Your Online Presence (Part 1)

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We have been so fortunate that all of the technological enhancements that we’ve encountered has really allowed us to connect with the world around us. Long gone are the days when you mailed letters because long distance phones calls were so expensive. Waited several days for your photos to be processed to share them with your family. Went to the library to do research for a paper that you need to write for school. Technology has really allowed us to spread out and share knowledge with each other 24/7.

The caveat to that is that our footprint stayed in this cyber world for infinity. Whatever you did in your youth will travel with you to your job if you are not careful. Before you start your job search, be sure you clean up your online presence.

#1 Lock down your profiles
Make all of your profiles private with the only way for individuals to see you is by friend request. This is your first line of “defense” to ensure possible employers do not have a chance to see your personal life and make a judgement about it.

#2 Get rid of any obscene images
Scrub down your profile and ensure there aren’t inappropriate hand gestures, you aren’t shown passed out or surrounded by alcohol bottles, and you aren’t doing anything illegal. Also, you may want to consider getting rid of any risque posing pictures of yourself as well.

#3 Review everything that you’ve liked, commented, or have been tagged in
Avoid anything that is religious, political, or controversial in nature. We are all entitled to our own opinion on everything that happens in the world, however that opinion should stay private to those who know us best. The rest of the world should see you as a steward of the world, in a positive, professional light. Unless you specifically chose to work for a religious-based or political-based organization, your profile should stay neutral to religion, politics, and everything else controversial.

#4 Remember: whatever you post online may be used against you at your (future) employer
People forget that many companies do have policies in place regarding your online presence. You become a representation of the organization you work for. If it doesn’t align with the goals and values of the organization, that organization may reprimand you, up to and including termination. I have known several people who had been terminated due to what they posted online.

Bottom line– be careful what you put out there.

Have you ever had to “cleanse” your online profiles before? What were some of the things you decided to remove and/or hide?

Be SMART about your goals

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It’s the holiday season. You’re sitting around enjoy dinner with your family. Dad is chowing down on his turkey. Mom is gossiping about the neighbor across the street. Your brother can’t manage to take his hands off of the DS, and your sister is trying to be sneaky about texting. You’re enjoying being home, savoring the emotions, and then out of no where, grandma turns to you and asks you those 10 forbidden words: “So, what are you going to do with your degree?” And just like that, all eyes are on you.

What could really help you in that situation is figured out your goals. Your goals will give you something to work toward, something to look forward to, and something to keep you motivated during tough times. When you keep your mind focused on the end goal, you are a lot more likely to accomplish the goal. What you may think are doors being opened will be your subconscious paving the way towards your final destination.

Now that the year is over, what better time than now to set those goals for the upcoming year. Using the S.M.A.R.T. goal process can help you create a successful path.

SPECIFIC – Make sure the goal you set is as clear, focused, and well-defined as you can get it. It usually answers the four W’s:

  • What do i want to accomplish?
  • Who is involved?
  • Where will it take place?
  • Why do I want this?

Example: I want to get my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from My University.

MEASURABLE – In order to determine how successful you are in obtaining your goals, you need to establish some sort of measurable criteria, such as timelines, dates, dollar amounts, etc. This will allow you to actually track your results to see how much more you have to meet your target. You’ll want to consider the following questions:

  • How much?
  • How many?
  • How will i know what it is accomplished?

Example: I am going to get my Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from My University by May 2016.

ATTAINABLE – When setting goals, you want to make sure that they are both attainable and also realistic. Setting your expectations too high for too short of a time will leave you feeling defeated. But, setting goals that stretch you a bit, but you can really accomplish if you really put your mind to it will motivate and energize you. Attainable goals typically answer the questions:

  • How can the goal be accomplished?
  • How realistic is the goal based on what I have going on currently?

Example: I will get a job in the accounting industry within 6 months after I graduate from My University.

REALISTIC – The next part of the goal has to be something that you are both willing and able to work toward. Can you answer ‘yes’ to the following questions?

  • Does this seem worthwhile?
  • Is this the right time?
  • Does this match my needs?

Example: I will put in 3 applications a day from now on until I am hired on at a company.

TIMELY – Your goal has to have a starting point and an ending point. A time-bound goal ensures that you are constantly checking the progress on your goal. Focus on answering the following questions:

  • When?
  • What can I do six months from now?
  • What can I do six weeks from now?
  • What can I do today?

When you are developing your goals, be sure you keep them in a positive light, are constantly referring back to them or looking at them, are personal to you, and have some variable of flexibility.

What sort of goals have you set for yourself? Where you able to attain them in the time frame you allocated? Did you have to change them?

Because I’m Happy…. In the Workplace

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I’m going to give you four minutes to listen to this song, in case it’s been a while.

Done? Are you in a better mood yet? Maybe you are a little. Let’s be honest… the days are getting darker, the holiday madness is approaching, and people are just getting downright cranky. But, you can shake it off and make sure that it doesn’t affect you. In fact, maybe you are be the catalyst that turns everyone else around. Here are a few things that you can do in your life to make it a bit more happier:

Stop Labeling – Rather than labeling things “good” or “bad,” understand what makes them such. And then see what you can avoid or change to make the “bad” good again!

Be Resilient – At one point or another life will throw us a curve ball that will bring us down to the very bottom of our souls. However, if you can bounce back from those instances, learn from them, understand the signs and avoid them, you will be so much better off.

Keep the past in your rearview mirror – Do you know why your front windshield is so much bigger than your rear view mirror? Because you need all of the space you can get to see what’s ahead, but only a little bit to look behind. Keep the past in the past and learn from it, but don’t relive it. Let go of grudges. Be the better person and walk away. Think about all of those things that used to keep you up at night 10 years ago…. are they still that big of a deal? Didn’t think so!

Don’t be jealous – Rather learn from their successes. Establish a good relationship and see if they can take you under their wing and teach you the ropes.

Don’t let your job define you, but rather who you are as a person – If you put so much on allowing the job define you, you will never be happy. Each time you change a job, you will always feel a void that there’s still something else out there. Quit thinking of it as if/then: If I make six figures, I will be happy. Refocus that energy on yourself. Become a better person and colleague and then you will find the peace you’re after.

Do the “frilly” stuff, too – There has been significant research suggesting the power of mindfulness, meditation, and daily gratefulness journals in correlation to happiness. Do those things! Write 3 things you are grateful for every day (and each day has to have something different from the previous day… Really think about it!), do a random act of kindness (pay for someone’s coffee), or meditate everyday for 10-15 minutes.

Above all else, believe that you are happy. The mind is a crazy thing. When we consciously start to tell it that we are happy, it subconsciously begins to transform the way we approach and view the world… and ultimately we become happy.

What is one thing that makes you happy?

The Art of Active Listening

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How well you listen to what others have to say will have an impact on your job effectiveness and the quality of relationships at work. If you can master this art you will be much better off.

  1. Begin by listening to the total message. What is the person trying to say?
  2. Use non verbal signals to show that you are listening and understanding. Ensuring that your focus is entirely on the person, you are nodding along, or even says “mhm” or “I understand.”
  3. Paraphrase what you think you heard. Affirm to the other person that you are following along and ask for confirmation that you are understanding it.
  4. Use open ended questions to continue the conversation. Focus on questions that start with what, why, and how.
  5. Do not jump in with your onion, especially if it is negative. This is also part of being politically savvy in the workplace. Despite being around your coworkers for at least 40 hours a week, they are still your coworkers. If you provide an opinion, it can always come back to you. Do you want to be known as the office gossip?

When has active listening helped you gain a better perspective on a person or a situation?

Finding Opportunities in Rejection

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Rejection is hard. It’s hard when you studied really hard and ended up getting a bad grade. It’s hard when you finally got the courage to ask out that cute girl in English and she tells you she has a boyfriend. And it’s hard when the guy you’ve been talking to tells you he wants to be friends. But what’s even harder is after all of the blood, sweat, and tears that you put in to getting your degree and you’re getting the “thanks, but no thanks” generic email.

That’s your opportunity to reevaluate what’s going wrong.

  1. Are you getting calls for phone interviews?
    • If you answered yes– congratulations, your resume is working for you
    • If you answered no– time to edit and polish the resume
  2. Are you getting call backs for an interview?
    • If you answered yes– congratulations, your past experience demonstrates you have the skills and behaviors that the organization is looking for
    • If you answered no– time to reevaluate how you’re answering those questions and if there’s a way you can tie your experiences in with what they’re looking for
      • HINT: If/when you do have those phone screens, try to remember to write down the questions they ask. One, it will give you a chance to think through the question. Two, you’ll have a list of questions to work on for future opportunities. Most phone screens will have the same variation of questions.
  3. Are you getting the job?
    • If you answered yes– WOOHOO! You are a superstar.
    • If you answered no– it’s time to polish up your interviewing skills.
      • HINT: Look the part, sounds the part, and know the part. Make sure you’re dressed appropriately. Make sure you’re not being informal and thinking through each question they ask you. Make sure you have done your research on the company, the job, and of course possible interview questions.

Last, but not least, you can always reach out to the recruiter or the hiring manager for feedback, but remember that 99% of the time you may not hear anything back at all. It’s not their priority nor do they want to open up a liability. But, on occasion, you may hear something back that is useful. Either way, it can’t hurt to ask.

What have some of your past experiences taught you about how to ‘get the job’?

Tell me a little about yourself…

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There you are, sitting in the chair, about to begin your interview. You’ve studied up on the company, you’ve recognized your skills and have examples to back it up, but then they hit up with the hard one straight off the bat: “So, tell me a little about yourself.”

Sweat glistens down your neck. Your heart races. Your palms are sweaty. There’s a frog in your throat.

Wait… that’s not how it goes because you’ve prepared yourself. You have a great elevator speech already lined up to tell future employers who you are.

An elevator speech is a brief message talking about who you are, what you’re looking for, and how you can benefit the company with the skills you bring to the table. It has to be no longer than 30 seconds long, the time it takes to get to the top of a building in an elevator. It’s that speech that you can use at any time with anyone, even if it’s in an elevator. Get comfortable with your speech and rehearse it over and over until it feels natural to you.

Focus on these 4 points when creating your speech:

  1. Who are you?
    • Tell who you are and what you (or your company) does
    • Tell what you do (or want to do)
  2. What do you offer?
    • What problems have you solved or contributions have you made?
    • Tell why your listener should be interested in you
    • Use examples if/when you can
  3. What are the benefits?
    • What special service, skill, product, or solution do you offer your listener?
    • What are the advantages of working with you? Of hiring you? How do you differ from the competition?
  4. How do you do it?
    • Tell a story or talk about an example showing how you are unique

Make sure your speech flows naturally and all of the sentences tie in together. Avoid any specific jargon and answer the WIIFM for your audience: What’s In It For Me?

Have you ever been in a situation where you were put on the spot to tell about yourself? When has having an elevator speech in your ‘back pocket’ come in handy?

The “IT” Factor — at an Interview

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We all know it when we see it– We call it the “it factor.” “Wow, she’s definitely got it.” But what in the world is “it” and how do you get it?

“It” is the way you present yourself to the world. If you come in with your head hanging low and mumbling to your shoes, people think you lack confidence. If you come in with your head up high and interrupt at any chance you get, people think you are arrogant. So, how do you find that middle balance? How do you present your “it” at an interview?

  1. Be true to yourself. Know yourself and be honest with yourself about who you are. Those who have “it” don’t want to be anything other than them. They believe in themselves, they established a brand for who they are, and that is how they come off to people.
  2. Be intentional. What is it that you are trying to accomplish? If you’re trying to accomplish in getting a job, then you have to act like it. Speaking low or interrupting others does not convey that you want a job.
  3. Watch your pitch and tone. Make sure that you are speaking at the appropriate pitch and tone for the individual. You want to convey sincerity in your answers.
  4. Mind your body language. Sit straight, but don’t be too stiff. Shoulders should be positioned back a little and your chest should be out, to convey an image of confidence. Be sure you do not cross your arms at any point or get too comfortable and slouch back on the chair.
  5. Gain their trust. You want to make a good connection with person interviewing you. Sometimes we tend to forget that the interviewers are just as human as we are.
    • Smile, often and sincerely
    • Use their name when answering questions
    • Use your active listening skills and try to use key words in your answer back to the individual
  6. Wear clothes one step higher than the position you are interviewing for. If the organization is business casual, you wear a suit. If it’s casual, you wear business casual attire. If it’s jeans and work boots, you wear slacks and a polo. Present an outside image that conveys you are serious about the position and you respect their time. (P.S. Make sure everything is ALWAYS tucked in and no cleavage showing)

What were some of your best and worst dressed experiences? Have you ever had a wardrobe emergency, and how did you get over it?

Let’s Talk About Me (Part 3)

Taking Notes

After all of that hard work you put in understanding yourself, your career aspirations, and your values, it’s time to sit down with your supervisor and have a career development plan. By taking the time to think through the questions and having a draft of some sort prepared will allow for a more engaging discussion and demonstrate that you are taking responsibility for your development.

  1. Get your head in the game. Prepare yourself mentally to ensure that your tone truly reflects that you are wanting to develop and grow rather than job-hop outta here. Your boss will be a lot more receptive to help you.
    • Stay calm: deep breathes.
    • Be focused: have a prepared agenda.
    • Be open to suggestions: truly open your mind up to receive honest feedback.
    • Do not get defensive: Rather than getting upset that you’re hearing something contrary to what you thought, be open and ask follow up questions. Ask for examples, clarification, and what steps you can take to develop in those areas.
  2. Have a plan. Make an action plan and stick with it. Find ways to make sure to stay accountable to your plans goals. It could be in the form of follow up meets, emails on when you’ve accomplished something, or any other creative ways you and your boss come up with that makes sense to you.
    • What are your career objectives?
    • What skills will you need to get there?
    • What are your development plans to get there?
    • What are you doing to do in the next 3 months, 6 months, and 12 months to reach your objective?
  3. Ask for input. Rather than coming in with your own thoughts on development, which is great and shows your initiative, ask for your boss’s feedback on it. Are your goals and timelines reasonable and achievable? Do they agree on your areas of strengths and development opportunities? What other insight can they offer?
  4. Get skill development opportunities. Once you have identified the areas where you need to grow, ask for development opportunity feedback. Are there assignments that your boss can give you to develop or are there things you need to do outside of the workplace, such as reading books, participant in webinars, or continuing education to obtain certifications.
  5. Set milestones and timelines. The most important part of the development plan is to review your actions regularly and determine when you have hit milestones in your timeline. Do not let this be a wasted effort for you or your boss— This is you owning your career progression and development!

One last point: What if you request a meeting with your boss, frame it in such a way that you are wanting to grow in the company (as opposed to your own selfish needs), and your boss still says no? Well… this is your sign that you are at a dead-end job and it’s time to find a place that will gladly want you to learn, grow, and develop into a professional for your field.

Have you ever had a development discussion with your boss? How did it help you grow?

Let’s Talk About Me (Part 2)

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Now that you’ve had a deep heart-to-heart about your interests, it’s time to dive deeper into your strengths, values, and skills.

  1. Understand your strengths. Go back through your list and pick out the categories that had the post positive experiences and memories. The ones where you had a lot to say. The categories that you just couldn’t stop writing about. Those are your strengths. You may have also noticed that there may have been categories that overlapped with each other as well, and that’s ok. To understand them a little more, here’s the breakdown:
    • R – The Doer – You enjoy working with your hands and away from people.
    • I – The Thinker – You enjoy solving problems and conducting research.
    • A – The Creator – You enjoy working with ideas and abstract concepts.
    • S – The Helper – You enjoy working with people.
    • E – The Persuader – You enjoy leading and speaking in front of others.
    • C -The Organizer – You enjoy practical and structured tasks and environments.
      (You can do some research on the internet to find out more on these categories, especially what types of degrees and jobs fall under each category (or multiple categories)
  2. Determine your values. The values that you hold is your GPS to life (or in this case, career)– Your foundation on what is most important to you. Begin by asking yourself the following questions:
    • What would you miss most if you left your current job? Why?
    • What was your “best job ever?” Why?
    • When was a time you felt really energized about your work? Why?
    • What value would you not compromise at a job? Why?Now pick out some points: What is it motivated you to truly love the work? What were some of the external work conditions that allowed you to have the optimum work experience? What were some of the tasks or responsibilities that you really enjoyed doing? Who were the people that I enjoyed interacting with most and what specific attributes made them enjoyable?
  3. Develop your skills. The last thing you need to come to terms with is understanding your skills. For every task or responsibility that you have done or currently do, you need to list out what sort of skills you use(d).

All of this will start to come together in part 3, I promise.

Where the skills you learned in college transferable to the skills you use(d) at work?

Let’s Talk About Me (Part 1)

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An important part of your career progression is constantly developing yourself. Sometimes, that means having the conversation with your boss about where you see yourself in a year, 5 years, and eventually where you want your career to go. This can be an intimidating process as you don’t want to come off like you are trying to jump ship, but your boss can be the key to new opportunities and doors being open. Before you go in and sit down with your boss, you need to actually figure out where you want your career to go.

  1. Begin with your interests. Follow the guideline below and fill in the blanks. Using the general “RIASEC Code” foundation, break down all your interests into the following categories. You may notice that some categories may have more items written in them than others. You may also find that some categories may have negative memories or feeling in them as well. We’ll break all of this down in step 2.
    • Realistic – Do you prefer things over ideas or people? What are those things? What things do you enjoy doing outside? What tools do you like to use? What sort of machines do you enjoy using and operations? Do you enjoy interacting with animals? What do you like to create with your hands?
    • Investigative – What sort of activities do you enjoy that involve thought, observation, investigation, exploration, and discovery? Do you like to solve problems, perform experiments, and conduct research? When were you most successful in this area?
    • Artistic – Do you prefer to work with ideas, abstractions, and concepts? What sort of projects and creations have you done that may have been literal, verbal, visual, and/or aesthetic? Do you get lost in time creating art, music, dance, drawing, painting, sculpting, drafting, writing, drama, communicating, design, or fashion? Think of all the times you may have found joy (or misery?) in those activities.
    • Social – What are some of your favorite volunteer activities? How large is your diverse, social network? What charities or organizations do you tend to support? Think about a time you had to do a group project. How did it go? What was the outcome?
    • Enterprising – Think about a time when you had to take on a leadership role. What was teh situation? What was the outcome? Did you have to get savvy and political to get to the end result? How do you feel when you have to speak in front of a large group? Have you ever been in a debate and won your position? What was it? How did you feel? What does competition mean to you?
    • Conventional – Have you ever had to create manuals, processes, or procedures and enjoyed it? Do you like writing rules and following regulations? Did you tend to take classes in accounting, statistics, or other math-related courses and enjoy it?

Go through each category and take some time answering the questions. As you begin putting down your thoughts, you will start to see patterns of thought. There will be categories where you feel more positive memories for and there will be other categories where you have less to say.

The next few steps will take you through how to determine your strengths based on your interest, align your values, and rate your skills. This is all a baseline for you to have and understand about yourself in order to have an open and honest conversation with your boss about career development.

Did you ever start college wholeheartedly thinking you were going to achieve a certain degree to follow a path, but then ended up going a totally different route? What happened?