Wednesday, 30 April 2014

7 Tips For Young Professionals Starting A New Job

Starting your first “real” job can be nerve-racking. You’re probably excited to have landed a full-time gig–but also scared about meeting new colleagues, learning office etiquette, and making the transition from your college classrooms to your corporate cubicle (or whatever your new workspace may consist of). The days of slacking off — rolling out of bed and running to class in whatever sweats you can find, taking naps between Spanish 101 and college algebra, and staying up until 2 a.m. doing yesterday’s assignments — are over. That doesn’t fly in the professional world.
Starting a new job requires some preparation and lifestyle changes. “A lot of people look at getting the job offer as the finish line, but really it’s the start of another run,” says Rosemary Haefner, the vice president of human resources at
Here are 7 tips for young professionals starting a new caree
Dress for success. Start by recreating your wardrobe and sprucing up your appearance. Dress appropriately for the job you’ve landed. Remember that first impressions can be lasting. If you’re dressed to impress, you probably will. “One size doesn’t fit all,” Haefner says. “People assume ‘professional’ means a suit, but it depends on the company or industry.” Haefner encourages new employees to ask what people typically wear, before your first day. “You don’t want to show up in a suit if everyone wears jeans,” she says. But it’s better to be a bit overdressed the first few days.
Relax. If you exhibit apprehension, you may not be taken seriously. Be aware of your nervous habits and try to control them. If you ramble when you’re nervous, make it a point to limit your chatter.
Be confident. Don’t be narcissistic, but show your colleagues that you deserve to be there. Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts, and believe in your ability to succeed in your new position. One way to exhibit confidence: invite your colleagues to lunch. Haefner says this tactic shows that you aren’t the typical quiet new employee.
Be innovative. From day one, confirm that you bring something new to the table. If this applies to your new position, be sure to offer your boss or colleagues ideas for how to enhance the product or company. Most young professionals in a new job take the back seat the first few days, but Haefner suggests jumping right in. “Be there to contribute, or to volunteer for a project when nobody else raises their hand.”
Separate your personal and professional lives. Once you’re settled in, avoid making personal calls, sending personal emails or taking long lunch breaks. Show that you are dedicated to your new job and that you want to be there. If you have nothing to do, offer to take on another task or help a colleague who looks overloaded. Not only will you impress the boss, but the days will fly by.
Communicate. Always be in touch and in tune. Speak up and ask questions, make suggestions and periodically check in with your boss. “Listening is just as important as speaking,” Haefner says. “Start a conversation with your boss to ask how you’re doing.”
Challenge yourself. Just because you did some research before your interview doesn’t mean you know enough to be successful there. Haefner says it can take time to get to know the company itself, but it is important to do research, look back at old projects, and find out what has worked for the company or your team in the past. Once you’ve had the opportunity to become acquainted with your new workplace, evaluated the work environment, observed your fellow employees, and surveyed the office protocol, work flow and discourse, you should set goals for yourself.
Getting through the first few days, weeks or months in a new job is tough, but remember to focus on what you want to get out of the experience.

Tuesday, 29 April 2014

The 7 DO's and DON'T's of Writing a Great Resume

While you might think that, in the year 2014, resumes seem a bit passe and old-fashioned, they’re still the primary means of conveying one’s credentials and accomplishments. It’s very true that business-geared social media sites such as LinkedIn now serve as a proxy for one’s resume; however, the same problem applies to that online form factor: you must write it and it must be compelling.
In authoring a resume, whether for online or offline use, you have three major objectives:
  1. You want to be found in a an automated search;
  2. You want to be selected for an interview by the recruiter or hiring manager;
  3. You want it to convey a compelling picture of your professional value during the interview.
I’ve seen and reviewed thousands of resumes over the past twenty-five years. Below is my frank guidance to anyone who needs help achieving the aforementioned three objectives with their resume. Good luck out there!
The Seven DO's
1. Do customize your resume for your industry, career stage, and personal brand
All rules you hear about resume-writing must be adjusted for your situation: in some industries, being creative and standing out with your resume is expected; in senior stages of one’s career, a bit of formality might be called for given the audience, and in many creative fields, a portfolio-based resume is most appropriate. Don’t be afraid to adjust all rules to your situation.
2. Do make the first page worthy of standing on its own
Perhaps the most frequent question I get asked is, “should I force my resume onto one page?” My answer is that while a one-pager isn’t plausible in mid-to-late stages of one’s career, I strongly recommend that the first page of any resume be worthy of standing on its own as a summary or overview; details can follow in successive pages with a total of no more than four or give pages for the most seasoned of executives. Just as you know the home you will buy once you enter the front door, your resume’s first page should make a strong first impression that will tell the interviewer whether or not you’re going to be on his or her short list of candidates.
3. Do make your first section a quick summary of who you are
The first section should provide, at a glance, an overview of who you are: your specialties, current roles you play, sizes of teams you manage, scope of business you oversee, and so on. It should adhere to all of the rules that follow this one and should serve as a compelling introduction to the rest of the first page.
4. Do use bullets instead of paragraphs
Concise bullets are the very best way to convey high-level information; the interviewer can find out more talking to you in-person so there’s no need for you to list every single detail of an accomplishment or role. Verbs typically make the best first word in a bullet point and can help you get to the point quickly.
5. Do use a lot of white space
I can’t overstate the importance of white space in a great resume; those of us who aren’t artistically-focused tend to underestimate the visual benefits of white space and how much it contributes to readability. A great resume has effective use of white space both between and within sections.
6. Do ensure your resume is machine-readable
Most resumes these days are found by machines that index keywords within large volumes of electronic resumes. For that reason, it’s important to account for the kinds of keywords that human resources personnel as well as recruiters might be looking for. Moreover, it’s important to ensure that those keywords are not embedded in non-character elements (e.g., images or other non-character formats) that cannot be indexed and found during both automated and manual keyword searches.
7. Do understand and leverage your digital footprint
Just as important as your resume is your digital footprint. The first thing I do before interviewing finalists is to search for their online presence as it gives me some quick context in addition to their resumes. Be aware of what your online footprint says about you, especially if your name is quite common and you could in any way be confused with someone else. If that is the case, make sure to stress your middle name and/or other attributes of yourself to make sure that the correct footprint is found. One great way to do this is to have your own blog which provides you a sponsored location on the Internet in addition to having the traditional social media presence (e.g., LinkedIn, Twitter, and so on).
The Seven DON'T's
1. Do not exceed three to five bullets per section
While bullets are so much better than paragraphs in a resume, too many bullets can be even worse. I strongly recommend trying to stay to three to five bullets per section. Any more than that and they’ll likely not be read at all.
2. Do not have a single typo or grammatical mistake
A typo or grammatical mistake on a resume paints such a negative impression; it sends the message that the author didn’t care enough to double-check their work when it really counted.
3. Do not bother with high school if you have any college experience
If you’ve attended some college, be sure to include that and, in doing so, exclude your high school experience. Listing your high school experience typically detracts from the credibility of your education section unless the high school was a college preparatory high school with name recognition (note: very few of that caliber exist).
4. Do not use a funny yet controversial email address
Of late, I’ve noticed a lot of younger candidates using witty or clever e-mail addresses that could be seen as taking it too far. While such e-mail addresses are just fine for personal use, a good, old-fashioned business-sounding address is probably the best idea if you don’t know the interviewer.
5. Do not bother with an Objectives section
I’ve never really understood the seemingly useless “Objectives” section that appears all too often on resumes. It always contains nearly identical content with something like, “seeking a challenging position with a great organization that’ll leverage my experience and expertise.” I know your objective: it’s to get an interview and ultimately get the job. Enough said.
6. Do not use proprietary acronyms or jargon
Especially with technical resumes, all too often, I find them filled with acronyms that are proprietary to a certain company or industry. Make sure your resume is readable and understandable by your target audience and don’t assume they know the acronym your last employer used to refer to their customer database.
7. Do not have multiple personalities

While a lot of people advise having multiple resumes, one for each job application, I disagree. Be proud of your background and your accomplishments and don’t be tempted to create “multiple personalities”. It’s one thing to “tailor” a resume slightly for a job by removing sections that may not matter to one position or to provide more details for a job that is especially relevant. It’s completely another to have multiple versions of your resume with different titles on each, none of which reconcile with your online resume available for anyone to see. Be confident but always be honest.

Monday, 28 April 2014

Top 10 interview questions

Avoid surprises — interviews need preparation. Some questions come up time and time again — usually about you, your experience and the job itself. We've gathered together the most common questions so you can get your preparation off to a flying start.

Your skills

Typical questions an interviewer might ask:
  • What are your strengths and weaknesses?
  • What can you do for us that other candidates can't?
  • What would your colleagues and friends consider as your best qualities?
  • Why should we hire you?
What the interviewer really wants to know: can you do the job?
Know your strengths, and mention ones that are relevant to the job you're being interviewed for. It's important to quote examples of when you used the skills; it's not enough to just say you have the skills. Typical strengths employers look for are:
  • Communication - the ability to get on with a wide range of people
  • Team working - the ability to be an effective team leader or team member
  • IT skills - most jobs these days need some IT skills
  • Good attitude - hard worker, honest, polite, co-operative
  • Problem solving - using your initiative to identify solutions
  • Enthusiasm - employers like someone positive
  • Quick learner - so you can take on new tasks
  • Determination - shows you are focused on achieving goals
  • Flexibility - doing a variety of tasks to achieve a common goal.
If you're asked about weaknesses, don't list many - only mention one! Choose a minor flaw that isn't essential to the job. Turn it into a positive, such as how you've worked on the weakness. Or you could present it as an opportunity for development.
Good answers:
  • Strengths: 'I'm a good organiser, and I plan everything in detail. I showed this when I was given a new project, and I had to get it up and running from scratch.'
  • Weaknesses: 'Sometimes I'm too enthusiastic when working on a new project. But I've learned to adjust to everyone else's pace, and not go charging ahead.'

The employer

Typical questions:
  • Why do you want to work here?
  • What do you know about our company?
  • What can you do for us that someone else can't?
What the interviewer really wants to know: Do you know what we do? Why have you chosen to apply to this company?
The interviewer wants to know you've done your homework and that you know about the organisation and its aims. They want to know you've thought it through and you've chosen to apply to them for a good reason. Show your knowledge of the company by having some facts and figures at the ready, such as:
  • the size of the organisation
  • what the product or service is
  • last year's turnover figures
  • latest developments in the field
  • the history, goals, image and philosophy of the employer.
When talking about why you want to work for the employer, focus on what you can do for them, not on what they can do for you.
Good answer:
  • 'Smith's is a respected firm with a reputation for high quality work, and I'd like to be part of that success. The quality of my work is important to me, so I feel I'd be at the right place. I've also heard you invest in your staff by training and developing them.'

About the job

Typical questions:
  • What will the main tasks and responsibilities be in this job?
  • What do you think the main challenges will be?
  • What would you do in the first day/week/month/year?
What the interviewer really wants to know: Do you know what the job's all about?
The interviewer wants to know if you fully understand what the job will involve. They want to know why you think you'd be good at it, and how you'd approach it if they offer you the job. To answer this question well, make sure you read the job description thoroughly and research how the organisation operates.
Good answer:
  • 'The main task is to supervise a team of sales staff to ensure they exceed sales targets. It's my responsibility to motivate them and pass on my sales experience to enable them to achieve more.'

Your ambitions

Typical questions:
  • What are your goals?
  • Where do you see yourself in five years time?
What the interviewer really wants to know: How ambitious are you?
This is your chance to show how enthusiastic you are to get on. (You should avoid sounding too aggressive and over-ambitious: 'I want to become managing director in three years'.) Avoid sounding unenthusiastic and passive: 'I'm not sure - I'll see how it goes'.
To avoid this, you could talk in terms of short-term and long-term goals. Remember you are at the interview for that particular job - so your short-term goal should be to get that job for the time being. Then you can start talking about moving on higher.
Good answer:
  • 'My immediate aim is to get a trainee chef position, then to work through NVQs level 2 and 3 to become a qualified chef.'

Your work history

Typical questions:
  • Why did you leave your last job?
  • Tell me about a typical day in your current/previous job
  • What experience have you got from previous jobs?
What the interviewer really wants to know: What have you done in your previous jobs?
When talking about previous jobs, focus on the positives. Even if you think your previous or current job wasn't very demanding, if you jot down the tasks and responsibilities it will sound more impressive than you think. You will have learned something, so mention it. Focus on the skills and experience that are relevant to the job you're being interviewed for.
Don't bring up negative things like having a dispute with a colleague or your boss. And don't criticise previous employers.
Good answer:
  • 'In my current job I have developed my knowledge of computer software packages. But now I'm ready for a new challenge, and want to use these skills in a more customer-focused role.'

Your motivation

Typical questions:
  • What motivates you?
  • Which tasks do you get the most satisfaction from?
What the interviewer really wants to know: What makes you tick?
By finding out what motivates you, the interviewer can find out which environment you'll perform well in. Try to think of examples of when a work task excited you.
Good answer:
  • 'I like problem solving - that point you reach in a project where you come up against something unexpected, and you have to think creatively to come up with a solution.'

About the product or service

Typical questions:
  • What do you know about our products/services?
  • What do you think of our products/services?
  • Can you think of any improvements to our products/services?
What the interviewer really wants to know: Are you keen enough to have looked at our products and services?
The employer wants to know that you're familiar with their products or services. They may also want you to have the initiative to look for ways of improving things. Be tactful: only mention small improvements. Make these the kind of suggestions people in the street might come up with and not because you are an "expert" and know best.
Good answer:
  • 'Your products are recognised as the industry standard, leading the way in style and performance. However, maybe by altering your advertising style you could appeal to older consumers as well as young ones. I think older people would value your product just as much, and this could lead to increased sales.'

Team working

Typical questions:
  • What makes a good team?
  • What makes a good team member?
  • What makes a good team leader?
What the interviewer really wants to know: Can you operate effectively in a team?
Employers value team-working very highly. They want to know you can work effectively in a team, whatever your role within it is.
Good answer:
  • 'A good team needs to have clear objectives and goals, and procedures to work towards these. Each person needs to be clear what their role is, and what is expected of them. There needs to be openness and trust, and clear communication.'

Your personality and interests

Typical questions:
  • What was the last film you saw or the last book you read?
  • How would you describe yourself?
  • How would your friends describe you?
What the interviewer really wants to know: Are you a well-rounded individual?
By asking personality questions, the employer wants to know how well you know yourself - how self-aware you are. Having self-awareness means you can look at yourself critically, and know what you're good at and where you could improve.
When it comes to your interests, the employer wants to know you're an active citizen, who tries to get the most out of life. When choosing examples of interests to mention, try to choose a wide range to show you're well balanced. However, when quoting films or books, choose classic or mainstream ones rather than obscure or extreme ones.
Some employers will expect you to know about current affairs and popular culture - jobs in the media, for example.
Good answer:
  • 'In my personal life I'm always organising everybody. People look to me for ideas and plans - I guess in some ways that shows I'm a natural leader.'

Unusual questions

Typical questions:
  • If you were a biscuit, what type of biscuit would you be?
  • If you were an animal, what type of animal would you be?
What the interviewer really wants to know: Can you think on the spot and come up with a sensible answer?
You probably won't have prepared for this, so the interviewer is seeing if you can think on your feet. Take your time over this question, and think of something that generally reflects you, but also has positives you could apply to the world of work.
There is no ‘good answer’ but just be prepared for this sort of question.

Thursday, 24 April 2014

10 Tips for Making Your First Real Job Count

If you're a young person about to enter the job market, you've already got plenty going for you. You've spent much of your life cultivating disciplines and developing up-to-the-minute practical skills that should form a terrific foundation for lifelong professional development  if you make the right first moves.
Establishing yourself as someone who goes the extra mile on every assignment, relishes hard work and is a deliberate, thoughtful team player will help you create relationships early on that could end up defining your career. These qualities will also help you make up for a lack of experience as you find your footing in your first job. I'm a firm believer in the idea that "it's not what you know, but how you do things" that matters most.
It can take a while to begin deliberately charting a career path, so if you're still figuring out the industry and type of position that interests you, you're not alone. As important as it is to find work that you love, I also encourage you to be practical. Try to seek out jobs in industries that are growing and have sustainable profit margins. These two features  above all others  will lay a solid foundation for promotions, pay and early-stage responsibility. And don't worry: most industries have plenty of room for creativity and innovation.
When you walk into your first interview or step through the doors of your new office for the first time, come armed with a strong work ethic and a set of principles that you're ready to continue developing. These suggestions can help you focus on making a first impression that serves you well:
1. Be a heat-seeking missile for problems. If you can become obsessive about identifying and preemptively solving problems, you'll soon find yourself being picked for key assignments. Your trouble-shooting can run the gamut from meticulously proofreading a boss's PowerPoint slides, to keeping an eye on competitors' moves, to dealing with unhappy customers. The ability to anticipate and solve problems is rare and will invariably lead to opportunity.
2. Seek out feedback constantly. Most skills you're missing on your first day of work can be learned and then improved upon with practice. But your rate of learning will depend on feedback – so, ask for it. The more specific, the better. If you find people willing to coach you, be open to hearing what they have to say. Don't punish them for providing negative feedback even if you think they missed the mark. (And don't be too quick to dismiss the feedback.)
3. Remember that you were hired to make others look good. In the early stages of your career, the most important person to let shine is your boss - she didn't hire you to steal her thunder. So, figure out ways to help her succeed -- and work to make up for her limitations. But be sure to give credit to other team members, too. If you hog the limelight, you'll alienate the people who were there before you. This may be a slower route to influence than the one your hotshot peers are taking, but sharing power and building trust will pay off far more in the long run.
4. Remember that failure isn't final. The only failures from which you may not recover are ones of character and effort. So don't be afraid to try new things. If you fail to achieve a hoped-for result, you'll have lots of great company. And if you're lucky enough that something works out, have the grace to remember the many people that helped you get there. Then, give encouragement to the people around you who may need it.
5. Don't be afraid of unglamorous tasks. My very first post-school job was in Paris, France, where my employer was in daily communication with the United States via Telex (the fax's predecessor). No one was interested in reading the Telex manual to learn to use it, so I volunteered. As it turned out, being "the Telex expert" was a valuable service for the company and had a surprise payoff for me: I was able to see every incoming and outgoing communication, putting me at the heart of all business matters. Later, I volunteered to be the note-taker in meetings -- an equally unglamorous job consisting of accurately recording what was discussed. Not only did this give me a chance to develop relationships with otherwise-inaccessible executives, but it also gave me subtle ways to shape the agenda.
6. Become an expert. To get ahead, you need to be really good at something. So pick an area you like and develop what we sometimes call "domain expertise." Consider Peter Drucker's advice, "Build on your strengths and make your weaknesses irrelevant." This means honing skills that play to your strengths. If you do, you'll once again find that opportunities aren't far behind. If possible, try to develop a metric to measure your skill: New accounts won? Words written? Telexes sent? Even if you never show your calculations to another person, your confidence will soar if you know you're helping improve the bottom line.
7. Don't gossip and don't be a diva. You'll see others get ahead, garner attention and maybe even receive special treatment by issuing demands, engaging in hardball politicking and otherwise acting deviously. But prima donnas wear thin, and most people want teammates who are trustworthy and authentic. I'll never forget how my father shut down those who'd come to him to undermine a co-worker, by simply preempting any incoming comments by saying, "He always speaks so highly of you."
8. Don't stay too long (or short). Jobs are not indentured servitude, although some may feel like it. My biggest career mistake was staying after I should have moved on. The moment you realize your time is up, work with your firm to provide a smooth transition, making special efforts to maintaining relationships for the long run.
9. Stay balanced even when the going gets tough. Careers are important. Your career trajectory will impact your life and your sense of well-being. It's worthy of a prominent spot in your priorities, and at times, it will deserve primacy. But careers -- unlike families -- don't love you back. If you're looking for lifelong well-being, you're unlikely to get it from your career alone. No matter how successful you are at work, it'll never compensate for emptiness in other areas of your life. Your career is just one piece of your life's puzzle -- so don't let it crowd out family, friends and community.
10. Front-load your career. This may sound like it contradicts the previous piece of advice, but the truth is that working more when you're younger will give you more family time later. Just as every building rests on a foundation you can't see, most careers are built on the solid footing of early sacrifice. Those who do find the work-life holy grail, are generally those who deferred seeking it. Just as those who become great musicians started out playing scales, the masters of work-life started by nailing work.
Develop these habits and attitudes as your "work and self-talk hygiene" -- and doors will open. Practice them until they're instinctive, so the way you operate becomes what Aristotle called the "stable equilibrium of the soul." When your work flows naturally from your values and your habits, a more satisfying life and career will follow.

Wednesday, 23 April 2014

15 Things Leaders Never Do

It’s tough to get anywhere in the world of business if you’re not able to display leadership. If you want to quarterback a winning team you need to be assertive in exhibiting your skills at being in charge. You’ve got to be sure of yourself and have the strength of your convictions. That’s because fortune only favors the bold.
Bold leadership is all about having belief in you. After all, you can’t expect others to believe in you and your vision if you don’t seem to.
But don’t confuse bold leadership and the supreme confidence that goes along with it as arrogance or egotism. Bold leaders don’t feel the need to boast about their accomplishments. Their self-assuredness speaks for itself.
Here are 15 things that bold leaders never do.
1. They Never Fail To Lead. Bold leaders lead. They set an example for the rest of their team to follow. They don’t expect more of their team than they do of themselves. Bold leaders are always in front exhibiting the commitment and the work ethic that shines the way forward.
2. They Are Never Lukewarm. Bold leaders are also people with passion. When their gut tells them that their mission is on target they explode with enthusiasm that carries others along with them.
3. They Never Tone Down Their Vision. Bold leaders always have grandiose plans. They think big. So big, that other people often don’t get it. Other people may try to persuade them to compromise their goals. But bold leaders cannot be swayed. Henry Ford said, “Obstacles are those frightful things you see when you take your eyes off your goal.”
4. They Never Break Commitments. Bold leaders are people who make commitments and keep them. They don’t let people down. They keep their word because of their core inner strength. They know that it’s a privilege to lead.
5. They Never Worry About The Headlines. Bold leaders know the real story. They know what’s in their hearts and minds. They know that when they’re successful they’ll attract all kinds of unwarranted attention. But they don’t let it cloud their overall purpose in life.
6. They Never Say Never. Bold leaders dream the impossible and accomplish the impossible. “Never” is a word that is not in their vocabulary.
7. They Never Need A Pat On The Back. Bold leaders don’t need a bunch of yes men (or women) constantly telling them they’ve got it right. On the contrary they want a team of rock stars who’ll tell them if they’ve got it wrong.
8. They Are Never Pessimistic. If there’s one clear thing you can say about bold determined leaders it’s that they are natural optimists. They are ‘half glass full’ not ‘half glass empty’ believers. They find the positive in seemingly negative situations. They have magnetic, authentic personalities. They always believe in having fun.
9. They Never Procrastinate. Bold leaders are action-oriented with a ‘let’s do it now’ attitude. They know that in our faster-than-ever society speed can be essential. He who hesitates loses.
10. They Never Sit In Judgment. They are so secure in their hearts and souls that they don’t feel the need to condemn those who have actively worked against them or failed to keep an undertaking. They are comfortable in their own skin. They don’t waste precious minutes harboring grudges or resentment.
11. They Are Never Narrow Thinkers. Bold leaders think big. They have visions. They have dreams. They use all the firepower in their arsenal to blast new initiatives and new strategies. They refuse to be cornered into small-mindedness.
12. They Never Avoid Challenges. They don’t shy away from confrontation. They prefer to tackle problems head-on rather than they let them fester.
13. They Never Worry About Appearing Vulnerable. Bold leaders are comfortable with who they are. So comfortable in fact that they don’t walk around with a protective shield. They’re open and authentic with those they lead.
14. They Never Stop Asking Questions. Bold leaders are inquisitive. They’re always seeking new truths; always wanting to learn more. By asking questions and challenging preconceived ideas they break new ground.
15. They Never Accept Defeat. Bold leaders know that there is always a way to a solution. Anything can be achieved with the right attitude, the right team and the right person at the helm.
Some people may well say that bold leaders are born leaders—that it comes naturally to them. And, there could be an element of in that. But if you make a strenuous effort to adopt as many of these attributes as you can you will see a total change in your demeanor—and you will score results.