The Value of Empowerment

January 19th, 2018

Too often, new and inexperienced managers step into the role with an attitude that seems to make sense at first: “If I just work extra hard and maintain total control, nothing can go wrong.” They then proceed to hover relentlessly over their direct reports, not allowing a single mistake, a single moment of idle time, or a single lapse in productivity. They stay late, double check every project, and insist on being kept in every loop. Then they fail. And that’s when they begin to understand the value of empowerment. If you see a bit of yourself in this profile, take a step back and keep these key considerations in mind.

Refuse to be afraid of mistakes.

Or rather, don’t let your fear of mistakes control your decisions. Your direct reports are definitely going to mess up sometimes. And when they do, you’ll take ownership of their mistakes, like good leaders should. But mistakes have great value. The more your employees make, they more they’ll learn. And the sooner they start the cycle of mistakes and learning, the faster they’ll gain competence, personal investment, and meaningful, hard-earned skills.

Hard work isn’t always the answer.

Sometimes hard work wins the prize, and harder work wins even more and bigger prizes. But sometimes this isn’t the case at all. Recognize when it’s time to let go and trust others—even those who work under your aegis. Sometimes the best thing you can do for your team is step back and let them engage directly to solve a thorny problem on their own.

Free your hands and free your time.

If you constantly hover and micromanage, you may prevent a few clerical errors or squeeze a few more minutes of productivity out of your team. But at what cost? The time you spend devoted to this endeavor should really be invested in tasks that only you can take on—the kinds of planning, mission-focused, or concept based items that can’t be delegated or outsourced to others. If you give yourself time to focus fully on these tasks and do them well, you’ll be advancing the interests of your company and your own career. If you get bogged down in actions that can and should be handled by your team, both of you will be held back.

Listen and learn.

When your teams need the kind of help that only you can provide, of course you should listen and support them. Provide the resources, data, and guidance they need. But as a manager, sometimes what they really need from you is a quiet sounding board. Allow your teams to talk first. Chime in when it’s time.

For more management and coaching tips, turn to the recruiting team at PSU.

Battling Job Search Burnout

January 5th, 2018

Job search burnout: the struggle is real. Even when the job market is booming and unemployment is low—in fact, ESPECIALLY when these conditions are in effect—an extended job search can be morally, financially, and even physically exhausting (ask any anxious person who hasn’t slept in a few days). After a seemingly endless series of rejections or disappointing feedback from disinterested employers, it’s natural to start looking around for other ways to spend the day, and if job seekers don’t recognize the signs of burnout, they may be tempted to simply stop looking for work and abandon the process, regardless of the consequences.

But giving up isn’t the answer, especially if it means a stalled career or remaining trapped in an unrewarding job that adds no value to your career. Before you’re overtaken by burnout, recognize the signs and fight back.

Don’t be relentless.

If you berate yourself for every minute that you spend awake and not looking for work, stop doing that. The job search is NOT a full-time job, counter to what you might believe. Set aside one hour, or four, or 30 minutes every day to work on your resume, and when that period ends, pack it up. Recharge your battery, turn your attention back to your current job, or spend time with friends and family.

Drop the pressure or you may be tempted to drop your standards.

If you’ve decided that your job search is a “failure” after a month goes by and you don’t have a new gig, the artificial deadline you’ve imposed may push you to make desperate decisions, and desperate decisions are rarely smart decisions. Don’t accept an absurd commute, impossible hours, or a salary that’s less than you deserve. Settle in for a long climb; you’ll get there when you get there. You won’t get there at all if you panic, give up, and accept a job you don’t want.

Get help from a recruiter.

If you feel like you’re getting tired and losing the energy and optimism you had at the beginning of your job search, it may be time to seek help from an expert outside source. An experienced, established recruiter with wide and deep connections in your industry and your geographic area can help you find and impress the employer who’s looking for you right now just as urgently as you’re looking for them. In the meantime, your recruiter can help you polish your resume and your pitch until they’re tightly targeted to your ideal opportunity.

Contact our Cleveland County career management experts at PSU to learn more!

Jump Into 2018 With a Plan

December 15th, 2017

The new year is appearing around the bend, and every time the clock resets and the confetti rains down, we all get a chance to start over. It’s a time for new begins, a time to let go of our past mistakes and move forward with our hearts set on better decisions and a brighter future.

In the career management world, this tends to mean one of two things: Either you’re leaving your old job behind and searching for a new one, or you’re buckling down and redoubling your commitment to the job you have. Either you’re facing a transition and 2018 will bring you into a new workplace, or you’re looking for ways to reengage with your current role and bring new passion to your daily tasks.

In either case, the STAR goal-setting system can help. During the remaining days of this year, star putting together a plan based on the STAR acronym and you’ll cross the threshold into next year with your path laid and your ambitions blazing. Keep your goals:

Specific

Instead of setting countless ambiguous goals like “Become more proactive” or “Start Self-Promoting”, try shortening the list and keep each item concrete and specific. Instead of becoming “more proactive”, set your sites on the specific actions you plan to execute each day. Try: “Send out five resumes each day, 25 per week”, or “Contact three network connections by phone each week”. If your plan emphasizes engagement at your current job, try this: “Ask for feedback twice each week” or “Ask to be assigned to the Jones project”. General efforts toward self-promotion might include: “Send out three manuscripts each week to potential agents” or “Start a blog and post one entry per week.”

Trackable

Measure your progress toward your goals as you move through the year. And if this seems impossible, adjust your goals so you can attach numbers to your definition of success. If you’d like to make more sales, track your increased cold calls and presentations. If you’d like to land more interviews, start with your baseline (four per month, for example) and raise that number to five.

Achievable

Unattainable goals are a fast track to discouragement. No matter what you decide to do, break your large goals into milestones, and make sure each milestone isn’t so ambitious that it’s unrealistic. If one of your milestones feels like a stretch, break it down into two or three smaller ones.

Relevant

Keep every step of your path focused toward a realistic and meaningful vision of yourself and your career. Don’t get so bogged down in the details that you forget the larger picture and get lost along the way. For more guidance as you lay out your plan for 2018, contact the career management experts at PSU.

Hire Employees with the Highest ROI

December 1st, 2017

As you launch your staffing search, you’re looking for a candidate who knows what they need to know and has the right balance of interest and disinterest to thrive in the role at hand. A great employee will come with the proper education and a matching technical skill set. They’ll also have a personality that dovetails with the needs of the position; a solitary job will require an introverted candidate, for example. A socially forward-facing job will require a candidate with a deep well of social energy and a distaste for solitude and isolation. In addition to all of the nuts and bolts and boxes you’ll need to check, don’t lose sight of the big picture: you need a candidate who will generate returns for the company.

A truly winning profile attached to a great smile and a can-do attitude won’t amount to much if they require huge upfront training costs and then disappear in one year. A Steady Freddy who stays for ten years won’t bring high returns if they spend those years doing exactly what they’re told—nothing more—and surfs the internet for the remaining hours of the day. So in addition to checking off your must-haves, how can you make sure your candidate will be a high-growth investment? Here are a few signs to watch for.

They seem committed to this industry and career path.

Younger candidates rarely know for sure what they “want to do when they grow up.” At 22, this is not a realistic expectation, nor should it be. So when you find the rare candidate who truly knows that this is the perfect life-long career path for them—from now until retirement—scoop them up quickly. They’ll be invested in learning industry skills and seeing all sides of the field, rather than testing and asking if this is truly the field for them.

Check their reaction to the downsides.

During your interview, be clear and honest with your candidate about what most would consider the greatest challenges of the job. For example, make statements like: “You’ll rarely have a minute to yourself here”, or “We can’t afford to tolerate even minor mistakes” or “You’ll need to take apart and clean out the grease traps every single day, which some people find unpleasant”. Ask them how they feel about this challenge, and if their eyes genuinely light up, sign them on.

Check their work history and examine employment dates.

For the highest returns, look for candidates who tend to stick with roles for the long-term. If your candidate tends to drop jobs after less than three months because they don’t feel fulfilled, take a closer look.

For more on how to identify the “soft” skills that indicate team player and personality match, turn to the Cleveland County hiring experts at PSU.

Damage Control: Turn Your Mistake Around Quickly

November 17th, 2017

So you made a mistake on the job. And this time, your blunder wasn’t a minor typo or misunderstanding that could happen to anyone; it was a big deal. A really big deal. You have no easy excuse, since this blunder really was your fault and you passed up at least one opportunity to prevent it from happening. You also have no advocates rushing to your defense, since your teammates and coworkers don’t share culpability and may not even fully understand what went wrong. You’re alone, you screwed up, and you have nobody to blame but yourself. So what now?

Here are a few ways you can turn this epic crash landing into a long-term win for your career. All hope is not lost, but you’ll have to take a few critical steps—and you’ll need to take them now—if you intend to make a graceful recovery.

First, be patient.

The road back from a blunder like this will probably be long and winding. Don’t expect instant results and instant forgiveness, no matter what you do. Plan for the long term, and set a reasonable expectation. For example, you may not put this entirely behind you and return to a new normal within the next month, or even the next year. Settle in for a long climb.

Second, think about others around you.

Did your mistake hurt anyone other than yourself? Did you make someone else look bad? Did you compromise someone else’s career prospects? Did your blunder put someone’s life or health at risk? Did you undo hours or years of someone else’s hard work? If so, gather your courage, face this person (or people) and set things right. Own what you did, apologize sincerely, and if you don’t know how to get back what the person lost, ask.

If you lost your job, don’t sit still.

It’s easy to give in to despair if you find yourself happily employed on Monday and home in the middle of the day on Tuesday. But don’t wallow. Talk to a legal expert if you may have been treated unfairly, and again, if you hurt someone, do your best to set things right. Start putting together a job search plan and as you sell yourself to prospective employers, be ready to explain what you learned from this incident and how it helped you grow. You’re not a bad person, you just made a bad mistake. This incident does not define you. Give yourself one day to brood, then get moving.

For more on how to keep a workplace mistake from creating long term damage to your career and your life, turn to the Cleveland County recruiting and job search experts at PSU.

Hiring Challenges You Can Overcome Today

November 3rd, 2017

As an experienced business owner, you’ve already learned the most critical lesson this process can teach you: Nothing is easy. Every stage of business ownership and management comes with hard work, uphill climbs, and the risks that come from putting your trust in others and earning their trust in turn. For every two steps forward, expect to take one step back, and it’s always a good idea to plan for trouble and think several moves into the future.

But when it comes to hiring and staffing, there are few challenges that you don’t have to face alone. Partnering with a local, highly specialized recruiter like PSU can help you overcome the obstacles that are a natural aspect of running a business. Work together with our team and take advantage of our experience, our wide network, and the hiring tools we rely on to find the right match between your open position and your next new hire.

Streamlining the Hiring Process

If you’re like most companies (even small operations), you have plenty of bottlenecks and paperwork- related hold-ups as you move through the sourcing and selection process. While you wait for your key HR pro to return from vacation, or you wait for your C-suite to sign off on a management candidate, your best potential hires may receive offers elsewhere. They may also simply become frustrated or exhausted by your slow process. So don’t let this happen. Let us handle the screening and paperwork so you don’t have to.

Gaining Access to a Talent Pipeline

Too often, small business owners without wide industry contacts simply turn to the internet to post open positions. But when you rely on huge global job boards to find your needle in a haystack, you turn an otherwise efficient process into a tedious chore—and after sifting through hundreds of resumes you may STILL end up with a candidate who doesn’t quite fit the bill. Partnering with PSU means you’ll rely on our targeted contacts and you’ll clear a direct path to the talent pool you need.

Improving Your Candidate Experience

Candidates who leave your hiring process with a strong positive impression retain that impression for a long time. That process becomes the cornerstone of a lasting brand relationship—Whether you end up hiring the candidate or not. If you do, you’ll end the process with a loyal, long term employee who embraces the company and stays for at least a year. If you don’t, you’ll send an upbeat, respectful message to a talented job seeker who may return later to apply with the company again in the future. In either case, a positive candidate experience can only help your company grow. A negative experience will do the opposite.

For more on how to form a profitable partnership with a specialized staffing agency in your local area, contact the Gastonia staffing professionals at PSU.

Remove Your Own Productivity Roadblocks

October 20th, 2017

If you’re like most of us, when you try to identify the obstacles standing between where you are and where you want to be, you don’t see other people. No specific person is trying to hold you back. You don’t see physical obstacles; there’s no actual wall between you and your next great job. And you probably don’t see any financial or practical obstacles that you can’t overcome with a little time, patience, and compromise. But here’s what you probably do see: yourself.

You want to get something done, but you can’t. Not because you’re literally locked in a basement, but because you’re locked in the basement of your own mind. And you aren’t exactly sure how to get out. If this sounds like you, here are a few steps you can take that will help you break out of your self-imposed prison and get back on the road to success.

The paralyzing power of excitement

Believe it or not, sometimes the work that excites us the most is the hardest to actually do, especially in the earliest stages. Stop and think for a minute. Are you spinning your wheels and staring in the fridge because you can’t move forward, or are you spinning and staring because you’re overwhelmed by the possibilities in front of you and you’re afraid you might mess up? The most exciting potential outcomes often send us straight into wheel spinning purgatory because of—not in spite of—our level of interest in them. If this describes your situation, recognize it. Don’t be afraid. Just tackle the first step and you’ll be on your way.

Are you hungry, thirsty, hot or cold?

Is something else bothering you, something unrelated to the work at hand? Give yourself five minutes to attend to that need. Take some aspirin if your knee is acting up, put on a sweater if you’re cold, and eat something if you’re hungry. If you have a bad conscience, apologize. If there’s a draft blowing on you, move your chair. If you need some data you don’t have, take steps to obtain it. Then get started. No more excuses.

Find a role model.

Sometimes it helps to watch another person sail over a hurdle that seems too high. Just watching this happen can unlock hidden gates in your mind and unleash a dose of inspiration and guidance that can be refreshing and energizing. Identify someone in your life who can—and often does—approach such obstacles like a horse flying over a fence. Watch that person in action.

Make a list.

Big projects seem less intimidating when we break them down into bite-sized baby steps. So take your big project (“plan industry conference”) and break it down into smaller and smaller tasks until the one in front of you is so small that you can complete it in five minutes. (“Call Steve to determine conference dates”).

For more on how to overcome the mental obstacles and bottle necks that are holding you back, contact the productivity and career management experts at PSU.

Win Talent from Your Competitors

October 6th, 2017

Competing for talent can be easy when the job market stalls and unemployment begins to push both the numbers and qualifications of job seekers. But when the tables turn (as they’ve been doing for the last several years since our recovery from the economic downturn), job seekers hold more of the cards. And when job seekers hold the cards, convincing them to sign on may mean drawing them away from your competitors.

This is not to be confused with “poaching” or directly approaching employed workers and trying to pull them out of their seats. Leave that process to someone else, and focus your energy on grabbing the attention of top talent before they sign a contract or accept an offer. Gain a legitimate edge over your competition during the job search, interview and negotiation process. Here’s how.

Make a better case.

Start by understanding the kind of case your competitors will present. If they can offer benefits, offer better ones. If they can offer salaries in the low sixties, aim for the high sixties. And if you can’t outbid them in terms of monetary compensation, find other ways to identify and then reach beyond whatever they put on the table. For example, maybe you can’t match their salary offers, but you might be able to provide flexible scheduling, transit discounts, or a more rewarding workplace culture.

Get to know your candidate.

If you open the conversation by listening instead of talking, you may gain a complete understanding of what your candidate actually wants and needs at this point in her career. Maybe they’re looking for something exactly like their last job, but closer to home. Maybe they are gunning for management and they’re willing to put up with a long commute in order to get there. Maybe they have an interest in a certain type of experience, exposure, or industry mentoring. If you can identify this goal and help your candidate get there, this one detail may help you overcome deficiencies in other areas of your offer.

Establish a partnership.

Maybe you can’t give your candidate everything they want right now, but if they step on board and help you grow your business, you’ll have the resources to drive their career forward in a year or two. Don’t make promises you can’t keep, but if you can both support each other’s goals, make this point clear.

Identify deficiencies in their last role.

Why did they leave their last job? If they left because the culture was toxic, build a case around your positive team energy and commitment to employee growth. If they left because they were passed over for a promotion, explain how your company can provide them with opportunities for advancement.

For more on how to attract, onboard and retain the best talent in the marketplace, turn to the Cleveland County staffing and recruiting experts at PSU.

Preparing Your Team for Seasonal Demands

September 18th, 2017

Fall is here! Your summer hires have packed up and your fall hires are in place, you’ll already need to think about the next big challenge: the holiday season. If your business model involves any kind of seasonal element, or touches on industries that move through staffing cycles during the year (like tourism, travel, academia, construction, and even healthcare), you’ll need to be ready for each of these cycles as they arrive.

Prepare for your seasonal demands—the packed rush of the high season and the quiet lulls of the low—by engaging with a temporary staffing firm and taking on seasonal help. A staffing agency can help you fill your open positions in short order with high quality experts. Here’s how.

We hire employees so you don’t have to.

When we present you with candidates or likely matches for your open position, you can bring them onboard as quickly as you like. They’re already insured, tax reporting has been taken care of, and they’ve already been vetted and reviewed, because they’re already working— for us. During their contract period, your employees are our responsibility, not yours. So you just have to show them the ropes and welcome them to the team.

Goodbyes can be painful, but not when you work with temporary talent.

When the season ends, some of your goodbyes may be cheerful occasions. Students returning to school and employees leaving for other positions will be taken care of. But what about those who aren’t? An annual cycle of lay-offs can be upsetting for both parties, but when you no longer need your temporary workers, we simply assign them to other jobs. No worries.

If you want full time hires, we can do that.

After your contract period ends, you’re free to hire your temporary employees full time if you choose. In this fashion, both employer and employee can test-drive the relationship to see how well it works for each of you. If you get along and appreciate what the other has to offer, you can easily hire your temporary employee for a full-time, permanent role.

We can stay at your side as your business grows.

If you see no end to your seasonal hiring cycle and you know you’ll need to deal with this aspect of your business model over and over, year after year, form a trusting partnership with your staffing agency. We’ll be here for you at the start of every season, no matter what future brings.

For more on how to manage the ups and downs of a cyclical staffing model, turn to the Cleveland County staffing experts at PSU.

Can You Handle Workplace Stress?

September 5th, 2017

When employers sit down with a candidate, they’re typically interested in answering questions that can’t be addressed by a resume review. They want to see how well the candidate communicates during a spoken conversation, for starters. And they’d like to learn a little more about the candidate’s plans for the future and the things that motivate him or her to excel. They also want to ask questions that can help them assess the applicant’s readiness for the challenges of the job.

Since most jobs offer some element of stress, you can expect your interviewer to ask you— directly or indirectly- how well you’re likely to manage these elements. Here are a few things to keep in mind when the conversation turns in this direction.

Don’t just say “great” and move on.

If your employer asks what seems like a yes or no question, don’t just answer yes or no. Of course you’re amazing under stress; lots of people are. But what are some of the specific moves and habits that help you keep your cool? Talk about these moves. What steps do you take when your plate gets overloaded? How do you answer when you’re asked to complete a task you can’t accept? When you fail, how do you respond and what do you do next?

Tell a story (or two).

People enjoy receiving information in the form of narratives and stories, and studies show that when we’re told something in the form of a story, we remember the details more accurately. So instead of just explaining how you keep your legendary composure when the pressure’s on, tell your interviewer about a time when this actually happened. Search your memory and choose a meaningful situation—Your employer won’t be impressed if you were stressed by a circumstance that most people wouldn’t find flustering. Then explain the challenges you faced, how you navigated them, and how the story ended.

If you have a system, explain it proudly.

Having a system— or a defined set of actions and principles you deploy when things get tough— can make a few things clear to your employer. First, if you’ve had time to develop complex coping tools, it means you’ve had real experience in the workforce and real experience with pressure. Second, your willingness to develop a system, stick with it, and work out the kinks can demonstrate patience and perseverance. Third, if your system is unique and personal, it demonstrates the self-knowledge and self-awareness that wise employers value.

Focus on the big picture.

Your industry may or may not involve saving lives, but you’ll gain points with most employers if you know how put pressure and high stakes into perspective. Explain how your response to stress isn’t just about you— No matter what comes your way, you always maintain a cool head and keep the needs of others in mind, including customers, coworkers, and stakeholders.

For more on how to ace tough interview questions and during your interview, turn to the Cleveland County job search experts at PSU.

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