coaches would love to help you prepare for your interview by tackling difficult questions like this one and strengthening your many other interview skills. Contact us to get matched with your career coach today!

 

Posted on February 21, 2018 and filed under Interviewing, Search Strategy.

Should you work with your significant other?

Working with your significant other

Some significant others work really well together. Take the powerhouse design couple, Chip and Joanna Gaines. Not only do they work together, they live out their professional and personal lives on television! From the public’s point of view, they seem to have it all together.

Then there are other couples who separate because of a falling out that started over a workplace conflict. Many celebrities split after working together, but it’s a common occurrence in any industry.  It’s a fine line to balance between work and romance. Regardless of if a romantic relationship works or not, workplace romances can make for tricky situations.

In many corporations, it is against the rules to have a romantic relationship with a coworker. Similarly, many places of employment won’t even consider hiring a candidate if their spouse is already employed. From a human resources perspective, romance makes professional relationships messy, can affect project integrity, and plummet productivity for many reasons.

Even when relationships aren’t against the rules, a romance can make the workplace environment difficult for you. If you are considering applying or accepting a position at your significant other’s place of employment, there are many questions to ask and topics to discuss. You’ll want to be 100% open and honest with your significant other, and likewise allow him or her to be 100% open and honest with you. You’ll also want to be just as transparent with the hiring manager/supervisor. Hidden secrets or ignored areas of tension will only cause problems for everyone in the future.

Here are a list of questions to consider before working with your significant other:

  • What is your motivation for working together?

  • What is the biggest benefit of working together? What is the biggest negative of working together?

  • Will you receive special treatment that is dividing you and your peers unfairly? How can avoid receiving special treatment?

  • Will you have higher (or lower) expectations put on you because of your relationship?

  • Will you be working together directly? How will that affect your work? Your relationship?

  • How will seeing your significant other daily affect your relationship?

  • Will your peers be affected by working with a couple on the team?

  • How will you handle conflict at work? How will handle conflict at home?

  • Will taking time off from work at the same time cause problems with staffing?

Here are more tips and resources for working with a significant other:

The Pros and Cons of Working With Your Spouse from Entrepreneur

The Pros and Cons of Working With Your Spouse from US News

The Pros and Cons of Working With Your Significant Other from Fast Company

Posted on February 14, 2018 and filed under Career.

How to Prepare for a Video Interview

Video Interview

Do you remember the clip that went viral of a professor being interviewed by a BBC news reporter? If you haven’t seen it, watch it here. It’s hilarious! Thankfully, this family has a good sense of humor and were met with mostly understanding supporters after this happened. However, as a job interviewer, you don’t want something like this to happen. If you plan ahead of time, scenes like this are (mostly) preventable.

Why Did You Secure a Video Interview?

You’re likely to secure a video interview if you live out of town from the job to which you are applying. Many companies conduct phone interviewers, but video interviews are becoming more popular since they are free and easily accessible to most. Technology has transformed the hiring process - interviews included!

A video interview provides insight into a candidate that a phone interview cannot: Does the candidate dress professionally? Does the candidate’s body language communicate confidence? How well does the candidate hold eye contact? Stay focused? From your perspective as a candidate, video interviews provide a connection between you and your resume. In other words, it “puts a face to the name,” which will help you stand out in their memory. If you’ve landed a video interview, you have a great opportunity before you!

How to Prepare For A Video Interview

Preparing for a video interview is a bit different than preparing for a traditional interview or a phone interview.

Here are a few tips to put your best foot forward during a video interview:

  • Location, location, location!

    • Choose a quiet location to sit for the interview. You don’t want dogs barking or kids barging into your interview! You also don’t want the loud hum of a coffee shop that will make it hard for you to hear the interviewer. Brainstorm your options and take the needed steps to ensure you won’t be interrupted during your interview.

    • Choose a location with strong internet connection. The best case scenario is for you to hardwire your computer or phone so that you have the best, strongest signal. If that’s not an option, sit as close to the router as possible!

    • Choose a location that has a great background. Make sure your webcam doesn’t face an open closet door, a trash can, or your unmade bed. The best background is a wall (blank or with tasteful artwork), bookcase, or an arrangement of houseplants. You can always choose the best location and then temporarily decorate the background for the interview.

    • Choose a location with the best lighting. You want light that shines on your face, not the back of your head. Trust us, this will make you look your best and most professional! If the room doesn’t have the best light, sit a lamp in front of you, but still out of sight of the webcam.

  • Dress professionally from your head to your toe. While the chances that you need to stand up during an interview are slim, you never know what might happen. Wearing a dress shirt with pajama pants (or no pants) is a very BAD idea!

  • Wear headphones. This will prevent a distracting echo or other audio feedback that might happen during the interview. And while your giant, over the ear headphones might sound better for your music, they are distracting in an interview setting. Grab a pair of small, discreet earbuds instead.

  • Have a cup of water next to you. There is nothing worse than a tickle in your thought or uncontrollable coughing!

  • Test your audio and visual with a friend ahead of time. That will give you plenty of time to troubleshoot any problems on your end before the important interview!

  • Finally, remember to smile! Everyone wants to work with friendly, smiling people. It’s easy to forget to smile when you’re nervous, so practice answering interview questions while looking friendly prior to your call.

If you’re interested in even more great job search tips, contact one of our qualified career coaches for personalized service and successful results.

Posted on February 7, 2018 and filed under Interviewing.

5 Tips For Preparing For A Phone Interview

Phone Interview

Many companies conduct phone interviews before bringing in candidates for a face-to-face meeting. These “screen interviews” save time and money from the company's’ perspective, providing an opportunity to weed out candidates who aren’t a good match quickly without much investment.

Practice phone etiquette in every conversation you have so that it comes naturally. How you say hello, how you say goodbye, and your manners throughout the conversation speak volumes about your professionalism. Some questions a phone interviewer will be asking themselves are:

  • Are they courteous and polite or do they come across gruff and cold?

  • Do they talk over me or interrupt frequently?

  • Did they make the effort to make this call a priority by finding a quiet place to talk?

  • Did they miss the initial call? What does their voicemail portray about their professionalism?

To knock your upcoming phone interview out of the park, these five tips will set you up for success:

  1. Treat it just like a face-to-face interview. One of the biggest mistakes candidates make is to think they “just” have a phone interview. Even if the phone interview is an HR screening, the person on the other side of the line has the power to immediately take you out of the running for the position. Take a phone interview just as seriously as you would a face-to-face interview.

  2. Find a quiet space with no distractions. If possible, get out or range of your dog barking, your kids playing, turn off the TV, etc. If you aren’t able to be in a completely quiet space, give a heads up to the interviewer that there may be some background noise. It will be less distracting if they know to expect it.

  3. Make sure phone service is reliable. There are many places in buildings, and maybe even your home, where phone service may cut in and out. Don’t walk around during your interview to avoid static or dropped calls. A good way to test the best place to have the phone interview is to call a friend from the spot before hand and ask them how you sound.

  4. Check your email several times in the minutes leading up to your interview. You never know when something might come up or if someone is running behind. Any last minute updates will be sent to your email, keeping you in the loop.

  5. Be ready to take notes. Being on the phone is a bit more challenging than face-to-face because it’s easier to get distracted. Taking notes will help you to focus on what the interviewer is saying and provides something for you to reference afterwards.

Phone interviews are important and you can secure a face-to-face interview with the proper preparation. If you have specific questions about the interview process, we’d love to help!

Posted on January 31, 2018 and filed under Interviewing, Search Strategy.

Avoid Being A Character In An Interview Horror Story

Interview

Congratulations! You applied for a great job and have been called in for an interview. You have stood out among the pile of resumes and have a very good shot of landing the job if you nail the interview. You were up against potentially hundreds of applicants. Now you are up against a much smaller pool of candidates. Three to five candidates is the average for a first round of interviews.

There are many things you should do to prepare:

  • Conduct mock interviews with a trusted peer or career coach to practice.

  • Select a conservative and professional outfit.

  • Get directions well before the meeting time so you know exactly where you are going. Be sure to add 30-45 minutes to your travel time, just in case. It’s always better to arrive early instead of late. You can review your notes in the lobby so you don’t arrive too early.

  • Gather the essential resources you’ll need to bring with you.

It’s not a long list, but these items are really important if you are to make the best possible impression.

There are many horror stories that hiring managers share about the interview process. Many are about what people bring - or do not bring - to the interview. To help you avoid being a character in an interview horror story, here is a simple list to help you pack your briefcase and make a great impression:

What to bring to an interview

  • Updated copies of your resume. We recommend at least five printed on resume quality paper.

    • Horror Story: One candidate was so nervous she couldn’t remember what was written on her resume and was unable to answer basic questions about her experience. Having a copy of your resume for your own reference is just as important as having it for your interviewer.

  • Notepad and pen. You don’t need to take notes on everything that is said, but be prepared to jot down something of importance at any time during the conversation. You won’t want to rely on memory to remember everything, especially if you are nervous. Also be sure to test your pen before the interview to make sure it works!

    • Horror story: A candidate came up with several additional examples of how she would add value to the company, but she didn't have her pen and paper for notes. After the interview, she stressed for hours about what additional information she wanted to provide in the follow up email.

  • Bottle of water. While the interviewer may offer you one, don’t assume it will be provided.

    • Horror story: A candidate had a tickle in her throat mid-interview so severe she couldn’t speak. The interviewer had to walk to the other side of the building to get her water, which interrupted the flow of the conversation and put the focus on the unfortunate event instead of her qualities as a potential candidate.

Do NOT bring to an interview

  • Your mother. While you may be chuckling, people have actually brought their mothers to interviews. If anything shouts unprofessional and immature; it’s bringing your mother!

  • Your pets. This seems like it’s common sense, but again, this has actually happened! Not everyone thinks cats are cute and dogs are fun. Many people are allergic or just don’t like animals. A job interview is not a place for pets.

  • Laptop. Unless the interviewer specifically requests you to bring your laptop, don’t. Using a laptop to take notes puts an obstacle in between you and the interviewer. They also can’t see what you’re actually doing on the screen, which may be distracting.

What is in your briefcase during an interview? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.

 

Posted on January 24, 2018 and filed under Interviewing.

How Technology Will Help (And Hurt) Your Job Search This Year

Technology

We live in an age where technology touches everything we do. There are smart refrigerators, thermostats, and cars. Medicine, entertainment, and business are touched by technology at every step. Technology makes our lives easier through speed and convenience, and the job search is no exception. Technology has transformed how we look for, apply, interview for, and secure our jobs. Overall, these transformations are positive, but there are a few ways that technology can hurt your chances of securing the perfect job. Here’s a quick look at the pros and cons of technology and your job search.

How Technology Helps Your Job Search

  • Updating your resume is as simple as a few clicks. Before technology, resumes and cover letters had to be physically printed. They mostly live online now, which means keeping your resume and cover letter up-to-date only takes a few minutes. Even if you aren’t actively looking for a job, it’s a good idea to make time each month to keep them updated. You never know when an opportunity might pop up!

  • Job postings are at your fingertips. We don’t have to physically walk into a business and ask if they are hiring. Online job search engines and company websites allow you to look for and find hundreds of jobs with just a few clicks.

  • Apps make managing the job search easy! Almost every job search platform has an app that allows you to see where your application is in the process. The guessing game has been greatly minimized thanks to mobile technology!

How Technology May Hurt Your Job Search

Your online digital footprint is difficult to erase. Depending on your age, your digital footprint may have started before you were even aware of the internet. Parents post pictures and stories online of their children. Teenagers add videos, photos, and publish content that they may regret as adults. Hiring managers and co-workers can find anything that has been posted, so be cautious of what you put online.

Here’s one great example of how this can hurt your job search: A young woman, we’ll call her Sue, was interviewing for project manager of a family-owned, small business. This position required a large amount of client interaction in which representing the values held by the company were vital. Sue made it to the final interview process and was one of two final candidates. Unfortunately, before her interview an intern Googled her name and uncovered a scandalous work history. News spread among employees quickly and even though this was behind her, Sue was eliminated as a potential candidate. What was searchable online did not represent the company’s values and had undermined her ability to work well with the team, as they distrusted her immediately.  

Too many options can be overwhelming. While we listed “job postings at your fingertips” as a helpful aspect of technology, it can also cause a lot of stress if you don’t have a game plan.

The applicant pool is deep. It’s not uncommon for a position to get as many as 500 applicants. If it’s a desired position or with a sought after company, the number may increase into the thousands. How do you stand out among such odds? It takes work and patience. Our best advice is to hire a career coach who can help you customize your resume, nail the interview, and build a reputable online presence.

All of these potentially negative aspects of looking for a career in a technology-driven world can be addressed with the expert assistance of a career coach. We would love to partner with you to ensure you have success after success. Contact us to learn more!

Posted on January 17, 2018 and filed under Search Strategy.