Workplace Presence

With the economy in turmoil and many people scrambling to find adequate work, it is important to make a good impression at work. If you are lucky enough to have a good job, you must maintain this persona.

If you are new on the job figure out the work etiquette. Is it ok to use your cell phone? If so, when and where can you use it? Know the dress code and when it is acceptable to deviate from it. Abiding by these said, and often unsaid, rules will help you find your niche within the job.

Personality is goes a long way and if you are easy to get along with, then it is just that much harder to fire you. Make sure your boss likes you. You don’t have to change your personality, but if you know that your boss really doesn’t like some personality trait you possess adjust that one thing just for the workplace. Start off slow and gradually incorporate your personality as you get to know your boss and co-workers. You don’t want your boss to make up a legitimate legal reason to fire you simply because your personalities clash.

Once you know you are on your boss’ good side, make sure you are actually listening to him/her. When he/she gives you directions, suggestions etc., acknowledge this. Do so by being enthusiastic about your job. While coming on too strong, or flaunting all your knowledge right from the beginning might not be a good idea, you should show that you understand the work you do and provide ideas and suggestions when appropriate.

Instead of simply agreeing with everything told to you, let your boss know if you have a better plan or idea that you feel would be an improvement. This is the perfect way to showcase your knowledge about your work. While you might not want to admit it, initially you are there to make your boss look good. Know how your boss operates and fill in where he/she doesn’t quite cover it.

Don’t be a suck up, but do be involved. When you first start a job, ask many questions. Provide extra information when asked until you are sure of the level of communication that your boss desires. Make sure you promptly follow up all correspondence and be detail-oriented in doing so.

You want to stand out at work, but in a good way. Developing a reputation for being a good, productive and diligent worker is much better than being recalled as a whiny and demanding employee. Consider helping co-workers out or taking on additional tasks. Be nice and develop good, constructive relationships with colleagues. This way you become the go-to person and then your name is associated with positive attributes.

First impressions are everything. If you get off on the right foot, then you can very well be off to a great career.


Going Out With a Bang

Quitting Your Job the Way You Want…and What it Might Cost You

You hate your job – the pay, coworkers, the hours and especially your boss. Every day, as the boss piles more busy work on your desk and asks you to stay late, quitting is on your mind. A letter of resignation seems so inadequate, though, in light of the miserable years you’ve spent at the company. In a perfect world, you think, there would be a better way. Your fantasy, my friend, is shared by many but carried out by few.

Standing up from the rock-hard office chair you’ve had for five years (because they are too cheap to get you a new one) you walk calmly to the boss’ office. Carrying that pointless report you were commissioned to do – the one that will never see the light of day – you enter his office to find him on an important phone call. His expression turns to confusion and then shock, as you grab a pair of scissors from his desk and cut the line. Just for effect, you may want to cut his expensive tie, too.

The thousand-page report lands with a thwack! on his desk. You say something to the effect of “I quit!” Elaborate on exactly why you’ve decided to leave. Do this loudly so the whole office can hear. Then, you turn your attention to the precious golf clubs he uses to perfect his game each afternoon while everyone else is working. You grab a nine iron, or maybe a driver, and destroy each expensive crystal, gold or glass item in the room. He will get more useless clutter next Christmas from anyone desperate to keep their job.

Running out of the office and between the desks of your coworkers, you gather your personal things and sweep every paper from your desk. Hopefully, security is here by now – that always makes things more interesting. You take one final bow before the elevator doors close, and you might even squeeze in one more audible profanity.

Stop right there! Before this gets out of hand, snap out of it and get back to reality. Almost no one gets to turn this fantasy into a reality. Why?

For one thing, you need a new job. Hating your job, unfortunately, is not an excuse to quit without having something else lined up. The satisfaction from the scene you made earlier, while it feels good, will not pay bills.

So, once you’ve gotten a new job, is it safe to have an outburst? Well, that all depends. You may need that reference in the future and it is always best to stay on good terms. The issues at your old job aren’t your problem anymore, so it may be best to just let it go.

If you absolutely must live out your fantasy, then go for it. Just tone it down a bit. Yelling at your soon-to-be-former boss is one thing — leave the golf clubs out of it. You can prove a point without getting arrested for vandalism and assault.

The bottom line is that no quitting fantasy is practical. Few people ever get to experience what it’s like to say exactly what they think at exactly the right moment. Many people simply believe that living well is the best revenge. Try just being happy at your new job and take solace in remembering how much worse it was.

The Attack of the Mid-Life Crisis

Are you in your 40’s and tired, bored and sick of the daily grind? Is it that time in your life when you have the frightening thought of staying with your job or doing something totally daring and spontaneous in your life? Well we are all going to get to that point eventually. Let me tell you something – change isn’t a bad thing! After sitting in the same cubicle for twenty plus years we think of change as a monster in the workforce. But this isn’t the Boogieman lurking in the dark waiting to whisk you off to some new and foreign cubicle. This is a look at reality, your life and what you decide to make of it.

First you need to make a critical self-assessment. What are you good at? What do you have a degree in? Find your strengths and see how they can help you in the job force. Also, take the time to assess yourself and your skills in today’s world. Are your technology skills outdated? Do you have up to date computer and Internet proficiencies? See where you would stand in the current job force if you became an applicant.

After you make this self-assessment you can see if you need to go back to school or not. Did you leave school for some extra cash to waitress and never made it back to earn a degree? Maybe now is the time to get that degree or take a few computer classes. Going back to school can lead you down a completely new and interesting job path.

Make sure you study the job market. See what jobs are hot right now and do your research on the careers you are interested in. What if you have a passion for real estate but the market is sluggish right now? Think of all of the different paths you can take and the different career choices. Maybe even think of relocating to spice things up a bit. Whatever you decide you have to take the time to research the job market and the specific industries that interest you. If you have always wanted to own your own boutique then by all means go for it. Just make sure you understand how a business works and how much it costs before you quit your job now.

Everyone is going to go through a mid-life crisis. Just don’t get rash and quit your job without a plan of action! Evaluate the situation and see if you are really ready for that change in your life. It’s not as scary as you think.

Background checks. Oh, they matter.

Did you know that a potential employer could ask your neighbors about you? Under a background check, an interview of neighbors and friends is considered an ‘investigative consumer report’ and is perfectly legal. While they must inform you of their doing so, it is perfectly alright for them to ask about your character, style of living and other such questions.  

While most employers don’t check out their candidates this extensively, they certainly have the right to do so. If this worries you, you may want to check out why they’re doing such an extensive background check on you and what it’s all about.  

In the narrowing job market, employers are taking hiring more seriously. Fewer jobs means more applications for each opening they do have and presumably, they want the best of the best. This means that, while it’s more effort, background checks will possibly become more routine.  

Also, don’t forget the Google factor. The easiest way to quickly assess someone for a position is to Google them. Do you know what’s out there under your name? Remember, you are what Google says you are.  

One more thing. MySpace and Facebook are really great networking tools. But they’re also really great for potentially ruining your job search. It’s nice to go out and party every once in a while, but remember to have your friends NOT put up those pictures when you’re looking for a job. Even if you’re not, you don’t want your reputation made for you.

Beware: The Internet Can Ruin You

We all know what social networking is right? You sign up for an account such as Myspace or Facebook, become “friends” with hundreds of people you probably never talk to, and update pictures of you and your friends looking like fools. Oh it’s loads of fun. Until you risk a potential job over it.

Today’s employers are researching the online persona of applicants and taking that into consideration over the traditional resume. Resumes tell a lot about a person, but most people embellish and lie to get ahead in the professional world. By going online to your personal profile an employer can see your sex, race, age, interests, and all those drunken pictures you have with your friends. An employer can be on the verge of hiring you, but if your Myspace profile raises red flags about your lifestyle and values then you might as well go back to the beginning of your job search. You are only going to be hurting yourself by adding “smoking weed” to your interests.

The solution: clean it up! I’m not saying that you have to have a boring profile and delete everything that defines you as a unique individual. Just be smart about your choices. When I got back from my trip to Russia I had listed Vodka under my interests. That obviously isn’t the gem employers look for in applicants and so I cleaned up my profile and deleted that interest. I also deleted any pictures of myself holding alcohol bottles or anything that might be too risqué and tasteless. My final step was making my profile friends only. It is now private and employers can only see my main picture and my age. Think of how you would want to be viewed by the people you work with. If you put anything vulgar or crude on the Internet it will most likely come back to haunt you.

Resumes, test scores, and grades are one way of learning about an applicant but the Internet is now the main research tool in eliminating job candidates. Don’t belittle the adult world – they are smart and they will find out your personal information if you let it run free on the Internet.

References? What if I don’t have any!

So you’ve applied to your first ever, real-world job. Congratulations. But, this being your first ever, real-world job, you don’t have any references to give them when they inevitably call you back for an interview. In college, you were too busy studying your butt off to have a part time job, and you certainly didn’t have time to volunteer because of all the clubs and organizations you were leading in order to get the experience that got you that interview in the first place. What? You don’t have any of those either? Well, I’d say it’s about time to get some.

Bottom line, you don’t have anything you really need for this interview. In fact, you don’t even think you’re really qualified except for the degree that says you are and the knowledge that you know you can do it. Well, that confidence is at least one thing you have going for you. Now here is a list of some things you can do to get a positive response.

  1. Think back over anyone in your life that you were trying to impress. Any of these people are in the position to comment on your qualifications, abilities, and/or personal attributes. For example, did you ever baby-sit/house-sit/pet watch? These people obviously trusted you enough with their children/belongings and are probably willing to give a great reference.
  2. Are there any teachers with whom you really connected? Did you even talk with any of them? Even if you didn’t, try writing to one that you thought knew what they were talking about. Let them know why you trusted what they had to say, specifically, and start a correspondence. At the very least, they can serve as a future networking tool.
  3.  Ask a friend that you worked with frequently either in a class or an organization that you were a part of together. They will know your initiative, abilities, productivity and how you handled yourself. Remember, however, that this should not be someone you know strictly in a social manner.  They must have examples to site and be able to answer whatever questions are asked about you from an employers point of view.
  4. Last but not least, you can always use personal references. Limit these if possible because they are not as qualified to answer the probable questions the employer may ask. Chances are, they don’t know how you handle stress at work or what skill set you have to offer an employer.
  •  Remember, always ask the reference first and send a written Thank-you afterward.  

 If, for some insane, crazy reason they do not hire you, then you’ll have lots of time on your hands. Volunteer! Join a club! Give back to the community— it’s good for everyone and will not only enhance your résumé, but give you plenty of possible references for the future.  

Highlighting Your Work Experience

Chances are, every job you’ve had over the years hasn’t fit into a neat and perfectly descriptive slot. You might’ve held a job for positions like “Keyholder” or “Key Holder.” These are very different positions, but how will anyone who’s never held that exact job know the difference? Sometimes a resume just doesn’t have enough space. Sometimes certain things could be taken out of context.

I’ve held both positions during my working years. When I was a Keyholder, I worked at a bookstore in the mall. This position was one step below an assistant manager. Basically, I was an assistant manager who didn’t work 40 hours a week (because of school). A friend suggested I write “Shift Lead” on my resume instead to explain what the heck I did there. Even that doesn’t cover everything, though, and you can’t write an essay about each place you’ve worked. No one will read that!

Someone who’s been (or may have known) a Keyholder might assume that a Key Holder is the same thing. It’s totally not. A Key Holder is the position at a large home improvement store that refers to the person in charge of the key making service they offer. I didn’t oversee any other employees. I didn’t actually have my own set of keys to the store. What I did do, though, was a huge array of various duties in addition to making keys. People don’t line up in front of the key counter at all hours of the day and night. There’s downtime. Lots of it. So I would help out in any section that needed me for the sake of keeping myself sane. Can I list every little thing I did on my resume? No. That’s not what it’s for.

This is where you come in. As the only person in the interview room who was actually at all of these workplaces, doing these varied jobs and duties, it’s up to you to convey their importance and relevance to your prospective employer. You shouldn’t act as if your résumé is the end all, be all of who you are as an employee. There’s a lot more story to tell than the few little blurbs under each job heading on that one sheet of paper.

Think of your résumé as the outline you’d use to write a history paper in high school. Your outline just has bullet points for you to expand on in your paper. Your résumé serves the exact same purpose. The hiring manager you’re interviewing with has seen the résumé, and now it’s time for you to flesh it out, to give it life and description. Paint them a picture of who you are as an employee. Review your résumé and have notes in front of you with things you’d like to make sure they know more about from it.

For example, your résumé might say something like, “Assisted with departmental development statistics.”

That phrase doesn’t mean much to people who did not work with you, though it looks good on your résumé, it could still use some explanation.

Be sure to emphasize the specific parts of your old jobs that will help you do this one (creative tasks if your new position will deal with creating things, organizational tasks if the new job will include being in charge of others, etc.).

This is a simple step that can really make you a memorable candidate who knows what his strengths, and therefore his limitations, are in the workplace.