Reasons Why You Should Stay in Touch with Your Former Employer

November 20th, 2019

The idea of staying in touch with a former boss might seem awkward and daunting (depending on what you think “staying in touch” actually entails), but a little effort to maintain contact can go a long way when it comes to personal gain. Just reaching out now and then via social media can remove the awkwardness when you’d like to have a more in-depth conversation. And doing both—maintaining a social media tie and using that tie to connect and chat periodically—can help you with your long-term career growth. Here’s how.

Guidance

You have a tough question about the future of your industry. Or you have two options in front of you, and you need to choose between them. You can ask your mom or your best friend if you want, but who understands your professional life and your capabilities better than your former boss? If you’re connected on social media, it won’t be hard or strange to send a PM with your question or to request a phone call or lunch date so you can ask in person.

Professional Development

Staying linked to your old boss can help you get a sense of what the future might hold for you. Why? Because seeing where your boss goes can help you understand where you might go as well. Chances are, a few years down the road, your boss will have left the job and the company to move onto the next step and the next rung of the ladder. Watching where she goes and what she does, can help you chart your course.

Opportunities

Your boss can share information, updates, achievements, announcements, and event info through social media that you might miss out on otherwise. And if you manage to stay in her true inner circle as a friend or colleague, you’ll get the same info and access from her first-hand.

References

Nobody finds it odd to be contacted and asked for a reference by a person who worked for them a year ago, or even five years. This is especially normal (and even flattering) if the person has maintained a connection through social media during that time. BUT it can certainly be odd to receive such a request from someone you haven’t worked with, seen or heard from in ten years. If you don’t stay in touch at all, don’t expect to be remembered any longer than you would remember the other person if your roles were reversed. Everyone likes to give references! But it’s easier and more pleasant to grant this favor to someone you know.

For more on the whys and hows of staying in touch with a former boss, contact the career management pros at PSU.

How to Help Your Employees Set Goals

November 8th, 2019

You want your employees to fulfill their assigned tasks with energy and commitment. But if you’re a great employer, you also want something more: you want your direct reports to look into the future and make moves now that can both help the company and build their careers. The status quo is fine, and it’s okay to simply punch in, complete the day’s work, and go home. But excellent employees want to set long term goals and focus on growth. And excellent employers want to help them do this. Here are a few simple moves that can help you keep their attention on the horizon, not just down at their desks.

Conduct personal check-ins.

At least once a month (ideally much more often), sit down with each of your direct reports individually for an informal chat. Ask them how they feel about their current work. Do they find it appropriately challenging? Can you help with these challenges? And if they’re ready for more responsibility, how can you help them choose a direction and obtain the training and exposure they need to move forward? These chats should give you some insight that can help you connect them to the right mentors and opportunities.

Keep the goals SMART.

Smart coaching leads to smart goal-setting. Which means choosing goals that are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant and timely. It’s easy for employees—especially those with minimal work experience—to wander off the rails when it comes to goal setting, and loose, poorly formulated goals can lead to disappointment and discouragement later on. Rein in goals that are not realistic, and shape goals that are not well defined. Help place timelines on vague goals, and keep workplace goals focused on the workplace.

Attain the minimum standard before climbing higher.

Everybody’s human, and it’s common to encounter an employee who sets his or her sites on brilliant achievements (he wants to be the CEO!) before mastering ordinary ones. (His last several reports were subpar, he often shows up late, and he hasn’t earned the trust of his teammates.) This employee needs a clear performance improvement plan that can get him on track to basic competence. Set a two-week, three-month or one-year plan that leads to success with clear consequences for falling short. If he gets where he needs to be, he can start setting his sites on the next level.

Become an advisor and confidante.

If your employees don’t like or trust you, they won’t share their personal information with you, including their personal career goals. To get them to open up honestly, listen before you talk. When they tell you something, commit it to memory. And most important: give them advice and coaching that works in their benefit. Avoid advice that benefits the company at their expense.

For more on how to coach and manage your teams in ways that bring out their best, turn to the staffing experts at PSU.

Is Your Resume Costing You Job Opportunities?

October 18th, 2019

You’ve been sending out applications and reaching out to employers for weeks, but so far, you haven’t yet connected with a company or a position that meets your needs. What’s going on? You’re qualified for these roles, or at least you seem to be based on the job posts. Plus you’re nice, hardworking, and ready to roll up your sleeves. So what’s the problem? Could it be your resume?

The short answer: Yes. Your resume may actually be holding you back and preventing you from accessing the best opportunities available. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you give your document another look.

No Typos. Not Even One.

Not sure how to capitalize or punctuate the term “Master’s Degree”? What should you do with the “The” at the beginning of your university’s name? Should these two words be hyphenated? What about those two? Is the correct word “hard-working” or “hardworking”? Look it up and figure it out, because here’s some news: if you’re wrong, your employers will notice.

Be Selective with your Information

You don’t need to include every single workday and every project you’ve ever completed on your resume. You also don’t need to mine your entire life for every single action that can be considered an “accomplishment”. Be selective. Chose only the past jobs, accomplishments, coursework or volunteer projects that are most relevant to the specific job you’re pursuing and most likely to impress your specific target employers. Everything else just comes off as clutter and a distraction. More does not mean better.

Layout Matters.

Don’t crush hundreds of words onto a single page by reducing the font size and creating impenetrable blocks of text. Again, more information won’t take you where you need to go. Instead, reduce all that noise and all of those words to the few items that are the most helpful and relevant to the moment at hand. Then present that pared-down information in a way that’s relaxed and readable on the page. Open up the white space and separate your paragraphs and lines.

Get Help.

There’s absolutely nothing wrong with having a friend or mentor (even better, a professional resume editor) take a close look at your document before you send it out. During the course of your career, you’ll rely on others for help over and over again; if you don’t, you won’t get very far. Get over your pride and reach out so you can make sure your resume is creating a positive impression.

For more help with your resume, job search, and career development, turn to the staffing experts at PSU.

Can Unfilled Job Posts Affect Your Business?

October 4th, 2019

A snapshot of the job market in this quarter of 2019 suggests that the competition for talent is still tight, and candidates still perceive a landscape in which their options are wide and there’s no need to settle for a role they don’t like, a company they can’t support, or a salary that doesn’t meet their needs. So what does that mean for company leaders and hiring managers who may be scrambling to fill essential positions? Here are a few key ways you may suffer if you fall behind, and a few simple moves that can prevent this from happening.

Talent Shortages Increase Hiring Costs

Hiring can be an expensive prospect in any job market, but when competition tightens and candidates hold more of the cards, the price tag naturally gets higher. Open jobs stay open longer, which can drain company resources, and the interview and selection process can involve a high number of overall candidates since more are likely to drop out of the running along the way. Employers have to work a little harder and shine a little brighter to entice candidates to apply, and of course, those who receive offers may be less likely to accept them than they would in easier markets. A competitive edge can help your company stand out.

Increased Turnover

Candidates who do respond to posts, apply, and maintain interest throughout the interview and selection process may not accept an offer, and those that do accept may not stay for more than one calendar year. This churn can interrupt the social fabric of the workplace and prevent employers from gaining a return on their investments in hiring and training.

Finding the Right Skills can be Difficult in Tight Markets

If you manage to track down candidates who hold the exact skill sets you need, these candidates are probably receiving plenty of other offers. This increases the temptation to settle and accept a shorter list of required skills, or trade one strong skill set for lesser skills in other areas. You may find yourself with a candidate who can bring some of what you need to the table, but not all.

Salary Negotiations can get Tougher

This doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll need to pay candidates more (though that may happen). But it does mean that you’ll need to polish your offer and be willing to give a little in order to get a little. If raising salary offers isn’t easy to do, you’ll need to improve your benefits package and take a second look at the perks you can provide that other employers can’t. (Keep in mind that savvy candidates know that free coffee isn’t a perk.)

If you stay focused on the goal, make sure your workplace culture speaks for itself, and get ready to treat your employees fairly and well, you’ll thrive in a tough market. For help, turn to the experts at PSU.

What Does Your Handshake Say About You?

September 20th, 2019

At some point in the post-war 1950s, an age that left us with much of what we recognize today as “office” culture, handshakes evolved from a simple way of saying hello into a deeply nuanced and presumably meaningful form of communication.

It may have been JFK who initially infused the handshake with extra significance, or it may have been any number of self-appointed gurus who promised their audience a host of easy moves that could rocket them to top of the business ladder. But however it happened, a “firm handshake” came roaring into style. If you clutched your associate’s hand in a death grip, he or she would see you as a confident, commanding winner, an important person. Someone to be taken seriously.

But in the generations since then, we’ve all come to recognize handshakes as a form of performance and a transparent attempt to come off as winners, and we’ve all been trained to grasp tightly, just like Lee Iacocca (or whoever) told us to.

Because we’ve been taught to overthink and overperform our handshakes, there’s really only one rule for shaking hands in 2019: Don’t. If your handshake is noticeable, that’s no good. Keep your shake easy, breezy, and over. Here are a few simple ways to remove the focus from your hand and keep it on your face and voice, where it belongs.

Don’t clutch.

Pressure may have once conveyed confidence, but now it just conveys that you’re thinking really hard about the pressure of your handshake. Grip the person’s hand about as hard as you would grip the knob of a door that you’re about to open. Then release and move on.

Eye contact matters most.

Keep your eyes on the person’s eyes and smile. Repeat their name back to them as you squeeze their hand. Tell them it’s nice to see them.

A single shake and let go.

Shake once with warmth and eye contact, then let go. Don’t comment on the handshake. Don’t act impressed with its firmness. Don’t make a joke about the shake being limp or sweaty. Don’t apologize for your shake and don’t apologize for not shaking if you prefer not to shake. Don’t assume that a gentle handshake means a weak person, and don’t assume that a firm handshake means a reliable person. Assumptions like these are always wrong, and they rarely support clear communication; they only cloud it. The less said (and thought) about the shake, the better.

Don’t wipe your hand on your pants.

The reflex may be strong, especially if you’re nervous as you enter the encounter. But even if your hand comes away as clammy as a Florida swamp, wait five seconds before you attend to it.

Your associate should notice you, not your shake. Focus on the person and your relationship, not your hands. For more on how to stay cool and stay ahead, talk to the career pros at PSU.

How to Confront an Underachieving Worker without Demotivating them Further

September 6th, 2019

As you review your list of direct reports, you see one or two who stand out, but not for great reasons. For example Sally, who used to be a superstar but who just hasn’t been crushing it this week (or this year). And Steve, who showed great potential during his interview but who never seemed to fulfill that promise. His “new-hire” grace period started in 2015 and still seems to be underway.

In both cases, you know these employees well enough to know that yelling at them, criticizing them, or threatening them won’t bring the results you desire. Besides, those methods don’t reflect your style as a manager or as a person. So what should you do? How can you confront Sally and/or Steve with some rough news about their performance?  And how can you do it without making things worse?

First, look at the big picture.

If the employee is truly a drain on the company and its culture, don’t waste time asking these questions. Just gently but firmly explain that you’d like to see three specific areas of improvement within a clear time frame, or the employee will face probation and/or termination. A long-term action plan will only be necessary if the employee genuinely wants to be here, but seems to struggle with motivation.

Second, allow the employee to talk first.

Invite Steve (or Sally) into your office to talk. Ask him how he feels about his situation, his workload and his performance. Then just listen. Chances are, something is wrong. Steve may be suffering from depression or burnout. He may be facing an unresolved conflict with a coworker. He may not fully understand the parameters or expectations of the job. He may be sick or in pain. He may be disappointed that the job isn’t taking him where he’d like to go. Any of these are possible, and so are an infinite number of other options. Listen carefully before you develop the next stage of your strategy.

Be kind.

Once Sally has described her issue, pause. Recognize that your job is not to help Sally at the expense of the company. And it’s not to help the company at Sally’s expense. Your job is to use your ingenuity and management skills to identify alignment between the needs of both parties. You need to help the company gain from Sally’s labor while helping Sally feel more engaged. How can you satisfy both sides of the table? Ask for her help and input.

Do the next part on your own.

Sally may need more training, a raise, a coaching plan, a promotion, a demotion, a different office, more resources, or more support. Make a plan to provide these things. Set a timeline. Then take one step at a time toward a better and more productive relationship.

For more on how to encourage an employee while also delivering a difficult assessment of their performance, talk to the staffing team at PSU.

Can’t Seem to Focus? Here’s How to Refocus Your Energy at the Office

August 16th, 2019

The summer is here, and the weather is sunny and beautiful…outside of your office window. Everyone seems to be having fun except for you, and all the fun and inspiration seem to be happening somewhere outside of your cubicle. In fact, what may have started as a mild tendency toward daydreaming and distraction have now become genuinely concerning, since you’re staring to space on your deadlines and you sometimes complete two solid hours of work in an eight-hour day. What should you do? Try these small but helpful moves.

Get up and walk away, literally.

Forcing yourself to stay in the chair and stare at your work won’t do the trick. It may actually have the opposite effect. Why? Because the mind is just like a person, and if you force it to do something it doesn’t want to do, it will stiffen and rebel. And when this happens, if you’re a healthy, well-rounded person like most of us, the contest will not be equal. The mind will win. Decisively. So don’t go to war with it; instead, meet it halfway. Show your restless mind some respect and consideration, and later it will show the same consideration to you. Tell your boss or teammate (or whoever needs to know) that you are getting up for a while. Then get up. Don’t come back for 30 minutes.

Don’t worry about wasting time.

If you walk away from your desk for 30 minutes to make peace with your restless mind, you may fear you’re “wasting” those 30 minutes. But you aren’t. If you sat there for a half hour, glued idly to your chair, determined to engage in a losing internal wrestling match, you would truly have wasted the time. A short walk will return you to your seat rested and ready to actually do some work, for real.

Try to remember the big picture.

Let’s say you have to complete and file 30 tedious forms before the day ends. You’re unfocused and you’ve lost interest in this task, but it needs to be done. Try backing up and remembering what these forms are really for, who needs them processed, and why. Do they affect real people’s lives in a meaningful way? Recalling that meaning can help you focus and commit to the task until it’s over.

Break your big task down into smaller tasks.

When your chores seem overwhelming and your heart has punched its time card and headed home for the day (but your body still has to stay for five more hours), make this challenge a little easier by breaking it down into baby steps. Get through three of those baby steps, then stop and assess. Then go for three more. Then stop again. Keep doing this until the work is behind you.

For more on how to move forward with your day even when you’re struggling to focus, contact the workplace and career management experts at PSU.

Don’t Be Afraid to Take a Temp Job

June 21st, 2019

You’re looking for work, but so far, you’ve avoided any job description or recruiter post that has the words “temporary” or “temp-to-hire” in the text. And you haven’t yet sought out a recruiting agency that can pair you with a position since you assume these pairings won’t involve permanent roles. Here are a few reasons to reconsider your approach. Temporary jobs may not be what you think, and contract or temporary placements aren’t what they were a generation ago. It’s time to take a closer look.

Say goodbye to the typing pool.

You may be held back by an outdated vision of what “temp” jobs really are. Yes, some of these roles may be short-term clerical positions that will have you in and out the door, filing forms for a week and then leaving you back at square one. But most of them are professional positions (programmers, software developers, designers, implementors, market strategists and financial analysts) in which you’ll be carefully reviewed by an employer with eyes toward a long-term relationship. Temps are not just placeholders; they’re candidates for permanent roles.

Don’t be afraid.

Some job seekers avoid temp opportunities because they don’t want to lose control of their career paths. They fear that signing a temporary contract will derail their search, cause them to miss other opportunities and require hard work that leads to a dead end. First, no role is a dead end. A six-month contract role is the best possible networking opportunity, even if it doesn’t lead to a full-time job. And the role WILL likely lead to a full-time job if you like the workplace and develop a productive relationship with your employer.

Stability comes from agility.

Here’s another outdated idea: Long-term roles are stable, unshakable paths that lead straight to comfort, security, complacency and a well-funded retirement. The reality: no job is permanent. Nothing is guaranteed forever, and in 2019, the strongest form of stability doesn’t come from a job with the word “full-time” in the description; it comes from staying light on your feet, ready for change and secure in your own skills and adaptability. Modern-day job security isn’t like a building with a deep foundation. It’s more like a boat at sea, well-built, buoyant and ready to roll with the waves.

Move forward, don’t stand still.

Before you pass up a temporary role and hold out for something long term, consider the opportunity costs that come from staying on the market for another few weeks or months. Will your eventual salary be high enough to cover that lost time? Maybe. But you’ll likely be better off if you start working as soon as possible and make real-time decisions and direction changes as you move forward. Temp jobs provide options, opportunities, new skills and new professional connections. But they also provide something even more valuable: a paycheck. Contact the staffing team at PSU to learn more.

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