QUICK TIPS: Interviewing

Image by Stuart Miles

With graduation just a few weeks behind us recruiters are often swamped with interviews this time of year. Let’s say you’re scheduled for one of these interviews but have decided the position is not the right one for you. What should you do?

A. Nothing. You’re not interested in the position and you won’t be applying for it in the future.

B. Send the recruiter a polite email explaining you have decided to pursue other opportunities.

C. Go anyway. It’s not professional to cancel after the fact.

B is the best way to go. An email is fine, but a phone call is more professional (and not a voicemail left in the middle of the night). This isn’t so much about the job as it is your character. You never know if the company might offer another position that is of interest to you. In fact, the recruiter might actually keep you in mind and reach out to you later on.

A might seem like a good idea, but I caution you to never burn bridges. Guess where recruiters go when they leave a company? often to other recruiting roles. If you canceled on the recruiter when she worked at Victory Logistics there’s no reason for her to believe you’ll be reliable at Procter & Gamble.

C could be a waste of your time and the hiring manager’s. Call the person who set up the interview to let him know you’d like to cancel and give an honest reason. You might have a misunderstanding about the opportunity that he can clear up—and, frankly, it’s less cowardly. This is called professional courtesy. After that, if he asks you to come in anyway, consider it. No one can have a thorough idea of a job even if they go through the entire interview process, but you will at least learn more. Hopefully an observation or shadow will be part of the process to provide you with even more insight. You might even change your mind.

For more interviewing tips check out the following posts:

Didn’t Get the Job? It’s Not You: http://wp.me/p2Yxve-9

Post Grad And No Job? Relax: http://wp.me/p2Yxve-25

 

 

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Ethics–The Lost Art?

Image by Stuart Miles

Image by Stuart Miles

As you read job descriptions and qualifications there is one that won’t show up under the bullet points, but is just as important to bring to the table to build a successful career. These are qualities that are hopefully planted in your early years by your parents, your church, your culture, even life experience, and grow over time as you nurture them. They are a reflection of your character, your brand, your reputation. I’m talking about your ethics.

Sadly, I am encountering more and more people who seem to lack integrity and morals. After a couple of candidates failed to show up for interviews and another was less than honest about a termination, I found myself frustrated by the lack of professionalism and character constantly popping up—and not just at work. Any Mystery Diner fans out there? On a recent episode (well, frankly, all episodes) after an owner discovered some questionable behavior–servers stealing tips from their co-workers and rigging some of the games played in the bar–he fired them, and rightfully so. The surprising part comes at the end where the guilty person not only feels zero remorse for their actions, but can’t seem to understand why they’ve been fired, even while much of their rant against their unjust dismissal is riddled with curses.

If you ask someone to define ethics you just might get a blank stare, but everyone has that standard they measure themselves against to determine what they feel is right or wrong. Or, at least, they should. When I was a manager in my organization every product that left my store had my name on it. It was a reflection of me, so it was important that it was a quality product. The same goes for every candidate I send on in the interview process.

So why does it seem so few people feel the same way? Perhaps the answer lies in the feedback from some of my ethics presentations. Check out these scenarios.

  • You leave the movies and notice another one you really want to see is just beginning. Do you slip in without paying?
  • As you walk out of a store you see a lady with a cart full of merchandise, obviously stolen since she has no bags, making her way to her car. Do you report her?
  • You go into your bank to make a substantial withdrawal. When you get into your car and count the money, you discover the teller has given you double the amount expected. Do you take the money back?

Tough questions for some people. After I share the examples the students and I have a lively group discussion.

Pay for another movie? They charge so much everyone should get to see two. Especially if the first one was the pits. One student reasoned in a similar example, “Hey, the movie’s playing regardless. My admission isn’t going to make or break anything.”

The lady with the cart? Some stated they would confront the person directly or tell security while others said, “It’s not my problem. Doesn’t affect me”. That group relies on karma to take care of the guilty. “But what do you think happens when a store suffers losses?” I ask. Is there an accounting fairy that comes along and makes it all better? No, that cost gets passed on to other consumers—a.k.a. you. And me.

The third scenario happened to me. If you’d been in my place you might reason that free money was an answer to prayer. In fact, you’d be doing the teller a favor by keeping it since she obviously can’t count. Once she gets fired, she’ll be free to discover her true calling. Only a couple of bold students have said they’d keep the money (I usually ask that student’s name and joke that I’m making a mental note not to hire him.).

Most, to my relief, have said they’d return it. Not because it’s the right thing to do, acknowledging the money is not theirs. Nope. It’s because they wouldn’t want the teller to lose her job. I’m still deciding if that’s admirable or disturbing. Shades of gray.

No, not the book. It’s the idea that there is no black or white and everyone makes their own choices. Doing something that would cause another person to lose their job is a no-no, but skipping out on paying for the movie is perfectly fine. For some reason it doesn’t register that both are stealing.

Overall, the students made the right decisions. In spite of that, some people feel it’s okay to lie on an application. To say they have skills they don’t have or deny they’ve been terminated. Some cheat on tests and skip out on group projects leaving three ticked off team members in their wake to pick up their slack.

Candidates who’ve lied about terminations actually still expect to get the job. I know because I receive emails after sending out rejection letters that ask, “Can you please give me feedback as to why I wasn’t selected?” Frankly, it scares me. Because that line that some wouldn’t dare cross—like the bank incident above—gets more and more blurry with every “gray area” decision.

You might be rolling your eyes by now, thinking, Get a grip. What’s the big deal? Everyone cuts corners here and there. But that’s a discussion for another post. See you next time when we’ll talk about it.

Don’t Give Up

Your #1 New Year’s resolution was Find a New Job. What you might be discovering is tons of people made that same resolution. And not just December grads. Many experienced people joined the January frenzy too.

You might not get the first job you pursue, but don’t be discouraged. Given the volume of applicants recruiters are receiving it might be more challenging and take more time before you get that coveted offer. If you are beginning to feel frustrated here are a few tips to keep in mind while you continue your search.

 Image by Stuart MilesDo some soul-searching

Be honest. Did you miss some offers due to your own errors?

Perhaps you came across as cocky instead of confident during the interview. Confidence is a wonderful attribute, however, overconfident body language and answers can be off-putting. This happened with a candidate who told one of our hiring managers, “When you call to offer me the job—and you will be calling me…”

This kind of attitude doesn’t make anyone feel warm and fuzzy. If the manager was rubbed the wrong way, how will customers and co-workers feel? If you want to convey you are the best person for the job simply reiterate your strengths.

“I think the leadership experience I gained as Vice-President of my sorority will be a real benefit to the Project Manager role. I’m looking forward to hearing from you regarding your decision.”

Did you walk into an interview without preparing? Maybe you went just for experience and the recruiter sensed that—despite the fact that you discovered mid-interview the job would be right up your alley. Even if you’re not excited about the opportunity when you apply, if you accept an interview take time to prepare and go with an open mind. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I applied for my company simply because it was in my home city where I planned to return after college. To my surprise, the person who interviewed me had such great things to say I was sold. I originally thought I’d stick around for 3 months then move on.

That was in 1994.

Have you been aiming too high? If you only have 1-2 years of experience (or maybe even less) and every opportunity you seek requires 5+ years, you are barking up the wrong tree. Commit to searching for entry-level jobs and you should see some doors begin to open. The same is true for more seasoned candidates. If you have a wealth of experience and your goal is to walk into a management role, cross entry-level opportunities off your list. They more than likely will not offer the compensation or responsibility you are seeking.

Remain Positive

Whether you are in the application stage or face-to-face interview stage, no one likes to hear the word no. When those no’s multiply over a few weeks, though it may tug at you hard, resist the woe-is-me mentality.

Do some things that make you feel good. Go to the gym, spend time with friends, participate in a sport or treat yourself to dinner or a movie—within your budget, of course. Give yourself permission to not think about your career search while you are out having fun.

If the negative thoughts come, replace them with good ones. 

Don’t lament because you got passed over. Again! Consider this: there is something out there that is a better fit for you. Had you gotten the other position(s) you would have missed out.

Years ago when my husband and I were looking at houses we found one we both liked and put in a bid. I was absolutely convinced it was the house—the perfect one for us. Imagine my disappointment when we didn’t get it. Then there was a second one I fell in love with. My husband, not so much. Yet I kept dreaming about that place. Finally we found yet another one that we both agreed on: open floor plan for him, attached garage for me and a bonus sun room. That was the one we got, and it is so much better than the others. Think about your job search in the same way. Even if the position seemed like the one that got away, keep believing something better is on the horizon.

Don’t cry reverse ageism. It’s the timeless dilemma: How can I get the experience required for the career I want if no one will give me a shot?  You are not totally devoid of experience. There are entry-level careers that only require the skills you were able to pick up at your high school and college jobs.

When my husband first began his career in IT no one was willing to give a young guy with no computer experience an opportunity. After a long search he was grateful to land a job in his field making less than minimum wage. He used that time to his advantage, learning as much as he could, proving himself and, slowly, other opportunities opened up. He eventually became a Senior Manager and a Director in his field. The moral of the story: don’t knock humble beginnings. Pay your dues and you will reap the benefits.

Don’t dwell on the interview that was an epic fail. If at first you don’t succeed try, try again. Prep for the next time. Brush up on interviewing tips or sign up for a mock interview at your alma mater (Bonus tip: recruiters who conduct mock interviews are hoping to find some leads).

Bitter is not better. I’ve seen it dozens of times. You don’t get the offer and then you lash out. The problem is, when you become bitter it can show in your interviews. If you get a rejection notice and feel a need to respond, keep it professional.

“Thank you for reviewing my application. Should any other opportunities become available for which you feel I am qualified, please keep me in mind.” This is a message that could score some points with the interviewer, so she just might give you a call when another position becomes available.

On the other hand, “I’d like to know why I wasn’t considered for the job. I meet every single qualification listed!” more than likely will not elicit a reply. Even if it does, it won’t be, You’re correct. I made a mistake. Your demanding email indicates you’d bring unity and harmony to our team. The recruiter will not be inclined to keep you in mind for anything except an example of what not to do during the interview process. What grandma taught you still rings true: You catch more flies with honey than with vinegar.

Walk into every interview as if it’s the first

It might sound odd, but if you have a fresh mindset it will show. If you are replaying rejections in your head you could come across as desperate, defeated, or both. Remember this when you ask for the job, emphasis on ask, not plead.

Don’t rule out a part-time gig. Yes, student loans are around the corner, but a few months might allow you some time to find direction now that you don’t have fifteen things going on at once — classes and projects and meetings (oh my). Even if you begin your new career in April, you’d still beat the May/June grads and have a few months before you have to face the loans.

Remember, life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it (Charles Swindoll), so choose wisely.

Make it a great day!

7 Unique Ways to Get Better at Your Job

Great advice!

Campus To Career

There are millions of reasons to feel motivated to get better at your job. Job competition, job advancement, and job security are three phrases that might get you motivated to figure out how to get better at your job. The regular list won’t do anymore. You have to get creative. Here are 7 creative ways to get better at your job.

Stop Multi-Tasking

caffeinating, calculating, computerating

This piece of advice may come as a shock to you, but a recent Stanford study shows that people who heavily multitask do not pay the kind of attention it takes to do well at what’s in front of them. Clifford Nass, psychology professor at Stanford, explains the study shows that multitasking wastes more time than it saves and shows that multitasking also diminishes creativity. Don’t try to do several emails at once, don’t email while texting, don’t surf the internet while you’re talking on the phone.

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Classroom to Career-Part 6

I am back. Nanowrimo (that is, National Novel Writing Month, where writers strive to write a 50000 word novel in November) and Nanowrimo prep has taken up quite a bit of my time in the past few weeks. But, I know you’ve  gotten more comfortable in your new role and you might be wondering, what’s next?

Climbing the Ladder

Image by nattavut,

Image by nattavut,

How do you get to the next level anyway? Consult your research. Some companies, like mine, have very specific criteria for moving ahead but, oftentimes, the path isn’t always clear. In that case, performance is your best bet. Know your job inside and out and go above and beyond what is expected. If there are others in the same role, be the one to stand out.

Several years ago I had heard one of my hires was a little disappointed with her manager. Although she hadn’t said anything to me we were both at a luncheon and I could tell she was down. I gave everyone at the table the same advice, but I was talking to her and she knew it. “Remember, we are a promote from within company,” I said, looking around the table, my eyes lingering on hers for a few minutes. “Some of you might be working with people who you feel could do better.” I leaned in closer. “Out-perform them.” Her eyes sparked and she sat up straighter in her chair. Within months she was promoted to upper management

It has been said, If you fail to plan, you plan to fail. Be honest with yourself about areas in which you could improve. Write out the career path you’d like and the action steps you’ll need to take to get there and don’t forget to consider the obstacles that might hinder you.

Overcome Obstacles

You’ve heard the phrase, If it was easy everyone would do it. So what are some of the challenges you face?

Are you shy? Join Toastmasters to improve your presentation skills. Since you’ll be presenting in front of an audience you will automatically face your fear. But this isn’t the only route to overcoming shyness. As a Manager I had to deal with customers and accounts on a daily basis. And, although my knees were often quaking, I just forced myself to do it. Little by little I grew more confident over time. In fact, now I love getting in front of an audience. And people don’t believe me when I tell them that at one time it was a struggle for me.

Have you fallen short in your job? That was my obstacle my first year as a recruiter. It was, in a word, abysmal. I went back to my mentor, made a marketing plan for the year, focusing on my weakest areas and within two years I won back-to-back awards for my efforts! Own up to your mistakes and don’t be afraid to ask for help.

Is your image holding you back? Make sure you look and act the part (see part 2). If that isn’t your area of expertise ask someone who already looks the part for advice.

Maybe there aren’t any opportunities. Keep working hard. Remember, you’ve only been there a short time. A year or more is not an unreasonable time frame for promotion. In the meantime,you might receive some “in-kind” promotions: bonuses, extra time off or the opportunity to manage a project.

Do something great, then make sure people know about it. About a year into recruiting I realized we were spending an exorbitant amount of money using agencies to help us hire. I buckled down that year, utilized our other sources and reduced that number completely. That was great then, but what about recently? Well, last fiscal year I exceeded my forecasted hires and now I am setting new goals for this year.

Remember to walk before you run, work hard and make wise decisions. Keep these tips in mind as you become acclimated to your new role and it will pay off in the long run.

Make it a great year!

Classroom to Corporate—Part 3

 

PROFESSIONALISM

Everyone knows how to act like a professional, right? Oh so wrong! Sure, we might know how to speak correctly, give a firm handshake, chew with our mouths closed during the lunch meeting—you know, the basics. But oftentimes it’s the little things we never think about that might cause others to question our professionalism. And you never want that to keep you from getting ahead.

Communication  Image by Boykung

Verbal

I’ve said it before. Verbal and written communication both count. I met a student years ago who really struggled in this area. The problem was she didn’t know it. She simply spoke the way she’d always spoken, which was more than likely a result of what she’d always heard. I remember hearing a popular financial expert say something similar. He heard a recording of someone’s radio broadcast and thought, Wow, listen to that slang. That guy sounds way too casual to be taken seriously–then immediately realized he was listening to a clip from his own show! He had no idea how much room there was for improvement up to that point. Once he did, he went through training to help him become a better communicator. I gave the student the same advice.

You might think, what’s the big deal? People should accept me with all my flaws. That’s fine for an entrepreneur perhaps (and even they could discover clients prefer to deal with someone who can adequately demonstrate their expertise via their communication style) but right now, you represent a company and its brand and there is a certain way they’d like you to do so.

No one is immune. I’d like to think after all the years I’ve spent in a professional role that my communication is stellar, but I sometimes still catch myself being a little too lax in conversation and I have to take my own advice.

Written

Image by aopsanRealizing that spelling is not everyone’s forte, spell check—and real live proofreaders (aka co-workers)—are your friends. Imagine if your manager sent out a message filled with misspelled words. Wouldn’t it make you scratch your head in confusion? Make you wonder how he ever got promoted? You might even doubt his ability to successfully run your division and be reluctant to follow his lead. I very rarely send out an email or letter at work without having someone else read it over first because when we read our own material it’s easy to overlook typos. Much to my chagrin I’ve even gone back to some of my posts here to make corrections!

Obviously, there are medical conditions that make written communication a struggle, so remember, there is nothing wrong with seeking help. Steven Spielberg, Bill Gates, and author Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland) all overcame the challenges of dyslexia to achieve great success.

One other note under the communications heading: say no to ringback tones. If someone calls you at the office, or your manager calls you for some reason, you don’t want Blurred Lines or Thrift Shop blaring. This is your career, not the dance club.

Take a moment to choose a more appropriate setting for your phone, and remember to stop back next time for more advice on professionalism in the workplace.

Classroom to Career–Part 2

Image by Ambro

Image by Ambro

VARIETY VS. ROUTINE—Mix It Up

You’re a couple months into your new career. Everything was exciting and new on that first day but now, although you still like your job things are beginning to feel…well, a little boring. You’re so used to having a variety of tasks due to all your commitments: classroom projects, your business fraternity, student government and volunteering. Every weekend brought a new undertaking or an event to coordinate.

What should you do? You don’t want to quit, but if this is all you’ll be doing for the next (gulp) year or more you can’t promise the thought hasn’t run through your mind. Maybe another company out there has something better to offer. Maybe you should check out Monster.

Hold on, people. Finger off the panic button, please. You just got there! By no means have you seen all your company has to offer in two measly months. Or even six measly months. Those who jump ship quickly often regret it later and wish they’d given that first choice just a little more time.

Want to add some more responsibilities to your plate? Try the following:

Start by asking some questions. Talk to those who brought you on board or your manager if possible. What are their responsibilities? Ask what you can do to help them reach their goals.

Image by Gualberto 107

Image by Gualberto 107

Shadowing. Ideally this is something you should request during the interview, but it might not be part of the process or realistic for every company. Shadow those in the positions in which you’re interested if you can, including your manager.

Ask someone to lunch. If a company hired you it is in their best interest for you to succeed, so they should appreciate your desire to build relationships within the organization. Ask people to lunch—both in and out of your division—and take time to learn what they do.

Just ask! Let people know you’d like to learn as much as possible and you want to take on more. But prove yourself in your current role first to earn their trust. Years ago I spent an afternoon riding around with my Area Manager asking her questions about her responsibilities so I knew how to prepare for promotion.

Evaluate your long-term goals and consider what you’ve learned from your conversations and observations. What do you need to know and do to get to the next step? What tasks—both at work and at home—can you take on to help you get there?

Not only will you increase your knowledge but, by taking these steps, you will let others know you’re serious about your career, you plan to stick around and you’re open to learning more. Once they can trust you, your managers should be eager to give you more responsibility. And with responsibility comes opportunity.

Stop back next time when we’ll continue discussing your transition to Corporate America in the area of professionalism.