Tag Archives: perception

Career Breakout: Bridge Building/Burning

I was recently asked what steps, if any, one should take when leaving a current job.

Without hesitation, the manner in which you leave a company can (and will) haunt you. Just ask Dwight about the negative consequence when requesting (or demanding) movement. Quite bluntly, there are right ways (professional courtesy takes the lead) and not-so right ways (temper tantrums and threats) to leaving… much depends if you want to build or burn the bridge you’ve worked hard to construct.

Tip of the decade: BEFORE you consider leaving, make sure you’ve considered how it will affect your employer, your career footprint, and that leaving is what you really want to do.

Rule #1: Don’t make a rash or emotional decision

Unless you are put in an extreme moral or ethical dilemma, or an illegal activity, consider holding off at least 24 hours until finalizing your decision. Making hasty judgments based upon what might be a minor situation typically is not in your best interest.

The value of holding off until the following day gives you time to cool down, think rationally, and discuss the pros and cons of making a life-changing decision. For clarity, be sure and review the situation and your reasoning with a close peer or family member (specifically your life partner) in person… not over Facebook or Twitter.

After the emotional dust settles and, if you are determined to part ways, consider two possible paths and decide which works for you. Here’s my take on what NOT to do versus what you should do.

Here’s what you should NOT do when quitting your job:
* Do the Dwight (samples of his bad behavior available upon request)
* Ignore your responsibility by not showing up to work when you are scheduled to be there
* Text or use Twitter to let your boss know you are leaving
* Yell, blame, or use nasty language while walking out the door
* Blasting your boss or company on the Internet

Now that you know a few of the things NOT to do, let’s take a look at a few things you should do:
* Possess a positive attitude and professional demeanor
* Develop a well-written letter of resignation, highlighting positive things about the company, the people, and the products/services
* Give a minimum of a two-week notice
* Consider how your leaving will affect the company and your co-workers
* Continue working hard and productively up to (and including) your last day

Rule #2: Display professionalism at all times

Changing jobs rarely is easy. For the employer, it takes time to locate and train new employees and this could mean a loss of revenue (if a sales person leaves) or it could mean a disruption of service (if a technician or office personnel calls it quits). Without proper notification and time for a replacement, you put your previous boss and company in jeopardy.

Rule #3: Slamming the former boss/company could dunk your career

Employers appreciate employees willing to do the right thing upon departure and typically will “pay it forward” in the form of a solid professional reference. According to employer surveys, business references have increased dramatically as future employers value the opinion of former supervisors. How do you think a potential employer would react if he or she contacted your former supervisor and nothing but unkind words were shared? Thought you would agree with me.

Still thinking about NOT doing the right thing, take a look at how Orlando Magic’s Dwight Howard is handling his attempt to leave the Amway… just saying. Ultimately, the choice, manner, and consequence are up to you.

Looking for sample resignation letters as well as additional information about this or any other career-related topic, use the comment field and our team of certified writers and coaches will take care of you. For those interested in cutting-edge career books to guide you along your journey, visit www.edu-cs.com or go to Amazon and search Danny at ECS for a listing of available material.

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.EducationCareerServices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

Career Breakout: The Character Clause

Over the past few months many readers expressed concerns regarding initial interviews. From what I have been hearing, many get an initial interview but that’s as far as it goes. No second interview. No job offers. In effect: Nothing but darkness.

For the record: Becoming post-initial interview invisible may be a result of the character clause.

Based upon piles of research, interviews, and conference workshops, a key element to succeed during an interview comes down to one word: Character.

According to Merriam Webster, Character is defined as “attributes or features that make up and distinguish the individual,” and “the complex of mental and ethical traits marking and often individualizing a person.”

For the record: The intent of the initial interview is to determine company, cultural, and position fit.

Okay, so you’re asking, where does character come into play and isn’t it good enough that I can do the job? We’ll tackle the easy part of the question first: No, it’s not good enough that you can do the job. Doing the job is only one of many factors… so get over it.

Going directly to character, initial interviews evaluate your personality, thus the increase use of behavioral questions. Several topics beneath the character umbrella you should be aware of include:

* Trust: Can the company hold confidence in your ability to do the right thing?
* Dependability: Do you show up on time, everyday?
* Professionalism: How well will you represent the company, during and after hours?
* Courtesy: Are you friendly and respectful to all individuals you encounter, including the receptionist?
* Appearance: Hate to say it but the way you look affects outcomes. Do you look the part?

Violating the above, though often intangible, will cause harm to your initial interview. If you are being asked to come in for an initial interview but nothing more, the hurdle may be in the manner in which you represent character. With that in mind, let’s evaluate each of the above topics and resolve potential disconnections:

* Trust: The hiring agent wants you to detail a time where trust was tested. For example, did you ever work as a cashier? If so, how much money were you responsible for? If so, talk about that during the interview.
* Dependability: Do you have perfect attendance certificates or awards for being at work and on time? Employers want to know you will work every scheduled day. Perhaps a reference letter from a previous employer could address that issue… just saying.
* Professionalism: Work is no longer isolated to brick and mortar. With Facebook, Twitter, and a slew of other sites, companies don’t want insensitive or compromising images of their employees. While on this note, employers do filter social sites during the interview process. In other words, your Spring Break party photos may be damaging to your career.
* Courtesy: Nothing is more damaging than being rude to the receptionist or to a stranger in the elevator as you near the office. After all, the person riding the elevator with you just may be the owner. And yes, that does happen.
* Appearance: Most companies prefer the conservative look. If you have rings in the nose, mouth, tongue, or cheek, take them out immediately. The adage about how you are expressing individuality is so over-done, stop your whining and get over it.

There are many examples one can detail to showcase character. One of the most effective interview techniques is for you to develop short stories that highlight character. An easy way to arrange stories and prepare for the interview is to take advantage of the Performance, Action Result (PAR) method. The PAR method asks you to expand by following an easy format:

Problem (Briefly explain what was going on and how you were involved):

Action (Briefly explain what you did to resolve the problem):

Result (Briefly explain what happened and if possible use measurements):

For the record: Creating several PAR short stories will prove to be beneficial during interview sessions.

Hiring managers want you to be the right candidate. Giving them short stories, creating a discussion-like atmosphere, and believing in yourself may be the missing link between initial interview and the job offer.

If you would like additional information or insight about the interview and how to better prepare for your interview, send us your questions.

For those interested in obtaining cutting-edge career books and single topic guidebooks, visit our website (www.edu-cs.com) or go to Amazon (simply search Danny at ECS) and review our career resources library.

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

Hiring on the Square? Beware: EEOC IS Watching

On April 25, 2012, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), by a four to one vote, enacted regulations that directly affect company hiring policies and practices. Hiring managers not in the know or playing on a discriminatory field, you best listen up. For individuals with an arrest or conviction, the following information and tools are dedicated to you.

As of recent, companies instituting a “blanket ban” elimination policy that targets potential employees who happen to have an arrest or conviction in their background, those days of instant slicing are numbered.

Fact: New EEOC regulations no longer allow companies to automatically eliminate candidates on the basis of an arrest.

This single act affects an estimated 65 million United States adults (not to mention their families) who are saddled by a criminal record. Before getting overly emotional (as the pendulum swings), companies still make their own decisions when it comes to hiring. When it comes to considering ex-felons, company policy and agents must now consider business necessity.

Fairly easy to follow and defined by the EEOC, employers are obligated to examine three factors in making an employment decision:

1.  The nature and gravity of the offense
2.  The time that has passed since the conviction and/or sentenced completion
3.  The nature of the job held or sought

For individuals with a career barrier, these new rulings are aimed to give you an opportunity to explain a report of criminal activity before being rejected. Knowing identity and information errors occur, an opportunity to explain could resolve hesitation before it gets out of control.

Wondering if there is bite to the EEOC bark? Ask Pepsi Co. Due to discriminatory hiring practices, Pepsi Co. recently settled litigation and agreed to pay 300 African American males a total of $3.13 million.

By way of specifics, Pepsi’s old policy screened out applicants who had been arrested but never convicted, applicants convicted for minor offenses, and applicants convicted decades earlier. The EEOC found that Pepsi’s policy violated Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prohibits any form of employment discrimination based on race, gender, national origin, and other protected categories.

The EEOC based its finding of a Title VII violation on the fact that African Americans are more likely to be barred by Pepsi’s old policy than other demographic groups. According to the FBI’s annual crime report, African Americans represent 28.3 percent of all arrests in the United States—yet only 12.9 percent of the U.S. population.

By way of summary, highlights of the EEOC’s new criminal record guidance is as follows:

  • Firing existing employees with no performance or safety issues because a new employer taking over a business learns of a record when conducting background checks of the workforce;
  • The three “business necessity” factors (age of the offense, seriousness of the offense, and the relationship to the job) contained in the EEOC’s 1987 convictions policy;
  • On line applications that kick people out when they indicate that they have a criminal record are no longer an acceptable hiring practice;
  • The conclusion that across-the-board exclusions usually violate Title VII; and
  • The prohibition against considering arrests that have not led to convictions

Does this mean companies must hire individuals possessing an arrest or conviction? Title VII does not regulate the acquisition of criminal history information. However, another federal law, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681 et seq. (FCRA), does establish several procedures for employers to follow when they obtain criminal history information from third-party consumer reporting agencies.

Let’s review the landscape by detailing a few statistics as to why this ruling is significant:

  • One in 29 adults between the ages of 20 and 34 in the U.S. is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure jumps to 1 in 9
  • Nationwide, 13 percent of black men have lost the right to vote, a rate that is seven times the national average
  • One in every 99 U.S. adults are behind bars
  • Fifty percent of all ex-offenders are unemployed
  • The U.S. prison population is currently 2.3 million individuals
  • 1 in 35 citizens have been arrested, convicted, and/or imprisoned

Making fair employment decisions based upon a candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities just lost an elimination loophole.

Heed the EEOC warning: Companies not on the square and relying on a blanket ban to discriminate against qualified ex-felons may find themselves with more than a slap on the hand.

On a professional note, I recently conducted workshops at two national conferences (NACE and APSCU) where we discussed “guiding students with career barriers.” Few career directors in the audience were aware of the EEOC changes, which was surprising. Fortunately many at the conference have been empowered by knowledge and are better equipped to inform and assist companies to modify their hiring procedures.

For those not in attendance, ignorance of EEOC regulations is not a defense.

Individuals with an arrest or criminal background, there is hope as well as many resources you can use to better equip and sell yourself as well as enhance the chances of gaining and succeeding in an interview. One such tool is found through a “letter of explanation.”

A letter of explanation is a single-page account defining the circumstances surrounding a specific incident. This powerful asset (when written properly) desensitizes interviewer objections by outlining personal/professional growth. For more information on this topic and our career-barrier focused booklet designed to assist ex-felons gain employment as well as information regarding our diverse career courseware library dedicated to career success, visit www.edu-cs.com or go to Amazon (search Danny at ECS).

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

NUMBS the Word

Beyond the opinionated rhetoric and political manipulation catering to personal agendas to the point of complete detachment, I am finding it hard pressed for the current controlling party and leader to claim our career landscape to be petals and roses. More than that, I find it personally revolting to believe the America’s masses are satisfied with the solvent green approach to career number manipulation.

Getting back to social normalcy (but only for a moment) let’s take a forged path and review recent fodder from the “Career Thought Leaders” findings of the 2011 Global Career Brainstorming Day. Adding credibility to this column, the following represents a sampling of the employability challenges we are facing.

* The ongoing recession impacts employment, producing these trends:

1. More competition at lower-level jobs. Job seekers are applying for lower-paying/lower-status jobs in an effort to find work after long periods of unemployment.

2. Increasing competition from foreign workers, most notably for jobs requiring specific skills or offering very low pay.

3. Lack of relevant experience. There is a growing trend for recent grads to take unpaid internships to gain experience.

4. Underemployment. Educated workers have taken jobs outside their area of expertise, therefore making less money and usually experiencing less job satisfaction.

5. Ageism. Older workers may not be hired unless they can prove they are capable of keeping up and are up to date with current practices and technologies.

* Reinvention and transition are not new, but are growing. Career professionals have always seen people who needed to reinvent themselves in the wake of the death of a dream. But the growing number of reinvention cases may correlate with broader shifts in the external environment.

* Challenges with long-term unemployed may exceed the expertise of career professionals. Job seekers facing issues such as depression and shame that accompany long-term unemployment may require assistance from qualified mental health professionals.

* Volunteer and part-time work can build valuable experience and open opportunities. Although not a solution to unemployment, such experience can be extremely helpful in keeping the job seeker’s “worker mindset,” can add valuable content to the resume, and may lead to a full-time opportunity.

With the above “NOW” trends actually happening, what does it mean for the lower- and middle-wage earner who happens to be underemployed or unemployed?

Here’s a hint: Nothing is going to change in the immediate future but that does mean the television and radio paid advertisements won’t assure us to the contrary. Hate to be the bearer of bad news but listening without hearing the power elite’s schema conveniently hiding just below the paid words serving to deceive the Jerry Springer watchers simply will not satisfy any more.

For those fortunate to have a full-time position and are not under the influence of “who’s my baby’s daddy,” keep up the good work and if you ever think about complaining, think again. For those seeking employment, maybe it is time to roll up your sleeves, forget about the DNA test, and do whatever it takes to survive. That would include seeking volunteer or community efforts, undergoing professional development workshops into a field less elastic to economic sways, and a redefinition of sorts.

While on the subject: Does anybody really believe the crap portrayed so brilliantly on Jerry?

Being an election year, many will be hearing about an economic upswing and how holding on for four more years will push us “forward.” Not sure where this “forward’ will take us but the term has been used on other political platforms… anybody remember what happened to those? I don’t claim to know what will happen tomorrow but I do know what is happening now… and I’m not impressed.

The career challenges we are facing today will not go away until we recognize the political agendas fueling cultural numbness. Go ahead, pinch yourself… have we become cultural zombies lacking the capacity to feel or has that vanished too.

Perhaps NOW is the time to wake up, recognize the mess we are in, and actually do something about it. Being unemployed is ugly… no matter which leader tells us otherwise.

Hoping you listen to what has yet to be said,

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

Phone Interviews on the Rise

According to the most recent Career Thought Leaders Group, phone interviews are increasing in frequency and scrutiny. Accordingly, in addition to the initial phone screening, telephone interviews are being used more often to cut costs and save time during the hiring process.

Given its usage increase during the interview cycle, the consequence of improper phone etiquette can be damaging to your career. With this in mind, improving your phone interview odds can be gained by following these common-sense tips.

●  Dressing up for your phone interview. I know it sounds a bit odd but it is a well-known fact that individuals “looking the part” perform more effectively than those in their pajamas.
●  Researching the company, industry, and specific position. Besides doing a bit of company research on the Internet, a valuable job skills and responsibilities resource can be found at ONETOnline.org. Recognizing what’s out there in terms of products, competitors, and job opportunities will give the interviewer the perception that you know what you are talking about and that you are interested in the company and position.
●  Engaging in the phone interview in a quiet area with limited (how about none) distractions. Remember the interviewer can’t see you or your physical reactions. As a result, the interviewer is seeking clues to help them determine if you are the right fit. For example, are dogs barking near your feet? Is a mother-in-law asking what you want for lunch? Are kids yelling in the background? Is street-rap blaring in the background? Noises and distractions in the background do create an impression, rarely a positive one.
●  Being prepared for the “Tell me about yourself” question. When asked this question (or something like the “Why should I hire you” question) appreciate the question is designed for your benefit and is the ideal opportunity to sell yourself and the many contributions you bring. This is where company and job position research comes in handy as you develop a response based upon what the company needs, not a long-winded story about summer camp.
●  Keeping a professional and calm tone. This is not the time to speak rapidly, too softly, or too loudly. Make sure your responses are heard at a comfortable level and not overtaking. Remember the interviewer is listening for clues of confidence, not cockiness.
●  Asking a career coach, mentor, or family member to practice with you. When it comes to phone interview strategies, practice does make perfect. Don’t fight me on this, but when conducting a mock interview, dress and act the part.

No doubt companies are becoming more and more cost conscious and will expand the use of non-face-to-face interview methods. For the unprepared, this could be disastrous on many levels. But for those who have performed their due diligence, becoming one of the pack leaders can be obtained.

If you have questions or examples regarding phone interviews or any other career related issue, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email me directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com.

For those interested in obtaining cutting-edge career books and single topic guidebooks, visit our website (www.edu-cs.com) or go to Amazon (simply search Danny at ECS) and review the available library of available career resources.

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

Career Breakout: To Bump or NOT to Bump

Several weeks ago I had the pleasure of taking part in a mock interview workshop. Students from a local college had the opportunity to engage in a real-life setting as they prepared to enter the workforce upon graduation in June. Not to worry, what I have to say will hit home, student or not.

Though there are many issues needing attention, for the sake of time, I am going to address two common interview pet-peeves: shoes and the fist bump.

The topic of shoes was not openly discussed or appeared to be on anyone’s mind. Actually this was rather obvious as most of the students seemed to misplace the importance of what goes on the foot. To be blunt, shoes do play an important role in your appearance and can be a factor in NOT getting a second interview invite.

For the ladies, shoes should be professional and conservative in nature. There are hiring executives who will not look favorably on five-inch heels sporting poorly painted nails. As one who has interviewed many over the years, one of the first things I notice happens to be what covers the feet.

Make sure the shoes match the outfit and if you are wearing open-ended shoes, complete the package with a nice pedicure. You definitely don’t want dirty toes to leave a dusty impression.

Career tip: If you don’t want the job, wear slides or tennis shoes.

For the fellas, you have no choice. Business shoesnothing else will do. Don’t even think about loafers, tennis shoes, or boots. Your business shoes must match the suit (yes, you will be wearing a suit). Wearing brown shoes with a dark blue suit will not do. Speaking from experience, those who bear dusty or non-polished shoes may be axed before three steps in the door.

At the end of several mock interviews, the topic of a hand shake or fist bump was brought up. I have one word for those considering a fist bump: Really?

At the conclusion of any formal meeting, the appropriate gesture remains a formal hand shake. The hand shake should be firm (not overly aggressive unless you are interviewing to be a wrestler and not too loose unless you are interviewing to work in a carnival as the person handing out creepy feelings).

Make sure the firm hand shake is not laced with sweat and lasts about two seconds. You definitely don’t want to make the other person uncomfortable with a sloppy five second shake that seems to last an hour.

Career tip: If you bump, you lose.

The mock interview session confirmed that many people simply do not know how to interview effectively. Unfortunately for those qualified, simple mistakes can ruin the chance of a job offer. Ultimately if you have questions and must make a choice, choose on the side of conservatism. Always be professional in what you do, what you say, and what you wear. Nothing could be simpler, yet few follow.

If you have questions and would like career-related insight, including how to ace the interview, ECS offers cutting-edge books and workbooks designed to give you a competitive edge. Throughout the pages, prepare yourself with hard hitting questions, truths, activities, samples, and proven strategies to improve your career station. For additional information, go to our storefront page on our website (www.edu-cs.com) or go to Amazon (simply search Danny at ECS).

For additional assistance, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email me directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com.

Danny Hufman, MA, CEIP, CPRW, CPCC
www.educationcareerservices.com
Got Twitter? Shadow me @dannyatecs

Career Breakout: Standing Out From the Crowd

In response to a common concern, Dianne Irene, college instructor, business owner, professional writer, and career expert, offers the following:

“More and more people are graduating with degrees. How can I stand out from the crowd when I have the same education as many others?”

Education is important, but remember that there are other factors to consider when marketing yourself for a position to a company. Considerations include experience, soft skills, attitude, overall presence, and how well you are prepared. Let’s break down the elements forming your total package.

Career Tip: Think of yourself a complete package of information and performance.

Experience

Experience represents a facet of your assets offering great benefits to a company. True enough, there are still some specializations that value experience over education, but don’t get discouraged if you lack years of industry-specific training. Rather than giving up, highlight your education and experience as a sign of your success with a certain skill or practice. The employer will then know you can indeed perform this skill again.

If you lack experience in a certain area, creating opportunities for your portfolio can be easier than some realize. For instance, internships allow you to practice skills and they can be completed in a short amount of time. Some internship opportunities are measured in hours or a matter of weeks. Also, volunteer work is a great way to practice skills AND put into practice soft skills that are essential to being a part of a team.

Soft Skills

Remember the last time you dealt with a business where the representative lacked soft skills. This probably left you with a negative feeling and may have also left a poor impression on that particular company. To ensure a positive impression, always conduct yourself in a professional manner.

Career Tip: Pay attention to the small details about others that you are interacting with. Watch their facial expressions, their body language, and the tone of their voice.

Attitude

A great attitude does have an effect on those who are exposed to it. Projecting a positive attitude is an essential part of presenting yourself to a company. Maintaining a positive attitude will also allow you to make yourself available to more opportunities.

Presence

Make sure that the obvious parts of how you present yourself are in order. Your hair and clothing should be professional and not distracting. However, you will want to remember the less obvious parts of your presence. Be sure to make eye contact, stand in good posture, and do not forget to smile at the appropriate times.

Preparation

Being prepared for your introduction to a company can be the difference between standing out from other candidates and blending in. When a company is required to interview many candidates, you will want to be memorable.

Do your research on the company. Know who the key people are and what the company has accomplished in the last 5 years. Be sure to research some of the areas of growth potential for the market that your company of interest is in.

Career Tip: If you are up to date on technology, market trends, and company culture then you will have the edge needed to make a memorable impression.

Conclusion

Remember that you are a complete package with many dimensions. Just having a strong education background will not be enough to compete in today’s highly competitive market. You will need to hone in on all of the aspects of what makes a great employee. Highlight your strengths and consider sharpening the things you lack before trying to make that first impression that may last an entire career.

Dianne, thank you for your career insight. The high level of knowledge is appreciated and will be taken advantage of by many of our readers. We look forward to more.

For additional information or assistance in any career-related manner, don’t hesitate to reach out and send your request through the comment section or email us directly at dhuffman@edu-cs.com. Cutting edge single topic career workbooks and complete career lifecycle books are available at our website (www.edu-cs.com) or visit us at Amazon.com (search Danny at ECS).

Contributed by Dianne Irene