Research and colored note cards

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The first research paper I ever did was on the history of cloves, which is a bit strange because I was a second grader at the time. While other kids were looking for information on kangaroos or the history of chocolate, I was reading about the history of spices. This may all seem a bit odd, but I don’t pretend to have lived a normal childhood.

My interest in research started back then. I enjoyed the colored note cards—pastel pinks, yellows, blues, greens—that represented different subject matters my paper would later highlight. I loved the old books with faded covers and black and white pictures of people who lived across the world. In short, I loved the very art of collecting information about a particular subject.

But not everyone has a positive view of research, in fact, probably very few people do; colored note cards just don’t do it for everyone. But research is something no hopeful applicant should ignore, because a well-researched applicant is an attractive applicant. Imagine you have an upcoming interview. Before going to the interview, you decide to spend a couple hours researching the prospective company. Such research leads to preparedness, confidence, and several other qualities that appeal to a potential employer.

Researching is also incredibly easy to do given the huge network of information available via the Internet. I recommend checking out a company’s main website and also any related company or industry blogs. After reading up on the different sites, it’s a good idea to prepare some questions for your potential employer ahead of time. But you should also be ready to modify those questions according to the natural course of the interview.

Research will always pay off for the serious job seeker and it’s a relatively simple process thanks to the Internet—one that won’t consume nearly as much time as the whole colored note card system.

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Keeping Your Name Out There

I was at a holiday party over the weekend and a group of people started discussing their jobs and whether or not they like what they do. Some were unhappy, some were content and others were very happy. I fell into the latter group. I make a pretty good living and like what I do. Then someone asked if I would switch companies to make more money but still do what I do now.

“Of course,” I answered, “that’s the American way.”

That is why it’s important for me to keep my résumé up to date and my network up and running; someone might be able to recommend me for a new job even if I’m not actively in the market for one. Often the best opportunities in life pop up when we aren’t looking. I met my wife two days after I decided to stop dating and concentrate on my college courses. Life’s funny that way.

Maintaining your network during the months you are gainfully employed ensures that it’s available to you when you aren’t. It also serves to notify you of exciting opportunities that may further your career or net you a larger salary.

During those blissful months on the job is the best time to share positive comments with those in your network. Tell them about accomplishments at your job or awards you may have won. If you only ever contact people during the rough times, they won’t be as likely to think of you for a better position.

Be supportive of your network. Give back and don’t always take. Each time you recommend a quality person for a job at your company you’ll be more likely to have that favor returned.

Similarly, constantly update your résumé with changes in your responsibilities and accomplishments you make. It needs to be ready at a moment’s notice in case you are approached by a member of your network with a great new job.

You career’s forward momentum relies on keeping an ear to the train tracks to see if a new train is coming soon. The best way to do that is to keep your name out there to people who may be in a position to help you. Continue building a network, making contacts and forming relationships. It’s the surest way to safeguard your future.

Building a Network

As established in my earlier blog, if you want a job you need a network. Networks account for the vast majority of new hires every year. Your greatest chance at successfully getting a new job is through a network.

Great, so how do you get one of those network things?

A network consists of everyone you know and have a relationship with. So, if your only acquaintance in the world is thorshammer1701, and that world happens to be World of Warcraft, then your job hunt may be a bit tricky.

But, if you went to school and received a degree, that’s a good place to start. Your former classmates are in the same field as you are which puts them in the best position to recommend you for jobs. Even if you’re just out of school, many of those schoolmates had internships that led to full-time positions and possibly know of other opportunities within their companies. If not, perhaps they’re being headhunted and can pass your name along to the hunter. They may have passed on another job recently that you can take advantage of instead.

If you’re looking to switch careers, then your school network might not be as helpful. You’ll have to start building relationships with the myriad of people you meet in your everyday life. Start by throwing your hand out to people and introducing yourself. Hand out business cards and collect them as well. Contact these people to follow up on your conversations and keep contacting them every few weeks. Let them know you are in the market for a new job, but don’t ask them specifically if they know of openings. All you need to do is plant the seed in their head that you’re out there. You’ll also want to keep these contacts fresh, nothing annoys a person more than not hearing from a friend for two years and then only when they need something.

The best time to build a network is before you’re looking for a job. You’ll want it in place for when you do start the hunt, that way it’ll be so much easier for you when you do. Also, even after you land that new job continue to keep the network active. You never know when you may need it again.

Time for a Career Change?

It’s time for a little cubicle anthropology. We all love to do it so don’t be shy about it. If Marlon Perkins was still alive doing Mutual of Omaha, he surely would have run through the entire animal kingdom and refocused his energy on the different breeds of workers throughout the corporate world. So, in the interest of science, take a quick look around and see if you can spot the following co-worker “types.”

The Complainer

These are the easiest to spot because they are by nature the most vocal. The complainer isn’t just resistant to change; they’re resistant to any slight variation in their lives. One degree warmer or cooler can set them off. Everything from the color of the boss’s tie to texture of the carpet is fair game to these folks. They have a touch of the drama queen to them as well, often blowing mundane issues into gargantuan problems.

The Argumentative Type

Similarly vocal, and therefore just as easy to spot, the argumentative types have an opinion on everything. Every corporate policy change, decision by the boss or choice made by a co-worker – whether it’s business or personal – will be wrong; dead wrong. And they’ll be more than happy to tell you exactly why everyone else is wrong – for the next hour and a half.

The Over-Stressed

Bleary eyed and usually chewing through two pencils a day, the over-stressed are just as easily identified. They jump whenever they hear their name and then twitch involuntarily. Cubicle neighbors are annoyed by the constant cracking of their necks and backs or the drumming of their fingers on the desk. Severe cases have been known to contract sudden onset, late in life stuttering. It’s bizarre.

The Uncommonly Bored

Look for a person who has rearranged their cubicle or office so that his or her computer screen can’t be viewed by unwanted snoopers. You just found yourself someone who is uncommonly bored at work. They’ve arranged their screens in such a way that no one can see the internet sites they are visiting instead of performing any actual work. The uncommonly bored also run the risk of extreme paranoia over whether an IT employee is actually tracking and logging the Internet sites they visit on their computer.

The Flat-Out Disgruntled

It’s best to avoid this type entirely.

All of these types need to seriously consider switching jobs or careers. Most Americans do it an average of three times throughout their lives and it’s time these people contributed to the statistic.

But, here’s the obligatory Law & Order twist. The one you knew was coming but just couldn’t quite predict what it would be. If other co-workers are playing the same game right now, and identifying you as one of these types – it’s time for you to think about a career change as well.

Importance of Networking

I’m a traditionalist. When, as a young lad, I set out to find a job I did it the only way I knew how: I looked for a “Now Hiring” sign in a store’s window, then went in and filled out an application. I got my first job that way. It worked for me once and if something works for me I stick with it.

After graduating college, I was a bit surprised to find out that most places who would hire a writer didn’t advertise that job in their window. Not that I blame them, most of those windows were several stories above the sidewalk so it didn’t make a whole lot of sense to advertise for jobs that way.

Obviously, a new strategy would need to be devised. Books needed to be purchased; words needed to be read; information needed to be obtained.

What did I learn? That networking was the number one way to find a job. According to the Federal Bureau of Labor, 70% of all jobs are found through a personal network

 

A network starts with family, friends, school chums – anyone you know who has a job and who is in a position to either inform you of an open job or possibly recommend you for a position at his or her company. But, the genius part is that it can extend beyond your immediate circle out to friends of friends of friends; expanding into a ripe grapevine of possibilities.

 

The power of this network lies within the personal recommendation. If a company values its employee and his or her work, then they’ll value his or her opinion when suggesting a new employee. Especially since their employee risks his or her standing in the company to make that recommendation.

You can also reverse the flow and allow this to work in your favor. Not only is that person in your network recommending you to the company, they’re recommending the company to you. Instead of taking up too much of your time researching the company, you have an insider who can tell you what it’s like to work there; what the people are like, how do the managers treat their employees, etc.

This information arms you very well for the interview. You’ll be able to answer questions with a focus towards the company and even offer ideas on how things may be improved.

There’s no downside to networking. It works for employers and for jobseekers. The key, then, is to build an effective network that serves you best. More on that later…