Getting your LinkedIn Profile ready for the New Year

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LinkedIn is the top social network for working professionals. In fact, this recent LinkedIn article published the following statistics:

  • There are 467 million users on LinkedIn across the globe

  • There are 3 million active job listings on LinkedIn

Which means...

...If you are looking for a job, it’s essential to have a LinkedIn profile.

...If you are a working professional, it’s smart to have an updated LinkedIn profile.

...If you are looking to switch careers, it’s critical  to have a strategically built LinkedIn profile.

Resume and cover letter still reign supreme in the job search world, but a LinkedIn profile comes in at a very, very close third. The network provides an interactive, more visual way to show your skills and experience while allowing others to weigh in through on-profile reference recommendations and skill endorsement. It also provides amazing networking opportunities that were impossible before its existence.

With the New Year comes a refresh of many projects and budgets, opening doors for many companies to hire and shake things up a bit with lateral moves and promotions. This is the perfect time of year to give your profile a facelift. If you don’t have an account, sign up at www.linkedin.com.

Here are a few basic tips for updating your profile:

  1. Make sure your profile picture is professional and taken with good lighting.

  2. Update your current position description to be accurate. Include any of the new skills and projects you are currently working on!

  3. Eliminate generic descriptor words and instead opt for words that are dynamic and not over used (like motivate, help, work with, etc.)

  4. If you have new references, send a request asking if they can write up a recommendation to include on your profile.

  5. Look at other professionals in your industry to see if they have included something on their profile that you are currently lacking. Determine if adding a similar element to your profile would help your profile stand out.

Want to dig deeper? We are so passionate and about helping our clients build the perfect LinkedIn profile, we offer 3 different service packages, but our most popular service is Level 3:

Level 3 (the most popular LinkedIn service) - all Level 1 & 2 services plus:

  • After the initial consultation, we conduct keyword research for appropriate industry-specific and position-relevant keywords to include for optimal search visibility.

  • Following keyword approval, we complete a full draft of your tailored LinkedIn profile.

  • The same procedure is then followed as with Level 2 service, with emphasis on the industry-specific and position-relevant customization of your profile.

Contact us to build the perfect LinkedIn profile today!

Posted on December 15, 2017 and filed under Search Strategy, Career.

What’s The Difference Between Agency, Corporate, And Contract?

When you first enter the workforce after graduation, it’s difficult to know what type of work environment will best serve your working style and cultivate professional growth towards achieving your career goals. You might not even know what your career goals are, let alone how to pursue them.

Will you thrive in a corporate environment, or are you better suited for agency life?

Or perhaps you’d be better off doing contract work given your entrepreneurial aspirations?

Where do you want to be in 5 years? Management? Own your own business? Leading your own projects?

These self-reflection questions are important to finding a position that you enjoy and will be an intentional step in your career path. But how do you answer these questions if you don’t know where you want your path to lead? The absolute best way to explore different work environments is to intern at a variety of places within your field. To help you get started, here’s a brief overview of the similarities and differences between agency, corporate, and contract work.

Agency

An agency is typically business-to-business (known as B2B) and is not directly customer facing. Agencies are small with anywhere from 25 to a couple hundred employees and are often privately-owned by a family or a small group of investors. Despite their size, they are full service and require a wide variety of positions - human resources, accounting, graphic design, information technology, communications, sales, etc. Agencies often have many different clients and have designated teams that serve each client.

Advertising and marketing agencies are common types of agencies. They don’t serve customers directly, but are hired by other businesses to manage and create their advertising and marketing needs. For example, a large automotive manufacturing company (corporate) will hire an agency to manage all of its advertisements, a different agency to create it’s training for employees, and yet another agency to handle all employee travel.

Corporate

The corporate world is maybe a little more familiar, as it’s often portrayed in movies and TV shows like “The Office.” Ultimately, a corporation is a large group that can legally act as a single entity. They typically have one goal - to sell its good or service. Gas and electric companies, TV broadcasting networks, and regional and national retail stores are just a few examples of corporations. Governments are structured similarly to corporations, although their processes, income stream, and legal rights are much different.

As mentioned in the agency section, corporations hire agencies to conduct work they feel are “experts’ in an area. Let’s use the automotive manufacturer example again. The goal for that company is to sell cars. They will hire a marketing agency to develop their marketing campaigns because the agency is the expert in marketing, not the automotive company. The marketing agency will produce better marketing materials for the corporate team than they could ever do themselves. It’s just not their expertise.

Contract

Contract work can be found in both agency and corporate environments, but also in work-from-home situations. If you are looking to work part-time or in a temporary position while you determine the best place for you, contract work is a great option.

The situation will be different at every company, and there are pros and cons with each arrangement.

The pros: it’s flexible yet steady income as long as you are in contract. It builds your resume and can be a great way to get your foot in the door. Many contract positions are contract-to-hire, which means if they like you and you do great work, they will extend a full-time offer.

The cons: you may not be eligible to draw benefits or have taxes withheld. And once your contract is done, you’ll be on the job hunt again.

Need help determining where you fit best? We would love to partner with you to craft a tailored career plan that maximizes your potential. Contact us today to set up a consultation!

 

Posted on December 6, 2017 and filed under Career.

Do You Need A Sabbatical?

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Have you ever felt you needed a break from your career? Not just a vacation, but a get-away-from-it-all-for-months break?

That is the purpose of a sabbatical.

What is a Sabbatical?

A sabbatical is a paid leave from your career that is usually 6 weeks to one year in duration. Traditionally, a sabbatical has a specific purpose: to take a break from the norm to study a new skill, to travel to conduct field research, to complete a book, etc. More recently, “sabbatical leave” has been added by employers as an employee benefit - an extended period of time away solely for the employee’s benefit.

Usually, the sabbatical is offered on top of normal vacation days, which makes this benefit even more appealing! At many companies, it’s also encouraged (sometimes required) to take the full amount of leave at one time, meaning you can’t take a week here and there throughout the year. The whole point is to take a large, refreshing break to rejuvenate you after years of working hard.

Historically, the word sabbatical comes from a Biblical practice in which every seventh year the land was to be given a rest from being planted and tilled. Debts were also to be forgiven every seven years. The point was to rest, and to start again with a fresh slate.

Who Gets A Sabbatical?

The practice is most common in an academic environment (e.g. professors, researchers), although some agencies and corporations also offer this perk. Industries range from tech to restaurants to retail and the offering for each company is different. Some require a minimum of five years employment before you can take a sabbatical while others require 15 years of service. Some are paid, some are partially paid, others are unpaid.

You can find a well researched list of employers offering sabbaticals on yoursabbatical.com. It’s a site that not only provides comprehensive information on sabbaticals, but also arms employees (like you!) to campaign to get sabbaticals at your company.

Do You Get A Sabbatical?

If you don’t know, ask! And even if this benefit isn’t offered now, you can request that it be considered for the future. And if you’re looking for a job and benefits like a sabbatical are important to you, seek out employers who are competitive in their benefits offering. Not many employers are detailed on their websites about benefit packages. It’s helpful to network with employees within the company to uncover this information. You can also ask benefit questions during an interview.

Curious about how a sabbatical differs from vacation days, sick days, and personal leave? Read more here.

 

Posted on November 29, 2017 and filed under Career.

Being Thankful When Looking for Work

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It’s almost Thanksgiving! Lots of family, friends, good food, and entertainment are in the forecast for many of us. If you’re looking for a job, however, you might have a difficult time shaking the dark cloud that’s casting a shadow on your holiday festivities. It’s hard to be thankful when you don’t have a secure income and job you love.

But there is much to be thankful for, even when you are looking for work!  Here’s a list to help keep things in perspective:

5 Reasons To Be Thankful While Looking For A Job:

  1. Looking for a job can be fun! The sky's the limit with the new opportunities you have to explore. Securing a job is one way to make a positive change in your life by finding a position that will bring fulfillment, satisfaction, and good work/life balance. What better time to be “picky” about what you are looking for and find the perfect fit.

  2. You aren’t alone! Everyone has been in your shoes at one time or another. It’s rare to meet someone who was handed their job without having to search, create a resume, cover letter, apply, and interview for it. Take advantage of the wisdom and insight your friends and family can provide by asking for their thoughts and advice over turkey and pumpkin pie.

  3. There are FREE resources available to you! You can google virtually anything you need help with and someone will have posted about it online. Just make sure you are finding quality, professional resources and advice! This blog is a great, free resource to glean tips and best practices. In fact, here’s a few you might want to bookmark:

  1. You don’t have to pound the pavement like you would have 20 years ago. Before the internet was prevalent, job seekers had to print a copy of their resume and either mail it to an employer, or physically drive to their office and drop it off with a secretary. Now, you can apply for dozens of jobs a day from the comfort of your own home. You also don’t have to scour newspapers and circle job openings with a highlighter. Job search engines make it incredibly easy to find opportunities!

  2. Caring professionals at The Wilbanks Consulting Group want to help you! Our team would love to partner with you to make your job search result in a fun, fulfilling career for you. We offer one-on-one in-person and virtual career coaching and many other job search services. Contact us today and let us help you find your dream job.

Happy Thanksgiving!

How the Holiday Season Affects your Job Search

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Finding a job is tough no matter the time of year. Job applications, resumes, cover letters, LinkedIn profiles, networking, interviews - there is so much to consider and work on while finding the right fit for your career aspirations. It’s overwhelming!

When the holidays roll around, you can’t put your job search on hold just because you want to enjoy the season. You need a job! To minimize the stress, here are a few things to keep in mind as you press onward towards securing a position:

  • Employer response times will be slow - Many people take time off around the holidays. In fact, some companies close their office for the entire week between Christmas and New Year. Expect to wait two to three weeks to receive a response during this time of year...maybe even longer.

  • Adjust your follow-up strategy - If you find the perfect job opening between Thanksgiving and Christmas, add an extra follow up to your typical routine. While people are away from the office or buried in end-of-year project wrap-ups, your application or follow-ups can get lost in email. Don’t barrage them with daily check ins, but one extra follow up will be a good reminder if you haven’t heard anything.

  • Get creative with networking -  This is a popular time for companies to give back to the community, so do your research and see if you can help! For example, around Thanksgiving many corporate teams will coordinate a work day to volunteer at a local food bank. If you use your networking skills to learn of events like that, you may be able to volunteer with them, or get on the volunteer schedule at the same time. You’ll be able to introduce yourself to people at the company and demonstrate your work ethic on site.

  • Take advantage of temporary openings - Seasonal job openings are in abundance during the holidays, so take advantage of opportunities. While these openings may not be the perfect job you’re looking for, they will provide income for you during your transition and can be good resume fillers for any gap you may have in employment.

Looking for additional resources for finding a job that’s perfect for you? We’d love to help! Our team offers many career coaching and career exploration packages that are customized to your needs and career goals. Contact us to set up a consultation.

Posted on November 15, 2017 and filed under Search Strategy.

Why Don’t You Like Your Job?

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It’s not really work if you love what you do.

This phrase is said by the “luckiest” among us, who have a passion for their work and are content and happy in their profession. If this isn’t you...what if you found out that it isn’t luck that makes these people happy at work...it’s strategy.  

Dig Deep To Figure Out What You Love & What You Don’t

Spend time figuring out what it is about your current job that you don’t like. Don’t leave anything out - you are only holding yourself back if you aren’t honest with yourself. You need to also figure out what it is that you love about your job (or would love in a job).

Here are some reflection questions that will give your think-session a jump start:

  • What specific things make me dread going to work every day?

  • What do I do at work that makes me upset or angry?

  • What do I find really boring about my job?

  • Are the things I dislike correlated in some way? Are they are relational issues? Task-oriented? Related to workplace culture?

  • What do I like about my current job?

  • What would I like in a job that I’m currently not doing/receiving?

Put Together A Strategy

Once you have a good idea of the specific likes/dislikes of your job, it’s time to put together a strategy. You CAN find and secure a job that you love with a little motivation and effort.

Here are a few things to consider as you are putting together a strategy to find a great job:

  • Brainstorm a list of jobs with descriptions that leave out as many dislikes and include as many likes that you came up with in the above activity. Google is a good tool here - do some research!

  • Do you have the skills and experience to secure one of these positions? If not, make a plan to gain the requirements. If you are completely switching career fields, you may need more school, training, to learn a new skill, start volunteering, etc. Is the investment worth it to have a job that you love? (We say YES!)

  • Start networking in the industry or with specific people/companies that fit with what you are looking for.

  • Find a mentor that can provide trustworthy tips and advice in the field. There is nothing more valuable than wisdom from those who have gone before you!

Find Your Dream Job

Once you’ve done all of the above, finding your dream job is only a matter of time. You can get your dream job as long as you are willing to put in the work to get it.

If this seems daunting, we’d love to help you sort through it all. We offer career coaching services that will put you on the path to successfully landing your dream job!

Posted on November 8, 2017 and filed under Career, Search Strategy.

Career Planning - Short & Long Term Strategies

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You want your work to have meaning, to give you a purpose, and to continue to challenge you throughout your life. Experiencing growth, satisfaction, and fun while making an income is important. But how do you get all of that? You must have two things:

  1. A short term career planning strategy

  2. A long term career planning strategy

But here is where most people make a big mistake: You can’t make effective short term goals without first setting long term goals. Let’s break down each one.

Long Term Career Planning Strategy

Having a long term strategy to achieve your career aspirations will help you in many ways. You’ll be able to make career decisions more easily. You’ll work with more purpose and fulfillment knowing where you are headed. You also won’t get stuck in a job that isn’t a right fit, because your goals won’t align with what you’ll achieve in a “bad” position.

Sit down and think about big picture questions, such as:

  • Where do I want to be in 10 years?

  • What gives me purpose in my career?

  • What three to five goals would I like to achieve by retirement?

  • What is most important to me at work?

  • Do I want to manage a team or work solo?

Write a letter to yourself, describing exactly who you want to be and what it is you want to achieve in your career. This exercise might be awkward at first, but it will help you visualize your future and think through the direction you’d like to go.

Post this letter in a place where you can see it regularly. Read it every month. Adjust it as things change, which can, and maybe should, happen from time to time. Perhaps you start a family or your priorities change as you get older and it affects your long term goals. It’s good to be flexible. Having a long term strategy should guide you, not rule you.

Short Term Career Planning Strategy

With your long term strategy put in place, a short term strategy will be easier to implement. Do the same exercise for short term planning, but adjust the questions slightly. The questions you ask yourself might look something like these:

  • Where do I want to be this time next year?

  • What three to five goals do I want to achieve this year?

  • What small, attainable steps do I need to take this year to get closer to my long term goals?

Write a letter to yourself and place it where you can review it regularly. Since this is a short term strategy, update it every six months to one year. Hopefully you will achieve everything you wrote down, which will keep the momentum going for your long term strategy. If not, that’s OK! Adjust as needed and keep going. Again, this is meant to be a guide to help you reach your long term goals. It should guide you, not rule you!

Let WCG Partner With You!

We would love to come alongside you and help develop your short and long term career planning strategies. Our team of career consultants can help you craft the perfect strategy to achieve career success. We use proven assessments to examine your personality type, interests, and strengths. We align the results with your goals to create a strategy for future growth and development through your current position or a new one. Our career coaching empowers you to flawlessly execute your strategy in any situation! You can learn more about our services and packages available here.

Posted on November 1, 2017 and filed under Career, Leadership.

Finding The Right Fit: Workplace Culture

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Are you the type of person that thrives in open, community workspaces, or do you need your own quiet space to work?

Do you want ping-pong tournaments during lunch and a corporate cafeteria, or do you want to eat out most days?

Is wearing jeans at work important to you, or would you love to wear formal business attire every day?

Do you want a best friend at work, or do you prefer to keep your work and personal life separate?

These questions may seem silly to think about when you are searching for a job, but they are important. You are putting so much time and effort into finding a job, do you really want to leave after 6 months because you can’t stand the culture? It could easily happen if you don’t think through questions like those listed above before taking a job.

Workplace culture is different from company to company. Corporate vs. agency, government vs. private sector, small company vs. Fortune 500, locally owned vs. publicly owned. Each of these workplaces offer very different environments for their employees. There are a lot of options to consider as you search for a job that will be the perfect fit for you. Check out the company’s website and social media accounts to get a glimpse into what life would be like as an employee. If you have connections, ask a few people what they like and dislike about the workplace culture. If you have an interview, chat with the receptionist and other people you meet there.

Here are some great questions to ask if you want to find out more about a company’s culture (courtesy of The Muse’ “The Best Interview Questions to Ask if You Want the Truth About Company Culture

  1. What makes you proud to work at this company?

  2. How does the organization support your professional development and career growth?

  3. Is risk-taking encouraged, and what happens when people fail?

  4. What’s one thing you would change about the company if you could?

  5. What causes conflict, and how is conflict resolved?

  6. How would you describe “organizational politics” at the company?

  7. When and how do people like to give and receive feedback?

  8. What are some of the ways the company celebrates success?

  9. What kind of flexible work arrangements do people have?

  10. Do you have a matching gifts program or sponsor local volunteer events?

What you learn can help you make the decision to accept or refuse a job offer.

EMPLOYERS

If you are an employer, acquiring, integrating, engaging, and retaining the right talent is critical to your future success. Turnover is expensive and wastes a lot of time - so let The Wilbanks Consulting Group help! Contact us today to discuss your strategic talent management, and how we can make your organization the top choice for candidates.

 

Posted on October 25, 2017 and filed under Career.

What, Why & How To Write A Cover Letter

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Resume and cover letter. Resume and cover letter. Resume and cover letter.

You’ve probably heard this short phrase more times that you want to count since searching for a job. It’s because these two things - your resume and cover letter - will ultimately land you the job. Even if you networked well and “know a guy,” someone will look at your resume and cover letter before hiring you. It’s THAT important.

What Is A Cover Letter?

When applying for a job, a cover letter is your opportunity to explain the content of your resume. It is a separate document, written as a letter, addressed to the hiring manager or Human Resources contact for the job for which you are applying.

Why Write A Cover Letter?

Primarily, it allows you to highlight experiences, circumstances, or skills that are not obvious in your resume. For example, employment gaps, school/training status, career changes are all examples of situations that should be addressed in your cover letter.

Many online application systems mark ‘resume’ as required and ‘cover letter’ as optional. Always send a customized cover letter. It shows you want the job enough to put the extra effort into writing a cover letter and provides the opportunity to stand out in a stack of resumes.

How Do I Write A Cover Letter?

Keep your cover letter short, sweet, and to the point. Your cover letter often times decides whether or not the hiring manger ‘turns the page’ to review your resume, so it needs to get their attention quickly.

Below you’ll find a template that you can use to be personalized and customized for the position, and company you are applying for. This template provides a general idea of what you should include. You need to have a customized cover letter for every single position that you apply for - no exceptions. Hiring managers can spot a generic cover letter from a mile away.

Cover Letter Template

Full Name

Street Address

City, State, Zip

E-Mail

 

January 23, 2017

 

Mr. /Mrs.

Person title

Company Name

Address

Houston Texas, 77489

To Whom It May Concern:

I am excited to apply for the position of ______ (#_____) that was listed on the job site ______/your company careers page/your staffing agency website.

This role appeals to me because ____. My background makes me an excellent fit for this role because. (EXPLAIN ANYTHING ELSE THAT ISN’T OBVIOUS FROM YOUR RESUME IN 1-2 SENTENCES, SUCH AS SIGNIFICANT EMPLOYMENT GAP DUE TO CHILD REARING, SCHOOL, CAREER CHANGE, ETC.). I would love the opportunity to leverage my experience working with X.

I have attached my resume for your review. I welcome the opportunity to personally discuss my qualifications with you, and I’m very interested in your thoughts on what roles would allow me to make this transition successfully, as I am flexible in this area. Please contact me at ###-###-#### or email at your convenience.

Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to review my resume. I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,

Full Name

###-###-####

email

 

Posted on October 19, 2017 and filed under Search Strategy, Resume.

Job Search and Interview Follow up Etiquette

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The waiting game is by far the worst part of looking for a job! You finally find a job posting that looks perfect for you. You spend time tailoring your application and resume. You are excited when you hit the “apply” button and then...nothing. For days and days.

When is it appropriate to follow up? Here are some tips to help you maintain a professional vibe while inquiring after two specific job search situations:

Job Application Status

The best case scenario is that you’ll initially receive an auto response, confirming that your application was received. A lot of companies don’t have this automation, however, so you may not receive a confirmation.

After submission, the ratio for how many jobs you apply for to how many you’ll hear back from is, sadly, low. Many job postings receive hundreds of applications and the HR department or hiring manager is overwhelmed with sorting through the responses. Put yourself in the shoes of the interviewer: if all 150 applicants followed up with a phone call, it would be quite annoying. Instead, opt for a simple and quick email to the hiring manager. State that you applied for the job, wanted to make sure it was received, and are excited about the opportunity.

If you don’t hear back after this follow up, assume you did not move on to the interview stage. But don’t worry! Keep applying and don’t get frustrated. It’s all a part of the job search process.

Post Interview

If you receive an interview - congratulations! There are a two things you should do to follow up:

  1. Ask at the end of the interview what your expectations should be regarding hearing the outcome of the interview process. Are they hiring within the week? Will you hear one way or another? Is it OK for you to follow up if you don’t hear anything? Asking at the interview is not only appropriate, it ensures you are respecting their process and communicating in a way they prefer.

  2. Send a thank you note! If you need some pointers on how to do so, read Stand Out While Being Professional: Proper Thank You Notes.

We’d love to help you with all of your job search needs. Click here to view our career exploration services.

Posted on October 11, 2017 and filed under Interviewing, Search Strategy.

Stand Out While Being Professional: Proper Thank You Notes

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The art of the thank you note has lost it’s popularity over the decades. Today, thank you notes are typically reserved for wedding and graduation gifts. Even those have become generic, often missing the personal notes that make them meaningful. If you start writing hand written thank you notes, personally and professionally, you will make a lasting, positive impression!

In the workplace, thank you notes should be given for many reasons: thanks for a great first year, thanks for being a great boss, thanks for going out of your way to help me. A thank you note should always be sent to interviewers. Most people don’t send thank you notes. If they do, they usually send thank you emails. YOU should send a handwritten thank you note, personalized to your experience and the interviewer.  You’ll stand out among the other applicants if you do.

How to Write a Thank You Note

Hallmark provides a great structure for writing thank you notes here. We’ve adapted it for the interview process below.

#1: Greeting - Write the name of the person as they introduced themselves. “Dear Mr. Smith” or “Dear Larry”

#2: Give thanks - Say thank you immediately and clearly. “Thank you for the interview yesterday…”

#3: Specific, personalized details - If you learned something beneficial, are more excited about the position, found a common interest between you and the interview, say so!

#4: Look ahead - State that you are looking forward to hearing from them, seeing them at the second interview, or whatever timeframe was set when you were interviewed.

#5: Say thanks again - Add a little something new so you aren’t repeating what you’ve already said but expressing your gratitude. Something simple such as, “Thanks again for your time. You’ve solidified that XYZ would be a great place to call my work home!”

#6: Regards - “Sincerely” is the most appropriate in most situations, unless you know the interviewer well.

After you’ve written your note, you can put it in the mail or drop it off at the business you interviewed with (leave it with the front desk or secretary, if possible). You’re well on your way to standing out from the other interviewees. Even if you don’t get the job, there is a great chance they will remember you for other opportunities that may arise.

Posted on October 4, 2017 and filed under Interviewing.

How To Be A Life Long Learner: Building Your Skill Set

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One of the most exciting things when you finally have your diploma in hand is that you never have to do homework again! Right? Well, sort of.

Things change over time. Technology, best practices, the market, systems, people, expectations. Even in industries that don’t move as quickly, if you don’t learn anything new, your knowledge will be outdated in a decade.

Be a Life Long Learner

Even if you are fresh out of college, it’s best to have the mindset of a lifelong learner. That means you are continually seeking new knowledge and skills to improve yourself both personally and professionally. Keeping up with current events, self study to learn a new skill, getting a mentor, taking one-off classes, and reading books are all examples of habits of lifelong learners. In fact, highly successful people, like Warren Buffett and Bill Gates, read for hours every day according to this Observer article. The type of books matter - reading comic books may be entertaining, but likely won’t affect your skill set. Here’s a great list of books that are recommended for all business-minded professionals.

It might be daunting to think about your to do list as a lifelong learner. But keep in mind that the more you learn, the most successful you will be. Learning new skills can help land that promotion you’ve been wanting, or change careers to something more fulfilling. Bettering yourself will give you confidence in your responsibilities and workplace relationships. Not to mention that being a lifelong learner will keep your brain sharp as you age.

A recent study, published on the Association for Psychological Science website here, says:

“At the end of [the] three months [study], …[it was] found that the adults who were productively engaged in learning new skills showed improvements in memory compared to those who engaged in social activities or non-demanding mental activities at home.”

That alone should be motivation for us to keep challenging ourselves to learn more!

Put together a long term plan for yourself and your learning goals. What qualifications do you need to meet to take the next step in your career? What skills do you want to master?  What would be fun and fulfilling that you have yet to do or try? As you achieve your goals and add more skills, don’t forget to update your resume and LinkedIn!

Posted on September 27, 2017 and filed under Career.

Planning for Emergencies at Work

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It’s been an incredibly tough couple of weeks as Hurricane Harvey ripped through Houston, leaving so much destruction in its wake. Everything from homes to businesses to parks and roads have been destroyed or damaged. Some lost everything, others were fortunate to have gotten through with minor roof leaks and a few days without electricity. Holly’s family is among the fortunate - thank you to everyone who sent prayers, positive thoughts and support in various forms. It’s appreciated more than you know!

Emergencies can come in many forms: weather, natural disasters, family situations, health scares, and more. While family and friends’ safety is priority number one during emergencies, some workplaces must remain open. Hospitals, nursing homes, fire stations, police departments, and places of hospitality are a few examples. If you work at one of these establishments - thank you for your hard work in the midst of emergencies! The world would have a much harder time getting through the tough stuff without you to keep us afloat when things are dire.

Whether you work in a place like those mentioned above or somewhere else (corporate or research, for example), working through the emergency may be the best way for you to cope with the situation. For example, if a hurricane hits and you’re in no immediate danger but stuck in the house, working from home can help pass the time and provide a sense of normalcy. Depending on the type of emergency, you may or may not be able to continue work. But if you can, and want, to continue working, there are ways you can be prepared for when and if the time comes.

Here are a few ways you can plan for emergencies at work:

  • Keep all of your workplace website URLs in a handy spot to access away from work. Using a password manager, like Lastpass, is a great way to do this. It’s a cloud based system that securely saves URLs, usernames, and passwords.

  • Ask about the servers at your workplace. Are they compatible to work with hotspots? If so, you can work from your phone’s hotspot while stuck at home without wifi. Check with your phone company beforehand to determine any fees and charges that may apply.

  • Invest in a portable charging station. As long as your device has a cable that connects to a USB, they can charge without needing an outlet. Many charging stations have enough juice to charge multiple devices many times before being drained. These are great for use in hospitals, as many facilities don’t allow you to use their outlets. Of course, if your power is out, an outlet does you no good and these can keep you up and running for at least another day or two.

  • Save important work contacts in your phone. Your direct supervisor, clients, and closest co-workers are the best to be easily accessible. If something comes up and you need help (or they do), it will be easy to contact them.

  • What else is absolutely vital for you to be able to work away from the office? Determine what those items are and come up with a plan to access them when needed.

Of course, it’s always possible that an emergency can happen while you are AT work. Check with your HR department to learn what emergency preparedness plans are in place so you are aware.

No one thinks that an emergency is going to happen to them. It’s better to be safe than sorry, as the old saying goes. Make a plan and hope that you never have to use it.

Have anything else to add to the list above? We’d love to hear from you! Comment below with your additions.

Posted on September 20, 2017 and filed under Career.

Relief without Red Tape Gift Card Drive!

RELIEF.jpg

Thank you to everyone who has reached out to us since Harvey hit Houston. As a quick update, our consultant Adrianne is back in her home, and her home is dry! Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for all of Houston. In fact, there is an entire section of the city known as "West Houston" that's still under water. 

The pictures above are pictures from my neighborhood during and after the flood. This scene, piles of debris, gutted homes and memories on the curb, is what a staggering number of neighborhoods in Houston look like right now. The need for aide and relief throughout the city remains significant. Working professionals and families continue to struggle to meet their basic needs: food, shelter, clothing, gasoline to get to and from work, and the list goes on. Many relief organizations and government assistance options require a lengthy and cumbersome paperwork process to receive aide IF they qualify. While I logically understand the need for process and procedure, I want to provide a faster, less burdensome solution to getting the people of Houston what they need; no questions asked. No red tape! As such, I've come up with two gift card drive options. 

Option 1: Gift Cards to CVS and Walgreens

After speaking with my son's pediatrician, the need to assist families with prescription medications is great. In disaster situations like this, even families who have insurance struggle to come up with the funds for their copay. He does not know of an organization currently meeting this need. The gift cards to CVS and Walgreens will be collected in any amount and distributed to pediatric practices at The Woman's Hospital of Texas - Houston Hospital and Nightlight Pediatric Urgent Care centers. The gift cards will then be distributed by the healthcare staff to families in need, as needed, no questions asked. If you're interested in the ultimate no red tape relief, this is your option! This option is NOT tax deductible. 

Option 2: Gift Cards to Various Retailers Providing Basic Needs

My initial inclination was to collect gift cards to retailers that specialize in or carry clothing to help working professionals rebuild their professional wardrobes. Dress for Success Houston has informed me that the needs of Houston professionals are so great, they are collecting a broad spectrum of gift cards to meet all of their needs. We will be collecting gift cards in any amount to the following stores and businesses, and giving them to Dress for Success Houston to distribute to their community, as needed, no questions asked:

Walmart                                Randalls                          Mobil

Target                                   HEB                                  Chevron

JCPenney                             Kroger                              Phillips 66

Marshalls | T.J. Maxx            Fiesta                               Exxon

For this option, Dress for Success Houston will provide donors with a letter indicating their tax-deductible donation. Please submit your full name, mailing address, telephone number, e-mail address, and sum total amount of the gift card(s) you are donating with your gift card(s) to receive your letter. If you do not want a tax-deductible letter, please specify that.

All gift cards can be mailed to the following address:
Holly Wilbanks, WCG
6300 West Loop South
Suite 360
Bellaire, TX 77401

Want to take your support to another level? 

Spearhead a gift card drive within your company, worship center, networking or professional group, your child's school, etc. Collect gift cards for one of the options listed above, and mail them to us. We'll make sure they get to the right people! If you collect gift cards for Option 2, please e-mail me at Holly@WilbanksConsulting.com for a spreadsheet that will help you track donor information for tax-deduction purposes.

Thank you again for your support of our city and our people. Please continue to keep the people of Houston in your thoughts and prayers. 

Posted on September 19, 2017 and filed under Community.

Harvey: Holly's Houston Update

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For those who aren't aware, The Wilbanks Consulting Group is based in Houston, TX. This week, our great city experienced an unprecedented natural disaster with Tropical Storm Harvey. I am sincerely lucky to report that my family and our home are okay. Many of you have worked with our consultant, Adrianne. Adrianne's family was forced to evacuate their home, and it is unclear when they will be allowed to return to assess any damage. Please keep them in your thoughts and prayers. All other Houston-based consultants are safe and dry.

We have been inundated with e-mails, texts, social media messages, and calls from clients and colleagues checking on our welfare. We cannot begin to thank you enough for your concern and support. Many of you have asked how you can help our community. THANK YOU. Below is a list of nine local charities in (mostly) alphabetical order that I trust will responsibly use the funds they receive to aide those impacted by Harvey. 

I will eventually do a gift card drive or two in an effort to support local working professionals and families with basic needs. So, consider giving something now, and something later, as needs evolve.

Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund through the Greater Houston Community Foundation: Mayor Sylvester Turner established this fund to provide tax-deductible flood relief donations for those affected by the historic flooding. https://ghcf.org/hurricane-relief/ 

BakerRipley (formerly Neighborhood Centers): This local non-profit has been helping low-income Houstonians for 110 years, since its founding in 1907. Baker Ripley is taking donations for long-term disaster relief, and is currently operating the shelter at NRG Park. 
https://www.bakerripley.org/get-involved/donate

Houston Food Bank: America's largest food bank is prepared to mobilize resources across Houston, asking for volunteers, donations, and monetary contributions. Every $1 donated provides 3 meals. http://www.houstonfoodbank.org/get-involved/harvey-disaster-relief/ 

Interfaith Ministries: Working across faith communities, IMGH resettles refugees and provides extensive Meals on Wheels services for homebound seniors and their pets.  https://www.imgh.org/donate-now/  

The JJ Watt Foundation: Possibly the most recognizable individual in Houston, NFL Texans player JJ Watt's foundation typically provides after-school opportunities for middle-school aged children in the community to become involved in athletics, so that they may learn the character traits of accountability, teamwork, leadership, work ethic, and perseverance, while in a safe and supervised environment with their peers. His current fundraising efforts will directly support the victims of Harvey. https://www.youcaring.com/victimsofhurricaneharvey-915053  

LGBTQ Harvey Relief Fund through The Montrose Center: This fund builds on strong community ties "to help homeless youth, seniors, people living with HIV, hate crime survivors, and those devastated by the storm" regardless of sexuality.  https://my.reason2race.com/DNicol/HurricaneHarveyLGBTQDisasterReliefFund2017 

Rescued Pets Movement: This organization provides a second chance for thousands of homeless dogs and cats through rehabilitation and transport to forever homes in communities throughout the country and Canada that have a demand for adoptable pets.  https://www.rescuedpetsmovement.org/ 

Wildlife Center of Texas: Not all animals are pets, and displaced wildlife need help too. Houston-based Wildlife Center of Texas receives no local, state, or federal funding to nurse displaced wildlife hurt or orphaned by the storm.
http://www.wildlifecenteroftexas.org/donate/ 

The YMCA of Greater Houston Harvey Relief Efforts: Your support will help the YMCA provide the families and individuals who come to YMCA with their basic needs in this time of crisis. https://www.ymcahouston.org/blog/support-harvey-relief-efforts 

Thank you again for your support and concern. Please continue to keep the people of Houston in your thoughts and prayers. 

Most Sincerely,
Holly

Special thanks to Morgan Kinney of Houstonia Magazine for some of these organization descriptions. 

Posted on September 1, 2017 .

Why Do We Celebrate Labor Day?

Labor Day

The end of summer. Last barbeques and pool parties. A long, holiday weekend. Parades, picnics, and fireworks. The last hurrah before everyone is officially in school mode.

Labor conjures these thoughts and memories, but why do we really celebrate Labor Day?

Labor Day has been a federal holiday since 1894, originally stemming from the Central Labor Union wanting to provide a special holiday for workers. We work hard all year long and deserve a much needed break, specifically with a focus to reflect on our accomplishments and enjoy the fruits of our labor.

Ways to Celebrate The Fruits of Your Labor for Labor Day

What has work been holding you back from this year? Taking a vacation? Being a local tourist? Having a weekend without being glued to your email? Make Labor Day weekend the weekend you actually break free from work and pursue whatever it is you’ve been dreaming about.

But, what do you do if you have to work on Labor Day?

While government offices, banks, and most corporations close their doors for Labor Day, not every workplace does. For example, restaurants, hotels, and retail stores stay open to take advantage of the extra shopping day. Even if you can’t take the whole weekend off, there are things you can do to celebrate the holiday. The list below contains ideas for celebrating throughout the weekend.

  • Make a list of accomplishments that you’re proud of and reflect over it throughout the weekend. Celebrate the hard work that you’ve done with your closest friends and family.

  • Celebrate the accomplishments of your coworkers by recognizing their hard work. A simple but genuine hand written note is a great way to show your appreciation and admiration.

  • Recognize the work accomplishments of your family members. Take the time to find out what they are most proud of and do something special to show them you are proud of them. It doesn’t have to be on Labor Day - you can make them feel special any day!

How will you be celebrating Labor Day? We’d love to hear your creative ideas.

Posted on August 30, 2017 .

Happy Women's Equality Day!

women's equality day

The thought of a woman being arrested for voting is barbaric in today’s culture, but it wasn’t that long ago that women didn’t have the right to vote in the United States. Less than a hundred years ago, the mindset of the time period set women below men, which produced male dominated politics and workplace leadership. Not to say there were no women leaders, but the few that there were met opposition, challenges, and disrespect that we can only imagine today.

On August 26, 1920, the 19th amendment was added to the constitution allowing women to vote. Now, the date marks a national observance celebrating women’s equality in the United States. You can learn more about the history and significance here. This event has led to a political, economic, and cultural shift for women resulting in many opportunities previously unattainable.

We’ve come a long way since that monumental decision was made by Congress and it is as evident in the workplace than anywhere else. In fact, there are currently 31 female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. Government-mandated employment policies are in place that strive for women to have the same resources and opportunities as their male counterparts.

That said, the concept of the “glass ceiling” is very real and women still have a difficult road ahead to be truly “equal” in many regards. For example, men still dominate certain workforce industries, like politics, and equal pay for men and women has not been realized. Even among teammates, it’s common for women’s ideas to get shot down before their complete thought has been communicated, while men rarely struggle with the same issue. So what can we do about it?

In celebration of women’s equality day, share the history of Women’s Equality Day with your co-workers. Moderate a group discussion about the significance of the 19th amendment and how it has paved the way for women in the workforce. Brainstorm with your team the areas in which your company promotes women’s equality and things you can do to improve equality and diversity for everyone.

Share your conversation starters, discussions, and brainstorms with us! We’d love to hear from you.

Posted on August 26, 2017 .

Sick Days, Personal Time, Vacation Days Explained

Vacation Days

One of the first things you consider when applying for a job is the benefits package offered, right? If a company is smart, they will offer a competitive benefits package that includes the staples - health insurance, vacation time, 401(k) contributions - but also recent popular additions such as flexible work hours, discounted lunch, reimbursement for childcare, and more. Companies are getting creative because they know benefits are important to job seekers.

Maybe the most important part of a benefits package is vacation days. But lumped in with vacation time is sick days and personal time, which can be confusing. What’s the difference between them and how do you use each?

Vacation Time

Vacation time is just what it sounds like, time off of work to take a vacation! That doesn’t mean you have to actually go on a vacation. You can stay at home and watch TV all day, run errands, or remodel your kitchen. Your company doesn’t care what you do with the time - it’s yours! You’ll likely need to request your days off in advance so that your manager can ensure everyone on your team isn’t taking time off at the same time. Most companies give you a certain number of days or hours as vacation time, and it increases every year that you work. For example, you may start at 10 days per year, and every year you stay with the company, you accrue one additional day. After 5 years, you’ll have 15 vacation days.

Some progressive companies are experimenting with unlimited vacation time, which means you can take off as much as you’d like, as long as you are getting your work done. While this sounds amazing, you do need to be careful with this policy. Some research has shown that people won’t take off as much time if they don’t have a “bank” of days to use up. Make sure you actually take time off, but don’t take advantage and only work 5 days a month. You won’t keep your job long if you do that!

Sick Days

Again, sick days are what the name implies: time off because you are sick so that you can get better quickly and leave the germs at home. It’s common to be given a certain amount of sick days each year. If you have seven sick days and fly through them by June, you’ll likely have to use vacation or personal time for any additional days. You may also be asked to provide a doctor’s note to use sick days (just like in school).

I previously worked at a company where the policy stated, “If you are sick, stay home! Period.” It’s a great policy as you aren’t limited, but when someone was sick a lot at the company, you were contacted by HR for an assessment about what was going on. It’s never a good idea to take advantage of policies like this, but if you are truly sick frequently, then it’s a great workplace perk.

Personal Time

Personal time is the most confusing of the three. Personal time is usually considered to be reserved for time off for work for things other than vacation and sick days. If your company offers it, it’s nice to not have to use vacation time to remodel a kitchen or go to the dentist.

But what happens if you use all of your vacation time and still have personal time? Can you use personal time as vacation time? It’s best to talk to your HR representative for specifics since every company’s policy is different. That said, it’s common for people to lump vacation time and personal time together. After all, “personal” time is all about you, right? A word of caution: if you lump your time together, reserve at least 2-3 days to use in a pinch or at the end of the year. It’s awful when you use all of your time on vacation and then don’t have any days off at the end of the year. You never know what may come up that you need to handle during the workweek.

As you are considering a new position, great questions to ask during an interview are:

  • What does your benefits package include?

  • Do you offer personal time?

  • What is your company’s sick time policy?

  • What are the guidelines for using vacation time, personal time, and sick days?

Posted on August 16, 2017 .

Balancing Back-to-School & Keeping Pace At Work

Back to School

It’s almost that time of year...back-to-school time!

Depending on the personality of your children, this season may solicit feelings of joy or dread. The same goes for parents. Some of you may be elated your children will have structured time outside of the home again, or you may be dreading the shopping, to-do lists, and hussle of the fast-paced schedule that comes with one or more children in classes and extracurriculars. All of that on top of a busy work life can make for a stressful balancing act leading to burnout for you. Unfortunately, work doesn’t stop or slow down just because your personal life gets hectic!

If you are anxious about this time of year, take a deep breath, slow down, and do some pre-planning. It will make a world of difference as you approach the inevitable back-to-school rush.

It’s important to have a game plan to keep a healthy balance between work and the back-to-school rush. Below is a step-by-step list that you can use to make that happen. While you can go through these instructions by yourself, including your family in the plan will not only lessen the burden on you, but will promote healthy communication and teamwork in your home.

Step-by-Step Game Plan to Balance Back-To-School & Work

  • Make a list of everything you need to do for your children to get them ready for back-to-school and the first few weeks after school has started.

  • Make a list of everything you will have going on at work during the same time frame. Ask your partner to do the same.

  • Merge the lists together and highlight any schedule conflicts and the items that will be extra stressful.

  • Brainstorm solutions with your partner to resolve the schedule conflicts.

  • Brainstorm ideas with your partner to lessen the stress of the “big deal” items on the list.

  • Decide on a game plan to tackle these issues and the entire back-to-school season.

  • Set expectations before school starts. If you need everyone to be done with back-to-school shopping before your big project is due at work to eliminate stressful last-minute Target runs, then make it clear now. You may also consider limiting the amount of activities each child may sign up for during the school year to keep the schedule manageable. At work, perhaps you may need to leave early a few days. Whatever you decide, communicate it sooner than later.

  • Set roles and responsibilities for each family member so you aren’t stuck doing everything yourself. For example, if you know you need to be at work by 8 am, make sure your kids know they need to pack their own lunches in the mornings - or even better, the night before!

  • Do the same with your teammates at work. If you could use some help with a specific area of a project to minimize your stress level during this time, ask for assistance.

  • Make a family schedule that is accessible to everyone in your home. It will help family expectations and communication to know where everyone is and when and where they need to be. You should also ensure your work calendar is updated appropriately.

Now that you have a clear game plan, communicate it to everyone in the family and at work. Your plan is no good if no one else knows what’s going on.

Do you have any other tips for families to balance work and the back-to-school season? Leave a comment below!

Posted on August 9, 2017 .

Dissolving Mental Health Stigmas In The Workplace

mental health

Mental health is a tough topic when it comes to the workplace. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), over 43 million adult Americans (about 18% of the total population) suffer from mental health disorders each year. Even though it is extremely common, the stigma associated with mental illness is strong, especially when it comes to employment.

Examples of mental health struggles include, but are not limited to, social phobia, eating disorders, bipolar disorder, and depression. Left untreated, these illnesses can cause serious problems in the personal and professional life of an individual. Unfortunately, asking for mental health help or support can come across as weakness for many, which leaves those suffering afraid to seek the assistance they need. And if the workplace environment of those who struggle isn’t one that supports mental health, it can be an incredibly difficult, isolated struggle. As you are conducting a job search or are considering a job change, it’s important to look into mental health policies before you commit.

For example, the ability to take time off, get appropriate health care, and achieve a good work-life balance, are key to promoting mental health. With a great mental health policy in place, the overall work environment of a company will drastically improve and produce happier, healthier, and more productive employees. That is the type of company you want to call home!

This great blog article from the Department of Labor narrates what it’s like to go through mental health issues in the workplace and what is needed to truly promote mental health:

  • Employment itself - giving individuals a chance despite known difficulties
  • The same flexibility to recover from mental health issues as physical health issues
  • Regularly promote mental health support and resources made available to employees

A recent, exciting mental health success story comes from Olark, a web development company. An employee sent a company wide email stating that she needed some time off to care for her mental health. The CEO responded with a ‘thank you’ for being a great example of promoting mental health to the company. What a great workplace environment that must be, where leadership cares for each individual who works there!

If you don’t suffer from a mental illness, chances are you know someone who does, and they may (or will) sit in the cubical, lab, or office next to you. Look for jobs at companies that make this a priority in the workplace culture. If mental health support is a top priority for you, ask questions during your offer negotiation about mental health policies and resources available to employees.

You can also be encouraging, understanding, and flexible when you notice someone dealing with mental health issues. You can make a difference in your workplace by making mental health important for your team and setting an example to dissolve the stigma.


If you are interested in learning more about mental health, MentalHealth.gov and NIHM are great, free resources available to you.

Posted on August 2, 2017 .