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.

Treadmill Desks?

At last, a way to stay fit while you work! The treadmill desk, which is basically a treadmill with a large tray on top that holds a computer, phone etc. While this idea may be a bit too extreme for your office, there are other actual, beneficial exercises that can be performed right at your desk, or at least discretely within your workspace.

Now, more than ever, it is important to watch your health if you are confined to a desk all day. People are working longer hours with more stress. Not only is it harder to hit the gym, but your nerves tend to be completely fried after a full day’s work.

Here are a few simple exercises to try out while you work:

* Wrists: To avoid the effects of carpal tunnel syndrome, do a wrist stretch by extending the arm with palm up while grabbing fingers with the other hand. Gently pull the hand downwards. Repeat on other wrist.

* Back:

Stretching revitalizes both the body and mind. Simply grab the back of a chair, and then slowly  turn around so that you are looking over your shoulders. Repeat to stretch out both sides of the back.

To avoid compression of the spinal vertebrae, make sure to get up out of your chair and stretch after a long phone call. Consider investing in a headset for frequent phone use.

Also, to spare extra stain on your back, try to wear comfortable shoes. If your dress shoes bother you, bring an extra pair of casual, comfortable shoes to slide on while at your desk.

*Quadriceps: Easy leg lifts target the front of the thighs. These lifts can be done while sitting straight in your desk chair with your back pressed straight and firmly again the chair back.

* Back, abs and legs: Consider replacing your traditional desk chair with an exercise ball. The balancing act will strengthen many muscle groups.

Rejuvenate you mind and body everyday without sacrificing any work time. Even constructively use your lunch hour by walking a few laps around the building or simply taking the stairs when possible. You will then be able to return home after a long work day feeling refreshed.

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.

Back to school: Not just for the kids

 

The mere thought of returning to school after an extended vacation is frightening enough for some adults to disregard the option all together. Or perhaps you’re one of the many who would jump at the chance but can’t seem to figure out how school would fit into your already overloaded schedule. 

In today’s age of technology the solution is simple: online courses.  

Online courses put the class time in your hands. They give you the flexibility necessary when scheduling car pool and class time. If you have school age children online courses let you focus on school while your children are out of the house during the day. If you’re more nocturnal you can catch up on your work after the kids are in bed. And if you’re working and going to school flexibility is just that more important. Schedule your test time after your afternoon meeting. Or, bring a lunch and do work then.  

Online courses eliminate wasted travel time. Your time is valuable. And if your closest campus isn’t just around the corner the time spent driving to and from school is time lost. If you travel frequently for your job it would be impossible to keep up with classes. But with online courses all you need is an internet connection.  

Online courses give adults the opportunity to become more tech-savvy. If you’re intimidated by the idea of communicating with your professors and classmates solely through the internet then chances are your eight year old is still turning on the computer for you. Once you familiarize yourself with the basics, the time needed to comprehend new software and online resources will be cut in half. Then you can give your kids a few pointers.  

And that’s just the beginning. Most instructors update the online calendar frequently making it easy to anticipate upcoming assignments and tests and even finish them ahead of schedule giving you even more free time. And by making your home office your new classroom you can even go to class in your pajamas. Just like the old days.

Mom’s Return to the Workforce

 

When I was a young girl I had the privilege of having a mother whose main priority and responsibility was, well, me. She dropped me off and picked me up everyday (as well as some of the neighborhood stragglers who missed the bus). I often scoffed at my classmates who brown bagged it; my lunch was constantly a gourmet feast, packed neatly into a fashionable lunch box with a matching thermos that almost always had steamy tomato soup inside. My science projects tended to shine more than others…mostly due to my mother’s contributions. And, of course all of my papers and presentations were neatly bound and laminated. Every week night, regardless of after school activities, we would all sit down for a family dinner prepared by – you guessed it – mom.  

But then I turned thirteen and high school was quickly approaching. My life was about to change – drastically. My mother was becoming increasingly bored and right about the time I was planning my courses for high school she was planning on going back to work.  

At first I was shocked. I knew I was at the point where I was too cool for the parent drop-off, but those lunches? And who would make dinner every night? (Food, obviously, is high on my list of priorities.) It never occurred to me how stifling it was for her to stay home all day.  

Going back to work after an extended sabbatical can be tough on anyone. For stay at home moms the process can be extremely daunting and exhausting. First things first: get on the same page as your family. Talk to your spouse and allow him to voice his concerns about your return to the workforce. Is he available to run some of the mom-type errands if you need to stay late at work? Are his barbeque skills up to par in the event you can’t have dinner ready? Next talk to your kids and tell them how it will affect them. If they are still young it is important to let them know your schedule and how frequently you will be around when they get home from school.  

Now it is time to address that pesky employment gap in your résumé. Luckily you aren’t required to organize your résumé in a time line. Rather, organize it by the types of positions you’ve held in the past. But if, and when, the gap is addressed don’t get defensive about the time you’ve spent at home. Instead try and emphasize what types of activities you were engaged with outside of your home. Were you active in the PTA or your home owner’s association? What about time you spent coaching your daughter’s softball team? These are contributions to the community and will never weigh against you when interviewing.  

The most important thing to remember when returning to your chosen field is that you weren’t unemployed in the first place – you were raising a family and shaping lives. Your new employer isn’t doing you a favor by offering you a job. You have all the necessary skills to be a contributing asset to your new company. You might just have to dust them off a little.

The Dating/Job Hunting Parallel

 

If you’re still feeling hopeless about your job search it might be time to brush up on your dating skills. Have you ever considered how similar job hunting is to date hunting? Think about it. From promoting yourself through the ranks to exploring for new opportunities the similarities are endless.  

Allow me to illustrate my point that the two are more than a little parallel with a few examples. Consider your single self. You’ve decided that its time to put yourself back on the market. First you have to put yourself out there and make it known that you are available and looking. What do you do? You go out with friends to places where there are many people to mingle with. You try to meet as many people as possible in order to determine the best fit for your personality and your lifestyle. You might mention to friends and family what type of people you are interested in and what you need.

Now consider your unemployed self. You’re on the prowl for a new occupation and you need to make it known. What do you do? You network with friends and family, neighbors and maybe previous coworkers. You let them know that you are searching and what exactly you are searching for in terms of a job. You research career websites as much as possible in order to be up to date on what is available in your market. If you’re out with friends and happen to stumble upon someone who somewhat matches what you’re looking for you make the effort to reach out to them and see what exactly they have to offer. The same is true for a job. If you happen to hear of an available position then you should reach out to the company’s HR department, submit your résumé and schedule an interview to see if there is a mutual fit.  And just like a new relationship, your guard is up with a new employer and a new position. You wouldn’t reveal all of your bad habits to a new boyfriend just like you wouldn’t to a new employer. It’s necessary to always put your best foot forward when approaching a new relationship and a new job.  

If you’re still having trouble seeing the light I’m shining, then Google “dating tips”. Within the first search page you will have more than enough inspiration to apply to your job search. For example, “Get prepared for dating [working]…decide who [what] you are looking for. Do your research and commit to dating [working].” “Get your image right. Don’t go overboard and become someone you are not, but spruce yourself up a little bit. People appreciate appearance.” And my personal favorite, “Choose those that you have a good chance of dating [becoming employed with], don’t aim low but do aim realistically.” 

It’s important to be mindful of your goals and aspirations when dating and searching for a new job. And with either it is important to remember that if someone doesn’t want you it doesn’t mean that there is anything wrong with you. You just have to get back out there and be more creative in your search.

Happy Hunting!

Your First Résumé: A Guide for Beginners

The following is a great example of how NOT to write your résumé. I may have exaggerated things a bit with “Joe Jobseeker’s” past work experience, but the other faux pas are unfortunately pretty common among amateur résumé writers.

After reading this through and seeing the many changes needed to make this résumé even remotely acceptable, take a closer look at your own to see if you’ve inadvertently made some of the same errors.

Let the learning begin!

This is Joe’s résumé. He spent about 10 minutes writing it and sprucing it up to bring it to what he feels is its full “awesome potential.” He’s a bit delusional. This résumé clearly needs a ton of help.

 

Page 2

1 Joe, first and foremost, your fonts are not consistent throughout the résumé. Formatting like underline, italics, and bold should be used sparingly. Also, the phone number is missing a digit, and the email address is far from professional.

2 Again with the crappy font. This is barely legible even at this large font size. Your objective is incredibly vague. Specify which industry you hope to get a job in.

3 Why is this entire thing centered? You need to make it line up on the left. The word “shoveled” is misspelled. Also, here come a few more fonts and bolding – ugh. Is this job even relevant? You were likely a teen when you did this job, and it doesn’t seem like you learned too much in the way of how a business is run from the stalls. Also, you can’t say that you fed slop to your boss. You can say “Brought boss his lunch” or something, but it still doesn’t seem appropriate.

4 Do not use an ampersand (&) in place of the word “and.” You’ve changed tenses with the third duty. Only your current job should be in the present tense; all past jobs should be in past tense (help customers vs. helped customers). Also, you shouldn’t say you were hired because your good looks helped you sell tires, even if it was true.

5 There’s a typo with the word “lined.” Use capital letters at the beginning of each line. You should leave “repeat” off because it seems like negative commentary about how repetitive this job was.

6 I believe you meant “groceries.” You changed tenses with the last two duties. Also, you should organize the order of your past jobs to be most recent to oldest. Managers want to know what you’re doing now, not what you did a decade ago (though they will read that far eventually, it doesn’t help your case at all to put the oldest jobs first).

7 Don’t abbreviate on a resume even if it is monstrously long and more than one page (like you did here: “w/” instead of “with”). Find other ways to make it shorter. Your last duty needs to be removed or changed to something a lot less specific like “Kept the customer restrooms clean.”

8 This font is much larger than anything else found in the rest of the document. I know you’re proud of your education, but it’s impressive enough without being in bold, size 24 point font. The year is formatted differently here than in the rest of the document. Also, the dash is different.

9 The way this section is written hurts you more than it could ever possibly help you. Those bullets when there are none anywhere else? Bad idea. Stay consistent. Also, format the sentences the same to say “I” in each statement or in none of them.

You should be as specific as possible about skills that you think an employer will see as vital. What kinds of computers can you use? What kinds of programs? Also, you don’t write “good,” you write “well.” I would suggest leaving this off completely if you don’t understand the difference.

Your disposition is not a factor on a résumé . It’s something they will notice during an interview. You can put that you are great at customer service perhaps, or that you can use many types of cash registers.

Overall Analysis: Where do I even start? The entire format of this résumé is boring and confusing. The margins on the page were obviously widened so you could put all of your contact info across the top, but then you skip two spaces between each job and completely waste space. This must be one page, but not with 1/2 inch margins and tiny font that kill a reader’s eyes. That said, following these edits will make this résumé a thousand times better. Then you can work on how to make your past jobs seem like great learning experiences instead of just what you had to do to pay the bills. But that’s another blog for another day.