Tag Archives: Company Culture

Connect The Dots

connect the dots

I’ve gotten a few questions as to why my blog and my other endeavors have been titled Connect the Dot? It’s an honest question, with an equally honest and simple answer, it’s who I am.

I am a connector. I love it when someone approaches me with a question, concern, challenge or request for help and I happen to know just the person who can either assist them directly or introduce them to someone who can.

I recently read a book by “ Malcom Gladwell” called “ The Tipping Point: How Little Things Make a Big Difference”. This book illustrates the point very clearly. It’s very often not the big ideas that you have or even in the large scale implementaion of those ideas. It’s the small everyday things that you do, reaching out through your interconnected network that can bring about the change you desire. Whether it’s a job, a new program or commodity, it’s often the small things that you make happen that produce the biggest results.

Connecting people to eachother can have a huge impact, you never know who they know or who they know and on and on. Somewhere down the line there is somone you can help make a difference and by doing so, there is also someone down the line who can help you accomplish great things.

I learned very early on that the larger my network, the easier my work. Don’t misunderstand me, I have no aversion to working hard, quite the contrary, however the more people I know the more I can get done. I don’t have a compunction (any more) to do everything myself. In fact I’ve learned, often painfully, that I’m not the best at everything. HA! There are people smarter, more creative, more innovative, and more determined that I. By surrounding myself with these people, there is no end to what can be accomplished.

This concept of a connected network is never more relevant than in your job search. I didn’t start out looking to create some kind of mega network web that even Spiderman would be proud of. I just started out getting to know people. I listened to them; their needs, desired, dreams. I didn’t get to know them because I wanted something, it was actually quite the opposite. I wanted to be the person that helped them achieve their goals. The unexpected outcome was what happened next. Inevitably when I did have a challenge, need or issue they wanted to help.

Real people haveing real conversations about real issues, seem to simple, thats the beauty of it. It is simple and it does work.

Pay It Forward, the Golden Rule, call it what you want, people helping people achieve their goals is the only way to do business and the best way to approach your job search. Let people in your network; personal and professional know what you’re doing. If you’ve created a genuine relationship, they will want to help. With that kind of support, there is nothing that can stop you.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search and career advice come back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

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Does Modality Matter?

networking

How many online applications have you filled out and submitted recently? Of those how many have you heard back from?

Is it rocket science?

Do you get a higher return rate from:

  • Online applications?
  • Applying in person?
  • Your personal network?
  • Your professional network?

Yes, I placed them in that order for a reason. Most folks spend the majority of their time performing activities from the top of this list, when in fact, you get the best return off the activities from the bottom. In your jo search as well as in business, in general, it really is often who you know.

In my world of finding jobs for graduates, the simple fact is, having someone in your corner ALWAYS get you better results than going it alone. Submitting 100 online applications will take longer and yeild fewer results than walking in and dropping off 20 applications in person. Even networking through friends and colleagues; vendors and clients can yield you 50% higher results, (aka interviews) than just dropping off applications/resumes.

Do the math, should you spend your time submitting appications into the black hole of the internet hoping they may reach a nameless, faceless person or should you spend your time leveraging the people you know?

The answer is clear; companies and organizations have yet to find the silver bullet of successful online recruitment. Yet more and more companies pop up each day clamining they have the answer, but they don’t. Nothing beats personal contact. Why do you think organizations spend literally billions each year on retention, recruitmet and onboarding programs? Because finding the right fit is hard, doing it over the internet is even harder. They may have a greater number of applicants, but are they the right applicants? No one has found an effective way to measure this.

If you leave this article with one pearl of wisdom, I hope it’s this; make it personal! Get others to speak on your behalf, let your personality shine, be memorable and don’t expect the internet to care about your job search results, because it won’t. Your friends, your connections, your network will care.

So to answer my initial question, yes modality matters. The internet is wonderful modality for making initial connections, however it won’t be as effective with your job search as will as a few connections and a sprinkle of personal contact.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search and career advice come back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

Gossip is as Gossip Does

Thumper

We all know those folks who seem to feel the need to let others know they know more than they should, or at least more than you. In an effort to seem important or in the know, they have to tell someone around them. Here’s the problem, they never know the whole truth. The whole truth never gets spread cause the whole truth is never as interesting as their interpretation of it.

Yes lots of big ambiguous words, I did that on purpose to prove a point. Interpretation, perception, misdirection, confusion and chaos this is what happens when folks decide to share what they shouldn’t.

According to an article by Mary Abbajay of the “ The CareerStone Group”, “ The Danger of Workplace Gossip “Gossip is the death of teamwork as the group breaks up into cliques and employees start refusing to work with others.” What may seem like harmless sharing, posturing or chit chat; can quickly turn into a culture killing disease.

Recently, I experienced a situation where a colleague felt they had information about an individual that was ‘juicy’. They also felt they had the right to share this ‘factual’ nugget of information with everyone and anyone who would listen. Truth be told this tid bit was no more than an observation made by someone else and their personal interpretation of the events, having nothing to do with fact. The results were so damaging that the individual felt that leaving the organization was a better option than staying and trying to overcome the damage done to their reputation.

Yes this is an extreme case, but not that uncommon. So for just a minute I’m going to get on my soap box. My Mom, who is one of the most amazing women I know, raised me to “Do No Harm”. Seems simple enough, I know, but so often not observed. So instead I’ll bring it in a bit closer. Remember the movie “Bambi”, yes the animated Disney version! There is a line in the movie stated by my favorite character. Thumper is scolded by his mother for something he said. She asks a simple question, “What did your father say?” To which Thumper humbly replies, “ If you can’t say something nice, don’t say nothing at all.” Very good advice.

In the professional world you will always encounter people you don’t enjoy working with. There will be cliques, mean girls, Heathers and people who just rub you the wrong way. Don’t become one of them. Put a smile on your face, try not to misinterpret what you hear, see, experience and keep your observations to yourself. Don’t go to a co-worker with the, “I saw something and I just don’t know what to do”, comment excusing your gossipy behavior. If you see something legitimately not right, follow the chain of command, be objective and state the facts. When all else fails seek out your HR professional and talk with them. Do no harm.

If you are the person with integrity, you don’t start those conversations, you don’t participate in those conversations, and you don’t even allow them to happen around you, then it won’t take long before your behavior is not only noticed but emulated.

There is a quote by Gandhi which is often truncated, “If we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.” You frequently see this as “Be the change you wish to see in the world.” Truer words have never been spoken. He is proof that one man, one person can make a difference.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help, job search and career advice come back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

All Soft Skills Boil Down to Customer Service

soft skills

I arrived at the airport on Wednesday for a very long flight home only to find that my flight was over an hour delayed, this meant I would miss my cutoff for my final leg of my journey home. It was the last flight out and I was going to have to spend an additional night where I was. For those of you who are frequent travelers, this is not that uncommon an occurence. I received great service at the airport that night as they set me back up in my original hotel and provided for a taxi to take me to the hotel and return me to the airport the next morning. Again, not an unusual story.

The next morning once I made it to my first desitnation I went to check in on my upgrade and was met with complete disregard, as if going to the customer service desk was the biggest inconvenience in the world. I was bothering this woman who was there to assist me, how dare I! It occured to me at that moment what the practical application of ‘soft skills’ is and why employers spend so much time and money tring to identify employess that have it.

All soft skills, at their very basic level boil down to some form of customer service. While doing some research this morning on soft skills I came across an article titled Top 10 Soft Skills for Job Hunters . This is by no means an all inclusive list but I think it’s pretty close.

  • Strong work ethic. Will you arrive on time and do your job to the best of your ability with honesty and integrity?
  • Positive attitude. Will you approach your job with a smile and genuine joy for what you are doing?
  • Good communication skills. Will you interact with internal and external customers in a manner that best befits the organizations image?
  • Time management abilities. Will you treat others time (including your organization’s time) with the same respect you would like others to give you?
  • Problem solving skills. Will you approach challenges in a way that provides objective judgement focused on the needs of our customers and organization?
  • Acting as a team player. Will you work collaboratively with members of your group to provide superior results?
  • Self confidence. Will you lead by example and provide assistance where and when needed?
  • Abiliy to accept and learn from criticism. Will you listen and heed the counsel of those around you in a professional and positive manner?
  • Flexibility/Adaptability. Will you accept that sometimes objectives change with little to no warning and it is your job to continue to provide the best support of those objectives?
  • Working well under pressure. In times of difficulty will you continue to act in the manner above to smile, be positive and approach the task at hand?

At the most base level all soft skills are your ability to put the needs of your internal and external customers first, provide service with a smile, regardless of the task at hand, and the desire (it is a choice) to enjoy what you are doing. If you can master these few things then the list above will be taken care of. Soft skills, cultural fit, customer service are the same thing.

Your challenge is to be able to demonstrate that you possess these traits in your resume and in the interview. Make sure to tell stories about your experience that demonstrate your willingness to go out of your way to help your customers, co-workers, department and organization. Doing that will put you head and shoulders above the rest.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog”.

Why Do They Ask That?

imagesCAZDDIOR

Yesterday I received an instant message from a student who was asked a question during an interview she wasn’t sure how to answer. She was interviewing for a Medical Billing position and the hiring manager asked “What would you do if the computer system went down?” She was confused by the question and after the interview called to ask me why they asked that question and what the right answer should have been.

I asked her how she responded and she told me that she said “I would do other activities like filing and returning calls.” they asked the follow up question, “So you wouldn’t do any billing the whole day?” Ouch!

Ok let’s think about this. No this wasn’t a question designed to catch you off guard, although that was probably how it felt. This was a question to get to the root of your critical thinking skills, how would you behave under pressure, or if you had to improvise to still achieve your goal. In other words can you call an audible at the line of scrimmage?

Ok you’re at the line and you can read the defense is going to blitz to your left and your play is leaving you vulnerable on that side. So you have to call an audible, make a play change on the line to still move the ball toward the goal. Are you decisive enough to change direction when you see the line collapsing in?

Once she understood the reason for the question, she then asked me what I would have said. I would have asked if they have resources in place for a paper only process in the event this happens. If they do not, I would probably make it a priority to help devise a process to accomplish the daily tasks with a manual or paper process in the event of a power outage or computer crisis. What I would want to make sure is that all my daily tasks were able to be completed in a timely manner regardless of computer issues.

Understanding the question goes a long way to making sure you’re providing the best answer. The questions hiring managers ask are purposeful, to see if you are a good fit culturally, skillfully, experientially and professionally. A good way to think of those, not so obvious questions, is to just think what would you want to hear as an employer? You would want to know that the individual you are hiring will be dependable (there on time for their scheduled shift), professional (able to express to your customers the image you want), adaptable (able to change priorities as needed by the organization), and decisive (able to make decisions for the benefit of the organization). This is not an all-encompassing list; but you can’t just come out and as a candidate, so will you be here every day, on time? You know what that answer would be, true or not.

Think about what kind of employee you would want to hire, what would you want to know about them and answer the question accordingly.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Help A Shark Ate My Resume!

interview etiquett

I had to put a catchy title out to get your attention. The truth is, everyone has an opinion about interviewing etiquette, which do you follow. I had an extraordinary high school social studies teacher and my junior year he gave me a great piece of advice. “Betsy”, he said, “the world is full of people with opinions. One thing you have to understand, opinions are like butt holes (sorry couldn’t use the real word), everyone has one and they usually all stink.” Dressing for an interview is not rocket science, nor is behaving like a professional. However several of my colleagues felt this was an area that may need further discussion so here we go.

  • Always arrive 15 minutes early.
  • Always leave your cell phone in the car not in your purse/pocket/portfolio.
  • Only 1 in 4 job seekers bring a portfolio to an interview. If you don’t’ have one, get one.
  • Smile!
  • Look everyone you meet in the eye, shake their hands firmly and speak clearly.
  • You have never had a bad boss, co-worker, customer, company or experience with a previous employer.

If you have spent more time figuring out your outfit than you’ve spent researching the company, you’re already in trouble. Make sure you google the organization, look up their mission and vision and any recent news about them. Never go into an interview with out at least three very thoughtful questions to ask the hiring manager that aren’t, salary, schedule or vacation centric. Always, always have a way to relate a personal connection you have to their organization.

  • There is a difference between interview shoes and Friday night shoes. Please differentiate!
  • When you look in the mirror after you’ve dressed for the interview and think, “dang I look cute”, it’s probably not the right outfit.
  • Sensible shoes, minimal jewelry and make up, hair out of your face, teeth brushed, deodorant on and no perfume.
  • If you think your skirt may be too short, it is.
  • If you think your shirt may be too low cut, it is.
  • If you question any part of your ensemble, there is a reason, listen to your inner self and make the right decision.

An interview is a time to shine. You want the hiring manager to see you for the diamond that you are; you also want them to be able to visualize you actually doing the job. If any part of what you say or what you wear makes them question how you will fit into their world, game over. No matter how casual the interview may feel, never let your guard down for a minute. Reframe all questions in a positive way. Only wear an outfit your mother would approve of and don’t say anything you wouldn’t want your father to hear come out of your mouth.

Again, it’s not rocket science, its common sense. Say please, and thank you, yes ma’am and yes sir. Shake hands, smile and follow up with a thank you note within 3-days. If you can take just these few tips with you to the interview, then you will be playing head and shoulders above your competition.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Power of Positivity

positivity

In your last interview were you asked any of the following questions?

  • What are your weaknesses?
  • Tell me about the worst supervisor you ever had?
  • Why do you want to leave your current position?
  • Tell me about the most challenging co-worker you’ve ever delt with?
  • Have you ever delt with a difficult customer, what did you do and what was the result?

Do you know why hiring managers ask these questions? Well let me tell you. They want to see if you are a positive or negative person. Yes it really is that simple, and yes we ask those questions on purpose. We know if you are going to talk bad about a previous, supervisor, co-worker or company; you’ll talk bad about us as well. If you speak about yourself in negative terms, it’ likely you’ll do the same about the people around you.

These questions, for the most part, are not about finding out if you had a bad boss or co-worker so we can find out how to manage you better. These are questions designed to see how you will communicate with and about the organization you desire to join. These are questions designed to see if you are going to be a positive or negative force with our organizational culture.

So to answer your question, yes they are trick questions; however they are not tricky to answer in a way that will make you shine.

  • When asked about your weaknesses, your response should be about your greatest areas of opportunity. After all a weakness is just an area in our life we have not developed as fully as we would like. It’s not a weakness, is an opportunity for us to grow in areas we are not as strong.
  • When asked about your worst supervisor/boss or co-worker or customer; again you need to reframe the answer. You haven’t had bad anything; you may have had challenges with communication, direction or understanding but in each case you were able to overcome these challenges to create a satisfactory work environment or experience.

It’s not rocket science! It does however, take practice. Reframing comments to maintain a positive style of communication is a skill that must be honed. Hiring managers will continually throw questions at you to coax you into a feigned level of comfort to get you to provide them with a negative response. Don’t fall for it! Organizations are drowning with applicants and they are looking for reasons to disqualify candidates and get down to the gems. This is one of the ways they will accomplish their goal.

If you want to stand out; be smart, thoughtful, professional, and always, positive. I can’t stress this enough! Hiring managers want to bring productive, professional and positive individuals to their organization. It’s up to you to show them you are the best choice.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Finding A Leader Not A Manager

Finding Nemo

What do you believe are the key characteristics of a successful leader? How important are these characteristics to you as you look to move into a new position? Will having a manage or supervisor with these characteristics help you to be more successful? Do you want to work for someone who inspires you to do better, to grow and reach for higher goals?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then I have one more for you. How do you identify these characteristics during an interview or hiring process? Better yet, how do you know the person you may be working for in the position you’re considering demonstrates these characteristics?

There is so much more to the work experience than schedule, salary, benefits and environment. There is the big ‘C’. Culture is often created and defined by the leaders in an organization; so how do you find out if you will be working for a leader or for a manager, because there is a big difference.

Navigating these waters can make you feel like Dory trying to find Nemo in the middle of the Ocean. Needle in a haystack doesn’t quite cut it. Where do you start? Who should you ask for help? Or do you, just keep swimming just keep swimming, swimming, swimming, swimming, hoping you don’t run into sharks, jellyfish or worse, humans!

Seeking a little assistance is never a bad thing. Here are a few questions you should stop and ask yourself and your interviewer/hiring manager before saying accepting any offer.

  • What is the management style of the person this position reports to?
  • What is their communication style?
  • What training and development programs are available to help someone new to this position be successful?
  • What does your new hire orientation consist of?
  • How does this position play a part in overall mission of the organization?
  • How frequently do individual reviews take place?

Yes this is a long list of questions and I could actually add a few more, but for the sake of brevity let me make my point.

  • Does the company care about your success?
  • Are they investing in human capital?
  • Do they value ongoing training and performance management?
  • Do you personally identify with the mission/vision of the organization?
  • Can you see yourself spending 70% of your waking hours working with and for these individuals?

If you can positively answer those questions, then you can feel confident you are making an informed decision. If you find that they either don’t know the answers to the above questions or are unwilling to answer them; then I say again you can feel confident you are making an informed decision.

An interview is a two way street. It has to be a good fit for everyone, that’s when the magic really happens. When it’s a one sided relationship or when you are unclear as to the value of your role, expectations or performance, then back away slowly and carefully consider the steps you are about to take and if they will align with your longer term goals.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

You Said What in the Interview?

Dont

Have you ever been in an interview and said something you almost immediately wish you hadn’t? Worse yet did you say something you shouldn’t have and didn’t even realize it, only to find out later that was the deciding factor for you not being chosen for a position?

I have read several articles this week revolving around the kind of questions job seekers ask that they probably shouldn’t have.

Last week I was sitting in my office when a colleague shared that she was just interviewing a candidate for one of her open positions. The candidate asked about the work schedule and when she was informed it was 8am to 5pm her response was, “Oh, I can’t get up that early.” WHAT?

Then a friend of mine forwarded me an article she had just read titled, “ 8 of the Strangest Interview Questions Job Candidates Have Asked ” This highlighted yet again the type of career limiting questions that folks ask in an interview.

Words of advice:

  • Think before you speak. The question might seem benign to you, however how may it be received by the hiring manager looking for their next rock star?
  • Words have power and meaning. If you are unsure how a comment may be received, rephrase, reframe or refrain. Once it’s out there you can’t take it back, and yes they will remember it.
  • Know your audience. Take a moment to try and size up your interviewer; are they outgoing and gregarious or are they reserved and calculating? Whatever their demeanor, you should mimic the energy level. Don’t come out the gate with a crazy joke for someone who has a hard time smiling or shaking hands; you may turn them off when you want to impress them.
  • Exercise sound judgment. Don’t tell the interviewer that you can’t get up early enough to work the schedule they are hiring for. Don’t ask if Mom can come too. Don’t ask if the boss is single or how quickly you can put in for a raise or transfer.

The main purpose of an interview is to showcase your skills, experience and cultural fit. The best way to accomplish that is to have the hiring manager be able to visualize you doing the job. If you are asking questions during that first encounter that will cause them to take pause…your chances of getting the call back are slim.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

Fired Up? You Should Be!

fired up

If hard skills get you hired, what gets you fired?

I’m sure everyone has heard from some source recently that soft skills are lacking in their job candidates.

What exactly is this? Working with college students and graduates, I like to show them this video“Entitlement Creed

I love how it sums up much of the soft skills gap so simply that it borders on remedial. However, I still hear from students and graduates alike:

  • So I was late a few times, what’s the big deal?
  • Yes I use my cell phone at work, that’s my personal business not theirs.
  • They won’t let me check Facebook at work.
  • They don’t like my language, but everyone uses bad words these days.

Yes these are real examples. Add these to the list of entitlement issues prevalent in our culture and we have a real problem.

A mentor told me that once you are labeled as; clown, lazy, foul mouthed, distracted, unreliable, unmotivated or entitled, it will take a very long time and a ton of effort to change that perception.

This is so true! It took me all of 6-months (probably less) to be labeled as a ball-buster that’s difficult to work with, and around 18-months (or longer in some cases) to repair and rebuild that perception. Not to mention an uncounted amount of home baked goodies. But it was completely worth it.

Trouble is, once individuals realize they’ve created the perception (if they ever realize it), they’re not willing to roll up their sleeves and dig in to fix it. They chalk it up to “This is the way I am.”or “They have to accept me as I am.” Then my personal favorite. “It’s their perception, their problem, not mine.”

I love the last line from the video, “If you think we’re asking too much (say the employers), then you’re entitled to look for another employer who will not ask these things of you. But the odds of you finding one aren’t good.”

Take ownership of your own behavior. Take inventory of what others say about you professionally, how are you perceived? Then dig in, dig out and make a difference. That is how you keep a job.

For more interviewing tips, resume writing help or job search advice check back again to; “Connectthedotblog

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