Category Archives: The New Cheese

The New Cheese: Can You See what I’m Saying?

Once upon a time, I used to enjoy a variety of futuristic science fiction shows. In truth, I still enjoy them. My point being, that when I watched these various offerings to the entertainment media, I saw people communicating across great distances by face to face communication. Perhaps some of you remember these shows as well. The epitome of the advanced society seemed to be the live interaction with the large or small screens set in walls or tables for the purpose of information exchange.

I can remember never being able to imagine that this sort of thing could be real. It was the far future… or so I thought.

Look around. The future is here. Webcams, Skype, Polycom, Netmeeting, videochat, FaceTime. The list keeps going. That futuristic communication method of space adventurers and other worlds is here. It is as close as the computer on which I am typing and the smartphone in my holster. Not only can we have face to face communication with loved ones at a distance, telemedicine has been using video conferencing to provide services to remote populations for over a decade.

This is not just a trip down memory lane or a wistful look at how the world has changed; at least not exactly. In all the years since I entered the job market, the usual dance has been done by submitting my application or resume to a potential employer followed by a phone call and hopefully an appointment to go in for a face to face interview. Sometimes, this ritual of the hiring practice has involved travel, occasionally quite a distance. Today, the job of job-hunting can be quite a costly. With gas prices ever climbing, long distance interviewing is not in the budget for hirer or hire-e. Even after the interviewing and hiring process is completed, many companies have gladly embraced alternatives to travel expenses for workers and executives attending remote meetings with customers or business offices.

Technology to the rescue! Today, interviews and meetings can be conducted by phone, conference call, or various videoconferencing options. For today’s modern business market, people can put faces with voices and names across oceans and continents. It provides an opportunity for connection and personal interaction for telecommuters as well. The advent and spread of video technology combined with improved speed of transmission and connectivity have made face to face communication possible no matter the degree of separation.

Sounds great, right? However, as with any innovations, there are some pitfalls to consider and guard against. Here are some thing to keep in mind for teleconferences (voice or video):

Camera position. Nothing really earth shattering, I know, but just think for a moment. It may not seem like it, but the position of the camera into which you are looking to communicate can possibly put a tone on your interaction that you never intended. Try to keep the camera at a natural level for a straight forward gaze. Your web cam should be placed where you will be looking towards it when you are viewing the display screen showing your conversational companion. Elevate the camera by placing laptops on platforms or removable cameras at higher levels. This is partially for comfort, but it also avoids the awkwardness of appearing to look up to or down at your audience.

Appropriate background. Honestly, I feel like this should be unnecessary but given the number of internet “selfie fails” I have seen, it is apparent that not everyone considers what a viewer might be able to observe within the frame of your webcam. Keep the background clear of clutter, unprofessional items, or distracting activity. The last thing you need in a Skype interview is a photobomb of the half-dressed roommate running from the bathroom to their own room. While this is especially true for the face to face via camera interactions, it goes for voice only conferences too. Try to keep background noise to a minimum. Go somewhere private where noise levels can be managed to the best extent.

Dress the part. Telecommuters have said that one of the best parts of working from home is the ability to work in your pajamas if you want. That’s fine. I will suggest that this be an exception rather than a rule, though. For video interviews and meetings, it might not be technically necessary to dress in a three-piece suit, but it is a good practice for professionalism to at least dress, and it doesn’t hurt to put on something that resembles work attire. The whole proverb about “people who look nice, act nice” is true. Dressing up or at least getting dressed for work has a psychological impact. You may find that your demeanor is more professional when you are dressed for the part. Even if there is not a camera pointed in your direction, there is a change in the tone and language from that psychological preparation of dressing for success. 

Mute buttons and headsets are your friends. Background noise can be a distraction in any conversation, and depending on the noise in question, it may give the perception of unprofessional conduct or chaotic work environment. When you do not have the “floor” so to speak, the mute button can be the best friend you can have. Aside from the background noises of your environment, it can prevent the inadvertent heaving breathing episodes or deafening listeners with an unexpected sneeze or cough. If privacy is not always available by means of a door or other enclosure, invest in a noise canceling headset. It will make your words clearer and help others understand you better.

Behave professionally. Just because the person isn’t in the room doesn’t mean you shouldn’t conduct yourself professionally and with decorum. Watch your body language, grimaces, use of vernacular, and tone of voice. You may think that if the conference or interview is not on camera, it shouldn’t matter; but I can assure you that certain non-verbal language can impact your tone and pronunciation in a way that others may be able to perceive. Additionally, if you are not careful about these behavioral cues, you may subsequently forget to guard against them when in vivo. Additionally, in video conferences and interviews, try to avoid excessive use of hand motions (unless, of course, you are actually signing for communication… as in American Sign Language or other manual languages). If you are not actually signing, excessive motion can be distracting or appear restless.

Pay attention. Too many people in the world today fail to listen. Most of you will say, “But I do listen!” I suspect that some of you make an effort to do so, but how many of you, when you truly examine your own listening are only listening to prepare a response? This is something into which I have recently put a lot of thought. Instead of hearing what the person has actually said and means, when one is listening merely to construct an argument, you miss not only the meaning, but you may read into their statements something that was never intended. It is especially easy to fall into this trap when communication is telephonic. Humans are programmed to look for meaning. When the visual and non-verbal cues are absent (because the communication is voice only or even text only), many people will insert additional context or content that was never intended by the speaker or writer. So, pay attention to what is actually said. The information gained from what is actually there is potentially ten times more valuable than any imagined meaning gleaned from between the lines.

Wait your turn. This goes hand in hand with the previous tip, and it is possibly the most difficult thing to do in a phone interview or conference call. I have been witness to so many people talking over each other, everyone desperate to get in their two cents, that no one actually heard with the other was saying. With time constraints and ignited passions, it is super difficult to keep the reins on the spoken word dying to pour from the throats of all participants, but I cannot stress enough how important it is to try. Listen for the natural breaks and pauses in the conversation. I know that there are times when interruptions may be unavoidable, but when necessary, apologize. Give the other person the opportunity to continue their own statement. Generally, you will find that by your manners, you will insure your own “turn” to follow. Again, listen closely to others in the conversation. You may find that you do not need to make a statement that may only be a restatement of something that someone else has already said. In video formats, you will have more non-verbal cues to observe for the natural breaks, but it still may not be quite as apparent as the in person interaction. Remember to use good manners and excuse interruptions.

As we continue to increase our technological adaptations for business and personal communication, I foresee face to face (via technology) interaction becoming as common as phone calls are today. Personally, I am thrilled (mostly because I was a big enough geek to love all those science fiction stories and shows), but it does take some accommodation and “getting used to”. I do not by any means believe I have addressed every pitfall or obstacle, but hopefully this short list of tips will help make those distance conferences go a little more smoothly and successfully. Happy face-timing!

Surviving The Cube Farm: A Lesson in Office Etiquette

http://www.dilbert.com
http://www.dilbert.com

Having spent years, and years, and years (honestly, it feels like eons sometimes) in an office environment, I think I can officially pronounce myself an expert in office etiquette. I don’t have a medal, or a certificate, or a fancy diploma, or a fez with a fun tassel (fez’s are cool) to prove my expertise, but I promise, I am an expert. Though, truth be told, some of said expertise is actual and some of it is totally because I’m petting my peeves, but all will be totally worth your while.

Whether you have worked in an office environment or not, you’ll probably find this as helpful as you will amusing. See, even if you don’t work in an office, a lot of this is just common sense, best practice stuff that you can apply to your everyday life.

I need to also say that while this is about working in an office and the etiquette practices therein, I want to further clarify that I am mostly referring to those of us 9-5ers (ha-ha) who work in a cubed office environment. More commonly referred to as The Cube Farm.

PRIVACY

Let’s start with an easy one. Something everyone wants to have but that mostly no one gets. Nothing in The Cube Farm is private. Nothing. Or, mostly nothing. Just understand that it is likely everyone knows everyone else’s business all the time and you’ll already be on the road to success.

The Office Gossip (TOG). She (well…TOG could be a he, but for the sake of this argument, let’s let her rip) makes it known that she knows everything. She is the one to track you down on your first day simply to tell you that she is the eyes and ears of the place and if there’s anything to know, she’ll know it. Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. She wants you to spill…immediately…and will pressure you until you do. Depending on your own personality, and how much you want everyone else in the office to know about yourself, it’s probably wise to steer clear.

The Connected One (TCO). TCO knows everyone. Literally and figuratively. TCO is your personal 6-degrees of separation. You used to work there? Oh, do you know so-and-so? You live where? Oh, do you know… You get the picture. And heaven forbid if TCO finds out that you and they know someone in common (or several someones in common) because every time that someone makes a move, TCO is gonna tell you about it. TCO is great for networking, though.

Beware if TOG and TCO are one and the same. That’s a recipe for disaster! I suggest you hide. Just a couple examples of some Privacy Pirates that you might encounter.

If you’re an average Joe or Jane, sitting in your little cube, doing your work, going about your day, minding your own bees-wax, then you’ll probably escape any lasting damage. But offices employ many, many different kinds of people. I shall shout fervently: WHY CAN’T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG?  Here are a few pointers that might help when it comes to maintaining your privacy.

Never enter someone else’s cubicle without permission. I’ve seen it said in other places that you want to behave as if there is a door and knock, tap, or employ some other gentle method to get the attention of the person in that cube without simply barging in. You don’t like it when folks barge in on you, right? So why would you do it to someone else?

Try not to sneak up behind someone in a cube. See above.

Let others know when you can and cannot be interrupted. Well, yeah – I admit this one is kind of tricky. You don’t want to be interrupted and really don’t have time to tell anyone not to interrupt you so, now what? Well, some offices will allow you to post a flag, or a small sign, or a rotating magnet like you might put on your dishwasher to let the rest of the family know the dishes are clean or dirty. Wait…sorry. Hang on. The rotating office magnet should probably say something like busy and available, not clean and dirty.

Prairie Dogging. The end-all be-all of office interruptions. The popping up of heads all over The Cube Farm to see what’s going on. Up down. Up down. I feel like I need a giant hammer and so I can play a gratifying game or two of Office Whack-a-Mole. Aside from the dogs just being annoying, it’s an invasion of privacy. You do not need to see what is on the other side of that wall so badly that you can’t walk over there.

Loitering outside another’s cube. Totally rude, Dude! Don’t hang out while you wait for the occupant to finish a phone conversation. First of all, you have no idea how long that call is going to last and you could potentially be standing there forever. Kind of foolish, if you ask me. Secondly, if you see someone is otherwise engaged, it is just common courtesy to come back at another time. Common courtesy is, sadly, lacking these days.

Looking at other people’s stuff. Yep. We’ve all done it. The quick flick of the eyes to the monitor screen in front of you, whether it is your screen or not. The information contained on the screen of a co-worker does not apply to you. Period.

Listening to other people’s stuff. In The Cube Farm, it’s next to impossible not to hear your co-worker’s conversations. They’re on the phone or talking with other co-workers all day long. Sometimes it’s hard not to listen, but try. Don’t comment on overheard conversations, or answer overheard questions either. What someone is discussing with someone else does not apply to you. Period.

Touching other people’s stuff. We’ve established that cubes don’t have doors. Doors are a visual representation of privacy. There is definitely something to be said for doors. Doors rock. The lack of a door does not mean you can help yourself to whatever is contained within another’s space.   The pens, pencils, sticky notes, paper clips and various other office supplies are not yours, are not meant for you and should not even be borrowed without permission from the occupant. This goes for food, drinks, and stuffed animals. (Hey – we all have a stuffed animal at our desks, right?)

ANNOYING SOUNDS

As you’ve gone through your day in The Cube Farm, have you ever heard something that drove you nuts? Or something that was so…off…that you felt the need to go investigate? Like that anecdote about children; if they’re quiet, you need to check on them because probably someone is doing something they’re not supposed to?

Any office has sounds you cannot avoid: typing, ringing, the hum of the white-noise maker, which is supposed to drown out or muffle sound but tends to just make more noise. The air conditioner or heat coming on and off. The microwave beeping in the break room. The ice machine dropping ice into the bin. The hum of the vending machines. People walking, talking, drumming their fingers out of boredom or insanity because the conference call they’re on is now going into its second hour.

The Gum Popper. Om nom nom. Chomp chomp. Pop. Oh and the snapping. Don’t forget the snapping. They don’t even realize they’re doing it.

Slap Happy. The one who wears nothing but flip-flops year-round, even though they’re totally against the dress code, and does laps around the office twice hourly because they are getting their exercise by not taking the shortcuts everyone else uses. Slap. Slap. Slap. Oh, there they go. Wait! Slap. Slap. Slap. There they go again. What’s this, their fourth or fifth round this hour? Shall we take bets?

The Loud Food Eater. If the gum chewing wasn’t bad enough, there’s this guy. Constantly eating. Snacks. Crackers. Chew chew chew. And that thing he does when he’s got something stuck in his teeth? Shudder.

The Talker. This is the person who talks on the phone all the time, as loudly as they can. Or yells across The Cube Farm to the person four rows away to find out if they have any Ibuprofen. Or holds mini conferences outside their cube. It’s enough to drive anyone mad. Wait! Who has the headache?

A few descriptions of Annoying Animals in The Cube Farm for your amusement. I would like to put to you, dear readers, to be mindful of others as you move about the office during the day. Be considerate. Be aware of how your voice can carry or how the crinkling of the wrapper from your second bag of chips can be disruptive to your neighbor and that loud conversations are distracting and disruptive. And I haven’t even begun to talk about phones. That being said, let’s consider this further, shall we?

Ringing desk phones. We know that ringing phones are a product of being in an office. But did you know that the new-fangled technology we have these days allows you to adjust the volume of the ringer on your desk phone? You may be hard of hearing, but did you take into consideration that your neighbor might hear just fine thank you very much? A lot of office phone models have a little red light that blinks or flashes when you have an incoming call. If you place your ringer low enough for you to still hear it and within your range of vision (try peripheral, it’s awesome) you’ve got two layers of assurance you won’t miss a call.

Ringing cell phones. Turn ‘em off, people. Just turn them off. Or, set them to vibrate or silent ring. You do not need to have your personal cell phone on you all the time. Yep. I am like most of the rest of you, attached to my technology at the hip, but even I turn my ringer down, or off completely during the day. Your employer is not paying you to text (beep), play games, (boop), or chat (ring) all day long. And please, for the love of all that is good and peaceful in this world, do not leave your cell phone – ringer on – on your desk and then walk away. None of the rest of us need to listen to your Minion Ba-Na-Na PO-TA-TO ring tone over and over again. (Although props for a good choice of ring tone.)

Speaker phone conversations. Oh my. This one walks a fine line between being one of those aforementioned peeves I’ve been petting and being actual office etiquette. I haven’t weighed the scale to determine which side is heavier. But, if you must have a conversation using speaker phone, remember these key points: 1) Everyone else can hear you, and everyone else can hear the person on the other end of the line. 2) If you know about the call ahead of time, reserve a conference room so you can have a closed door between your speaker phone conversation and the rest of The Cube Farm. Your fellow dogs will thank you.

Voice Volume. If you’re a naturally loud talker, I understand. So am I. I’ve been known to burst my own ear drums from time to time. That’s another story. But there are these wonderful inventions called headsets. They are not only for comfort and convenience, but they also allow for a quieter (and more private) conversation. If you don’t have a headset for your desk phone, talk to someone who might be able to rectify that for you. They’re a good idea and should be standard equipment, right along with your computer and a monitor and a phone.

Tech Sounds. If you use email or instant messaging to communicate with your co-workers, turn the sounds off. Those dings and bings are enough to turn Dr. Banner into his big, mean, green friend with little to no warning.

Music.  If you are one of the bazillion people who like to listen to music during their work day, unless your office management says otherwise, it’s okay to use ear buds or headphones. Just remember not to get too zoned out, just in case you’re called by the little red flashy light on your phone or the loiterer outside your cubicle.

Are you feeling the burn yet? Think you can manage a couple more reps? Good. Let’s keep going.

SMELLS

Last on my list of things to discuss in the world of office etiquette is (drumroll please) smells. Odor. Scent. The things your sniffer sniffs out and process into four categories: good, bad, ugly and really, really offensive. (Points if you can get both random movie references there.)

The Scent Hound. Like a bloodhound to the scent of a missing person, the rest of us can smell you coming a mile away or follow your trail every place you’ve been. Your odor lingers when you pass through in such a way that one can almost see the molecules of your scent du jour hanging like a fog in the air. Patchouli does not equal bath.

The Lunch Eater. Here, ladies and gentlemen, we have The Lunch Eater. Sitting at his desk during lunch time, single-mindedly putting away the pastrami on rye he got from the local deli. Complete with onions, mustard and pickles. On the side, salt and vinegar potato chips. Look at him, ladies and gentlemen. Take note of how smoothly his arms raise the dripping sandwich to his mouth and how purposefully he bites, how possessively he chews. Beware. He is at his meanest at lunch time.

The Stink Monster. Stinky needs no qualifiers. Stinky is the leftover salmon for lunch eating, microwave popcorn burning, close-talking halitosis having, run the other way when you see him coming co-worker. Add in a layer of bad cologne and last week’s shirt (complete with armpit funk) and all I have to say is, “Eeeewwww!” It is Odoriferous Odiousness I share with you, my fellows. Let’s tone it down some, shall we? We, your co-workers, are breathing this air, too. You do know that, right?  Perfumes, colognes, body sprays, organic natural oils, scented hand lotions, hair sprays…what do they have in common? They all should be totally avoided in The Cube Farm. Period. Those of us with breathing issues like asthma or allergic sensitivities will thank you. File this under how to win friends and influence people. Not the book though. I mean it in the most literal sense.

However loudly you may complain about others, how loudly are they complaining about you? Take some time to think about your habits and ask yourself these questions:

1)      Does it invade or affect another’s privacy?

2)      Does it make noise and if so, how loud or obnoxious would I, personally, consider that noise to be?

3)      Does it smell? Period.

I am not judging. We are all individuals and we all have our own little quirks.  Some of us get along really well, some of us don’t.  Sometimes the best we can hope for is tolerance.  But as I leave you to go silently into that good night (or day, depending) I ask that you truly and openly think about those you encounter at  your office every day.  Maybe, just maybe, you’ll begin to see just what part of the corporate puzzle they play, and if you’re really lucky, maybe you’ll be able to fit that piece in exactly the right place.  Also, if you have very strong feelings about indivudual Privacy Pirates, Annoying Animals or Odoriferous Odiousness-es, talk to your manager about the best, most thoughtful, and least offensive or hurtful way to approach.  You could be doing them a favor.

While it’s absolutely impossible to please everyone all the time, your consideration of the above-mentioned things won’t go unnoticed. Your fellow Cube Farm occupants will thank you. They may not thank you personally, but they’ll thank you. Believe me.

Find Your Zen: Nervousness vs. The Interview

In the world of job hunting, probably one of the most important things you can do is nail an interview. Pull off a tumbling somersault into the room (without scaring anyone, please) leading into a dynamic conversation between you and your potential employer followed by a layout to nail the landing on the requisite blue mat and leave the interviewer applauding. Ta-da! Now that’s what I’m talking about. (Yeah, gymnastics holdovers from childhood. I will not apologize.) But being serious, there are so many different types of people, both the interviewer and the interviewee alike, with so many different comfort-levels when it comes to interactions with other people. How is it possible to nail that interview every time?

Let’s consider the whole extrovert/introvert thing.

Extroverts tend to get their energy by being around other people and tend to get bored when they are alone. Being around other people gives extroverts a charge – or, recharge. For example, an extrovert may feel “high on life” after spending an afternoon in the company of multiple friends, whereas this type of activity may simply drain an introvert of their energy.

Introverts tend to get their energy when they are alone. Being alone, focused on a single activity, gives introverts a charge – or, recharge. For example, an introvert may feel amazingly recharged after spending a rainy afternoon tucked into a chair by a fire, cup of coffee by my side, a good book…maybe a cat purring on my lap. Oh, wait – I just lapsed into the first person. You caught me.

But there are also ambiverts; people who tend to fall kind of in the middle of extraversion and introversion. Sometimes they’re comfortable with groups and social interactions and sometimes they’re not; sometimes groups and social interactions give them the willies.

Actually, I, myself, probably fall into the ambivert category. I tend to avoid crowds or places that have multiple bodies in a confined or specified space (e.g.: concerts, festivals, carnivals, auditorium/theater events, parties, just to name a few). I enjoy time with a small crowd of close, trusted friends, however (e.g.: work gatherings, church events, family gatherings, outings with The Girls, just to name a few). I described a dream date with myself just a minute ago: coffee, book, fire, and cat. All those things that require one thing: being alone.

I’m sure there’s science involved here. Some tangible data that explains why some folks are one way or another. I’ll leave the actual science-y stuff to my learned colleague, Tananda. She’ll set this all straight in a way that even I can understand it. I’ll stick with what I know: people.

Think about it this way. You have spent a lot of time and effort on your resume. You’ve spent more time and effort searching for and applying to various available jobs. You’ve submitted an application, included your resume, and written an awesome cover letter. You’re hopeful. Any day now. Then, lucky you, someone calls to talk to you about a job you’ve applied for. You chat (amiably) for a few minutes and, hopefully, schedule a time for an interview.

Now what?

Well the first thing to do is: Don’t Panic! Remember, you’re just having a conversation, okay? Breathe. Conversations are usually fine. You can handle this. You introverts are probably having apoplexy just thinking about all the ways a conversation, with another human being, could possibly go wrong. You extroverts are probably thinking about what you’re going to wear and calmly going over your resume in your heads. Ambiverts are probably doing a little bit of both. I imagine a little internal tennis match. Spectator’s heads following the ball of thought left and right, left and right. It’s almost as amusing as it is frustrating.

How about a little more insight into yours truly. While, yes, I tend to recharge in a solitary way, focused inward, I also love interviewing.

You: What? No one loves interviewing! That’s nuts!

Me: Maybe. I never claimed to be totally sane!

Let’s put this another way. Lots of folks in today’s job market have had some sales experience. It could be that you worked in fast food and got super-skilled at super-sizing or had the highest sales of that week’s promotional item: two bacon, egg & cheese biscuits for two dollars. There’s a reason for that. It could be that you worked in retail (clothing, jewelry, handicrafts, doesn’t matter) and got really good at selling the things the store carried that you felt particularly drawn to. There’s a reason for that, as well.

You are selling fast food items for a bargain and with a little oomph you can convince that drive through person that this bargain is exactly what they need. You’ve mastered this skill.

You are selling jewelry items. Jewelry is, mostly, not cheap. How can you convince someone to purchase a piece? You make them love it. If you love it, you can make your buyer see all they reasons they can love it, too, and take it home with them. If you love or believe in the thing that you’re selling, you can hardly lose.

What could possibly be easier to talk about than yourself? You are, for all intents and purposes, selling yourself. (No – not in that way. Please stop grinning and get your mind out of the gutter, we’re a serious institution here.) Theoretically, we love ourselves, right? I mean, we may not always like ourselves very much, but hey, we’re A-Okay. We’ve got it going on. Our resume says so. So why would you have trouble sitting down with a potential employer to talk about yourself? You’ve got skills! You’re a good, hard-working, time-management managing, team player. You get my point, right?

Interviewers tend to ask questions that fall into two general categories: Easy ones and hard ones. The easy ones are most likely as much as an employer can legally ask about you, personally. The “Tell me about yourself…” question is a pretty generic one. They can’t ask you how old you are, if you’re married, if you have kids, if you’re pregnant (that’s a whole other issue)…but if they ask you to tell them about yourself, what might you share?

The hard ones are usually more job-related. “I see that you have background in sales and customer service. Tell me about how you might apply that skill to an administrative position with ABC Co.?” Oh, boy. I can’t tell you how to answer that one (actually, I could, but I won’t), but if you do, legitimately, have sales and customer service experience and are applying for an administrative position, then there’s got to be a reason you can do what you do. You know this. You do it every day. You can make it seem plausible to the interviewer because you know it’s possible and you can make the interviewer believe it.

So what category do you fit in? You should know yourself well enough to at least be able to figure out if you’re an extrovert, an introvert, or an ambivert. Yes, I suppose there are folks out there who really don’t know themselves all that well. But for the purposes of this article let’s pretend you know yourself pretty well.

What now?

Extroverts

  • Tone it down a bit. I’m not saying don’t be yourself. That would be an impossibility. All I’m saying is where you might respond to things with overwhelming enthusiasm, don’t. Take it down a notch and respond with thoughtfulness and respect. An introverted interviewer may not appreciate too much excitement; but,
  • Show excitement. Enough so the extroverted employer gets excited about what you can do for them but not so much that you become overwhelming.

 Introverts

  • Take it up a notch. Again, I’m not saying don’t be yourself. But if you’re natural inclination is to respond with one syllable words and a monotone voice, try reaching into your vocabulary words from school and add some inflections of enthusiasm. An introverted interviewer will appreciate the effort, and an extroverted one will listen to what you have to say with seriousness and reflection.
  • Show excitement. I can only imagine how this must be for a true introvert to show an acceptable level of excitement. But you are excited, right? You’re just more nervous than excited. Consider the ways you could make that nervousness seem like excitement. An introverted interviewer will totally understand that you’re making an effort and an extroverted one will most likely see the side of you that a lot of others may not see.

Here’s what I’m suggesting: ambiversion is what you introverts and extroverts should try to strive for when you’re interviewing. If you’re too bright and electric for an introverted employer, you’ll scare them. If you’re too quiet, spouting monosyllabic answers to an extroverted employer, they’ll pass you over for someone with more personality. It’s going to be a struggle, I get that. A delicate balance. But if you can find that happy medium, that place where you (regardless of your personality tendencies) can feel comfortable in an interview, you’re going to seem more relaxed, you’ll showcase yourself and your skills quite well and knock the socks off your competitors to nail that interview.

One last thought. Yes, it is a competition. You want to outshine everyone else in every way possible. It may take a little work on your part, but you can do it.

Some excellent follow-up reading:

Tananda Dot Com: The Ins and Outs

http://tananda.com/2014/02/the-ins-and-outs/

What’s Your Personality Type?

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/1/1f/MyersBriggsTypes.png

Myers-Briggs Type Indicator

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myers%E2%80%93Briggs_Type_Indicator

Extraversion and Introversion

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraversion_and_introversion

A Make-it or Break-it Resume

A HUMBLE INTRODUCTION

I’ve written a couple other articles now and have alluded to the fact that I had lots of stuff to say regarding resumes. So below, please find said stuff I have to say. Sorry – writing introductory paragraphs makes me twitch, especially when I am feeling decidedly decaffeinated at three-something in the afternoon. But aside from all that, I actually do need to preface this article by saying a few things.

First, this is not the end-all be-all of resume information…which will be totally obvious when you get to the end. I have researched these things until the cows came home (and they did…come home, that is) and have included a few links to great sources of information on resumes at the end of this article. This is simply my take on the matter, having used this system, or a variation of it, for years. It works, it really does. But there are others out there who will disagree with me. And that’s okay. That’s why we all have these awesome things called opinions coupled with free will.

Second, I am writing from the heart, but also writing in a somewhat conversational form. I apologize ahead of time if it gets confusing. Please bear with me. Also – you can feel free to comment if you think I’m a dunce or if something is so confusing to you that you need further clarification. I will answer.

Thirdly, take it slow. There’s a lot of information here and while I think it’s mostly good, I refer again to the dunce comment above.

And…away we go.

MASTER RESUME CONCEPT:

This is something that others may have thought of – so I cannot claim that it was my idea – but I have been thinking about this for many, many years and for all I know, I could be the inventor of something awesome.

The idea of the Master Resume is simple: Put every, single thing you’ve ever done – job/career-wise – down on paper. Include the company name, the dates you worked there, the title you held, the name of your supervisor, your supervisor’s email address and phone number (preferably direct, if possible), the address of the company or, at the very least, the city and state. Then list, in as much detail as possible (without getting wordy), your job responsibilities.

You: Whoa! Okay…hang on. Every. Single. Job. I have ever done?

Me: Yes.

You: But why? What is the point?

Well, think about it this way. Just imagine for a moment that you are sitting there, at some business establishment or other, preparing to fill out a paper application simply because you inquired about a job. This is great! They handed you an application! You get to fill it out right there and then and show this business establishment all about your work history! Except, if you’re anything like me, you don’t have any of the important dates in your head, like when you started and when you left previous employment. Oh, you could fudge it a little because you know generally when the comings and goings occurred – but would it be accurate? Do you remember how much you were paid when you started? How much you were making when you left? You know they’re going to check up on you, right? They do, actually contact your previous employers – you get that, don’t you? So why not make an effort to be accurate?

All that to say that a Master Resume is a great idea, and here’s why.

So, imagine you’re still at this business establishment, standing there with your pretty paper application, excited that you have the opportunity to fill it out when you realize that though you don’t have dates (or addresses, or phone numbers, or salary info…these things do fade with time, it’s okay) in your head, you do actually have a copy of your Master Resume in the car. You excuse yourself for a moment, run to the car to grab said Master Resume, and come back armed with exactly the information you need to accurately complete the application at hand. 

Alright, so yes, I understand that what I described above is, for the most part, a retail establishment practice – but can you take it further? Of course you can! Think about all the business establishments with an online presence and how most of the time those same business establishments have a careers/jobs/employment (pick your poison) section on their web sites. You search for a job, you find one that interests you, and you choose to fill out the job application online, which is a much more common practice these days. You are going to be faced with the same questions (and more) that you would find on the paper application at a retail establishment. (Actually, most retail establishments have an electronic application process now, too, though some still use the old-fashioned paper kind.) Again, that light bulb pops on brightly above your head indicating, if others could see it, that you’ve just had a brilliant idea. You go grab your Master Resume and get started on the electronic application.

All your dates, names, places, email addresses, phone number and salary and job duties are there for the picking. All you have to do is transfer it appropriately, and click Submit.

You: Wait, wait, wait, wait! I’m confused. I mean, I understand what you’re saying – I think – but…

Me: What? You want me to walk you through the Master Resume Concept from start to finish?

You: <sigh> Yes! Please?

You understand now the brilliance of it because I described it above, so here’s how it works.

Most resumes only list job history for the last 7-10 years. Anything more than that and it starts getting overwhelming for prospective employers.   Prospective employers want to see that you’re working, they don’t want to see gaps in your work history, and they do want to see that the previous work you did is applicable to the job you are applying for.

So what do you do? You give them everything, without giving them everything.

See, a Master Resume is where you keep everything – but when you’re applying for a position, you pull out the key pieces that are relevant to the position you are applying for and enter that into the application.

You: But that means that I could possibly show gaps in employment, and you just said that was a bad thing.

Me: Bear with me, I’m getting there.

You: Okay.

Most electronic application processes allow you to attach a resume along with all the important information you’ve already filled out online. This is where you attach a modified copy of your Master Resume, that you create specifically for the position for which you are applying.

This is what a job-specific resume should look like (please locate and use your imagination):

Resume of:      John Q. Jobhunter

Address:          123 Anystreet, Anytown USA 12345

Mobile:            (123) 456-7890

Email:               jqjhntr@email.com

Summary of Qualifications and Related Skills: [Type out a paragraph explaining how your qualifications and skills relate to the position for which you are applying; use the job description as your guide.]

Employment History:

CURRENT EMPLOYER: Start Date to End Date (Start Date or Present, if still employed) – Your Job Title – Company Name – Company Address – Supervisor’s Name – Supervisor’s Title – Supervisor’s Phone Number – Supervisor’s Email Address

Job Duties [be clear and concise. In fact, bullet-pointing is an excellent idea.]

PREVIOUS EMPLOYER 1: Same thing – keep going and include job duties.

PREVIOUS EMPLOYER 2: Same thing – keep going and include job duties.

PREVIOUS EMPLOYER 3: Now let’s say that this job was one that does not relate to the position for which you are applying – but it shows you were working. All you do here is enter the start date, end date, your job title, the company name, address, and supervisor’s information – then move on to the next employer.

When you get to a point where you’ve got 7-10 years of experience clearly completed, stop. Now, save the document as something you’ll remember – something, maybe, that indicates which position or company you’ve created it for – and then attach it to the electronic job application!

And you’re right – I suppose this could be a somewhat confusing and complicated concept, but if used correctly it could be such a wonderful tool. And yes, it means that you could, at any one time, have a saved copy of your Master Resume, and multiple position-specific resumes.

 OBJECTIVES:

 My research tells me that there are varying degrees of thought on this particular portion of one’s resume. Some say to yank it altogether, that it’s an outdated thought and what good does it really do? Your objective is to get a job, right? Enough said. Others say to keep it and make it “employer-centric” – meaning not to simply say that you’re looking to, for example “build your editing skills and leverage your interest in journalism” but to explain what it is that you can do for them. Remember, they’re the ones hiring you and though they care about what you can do, they want to know how you can apply that to their company’s specific needs and the position they are looking to fill. Ultimately, though, I personally believe it’s up to you whether to keep the objective or do away with it.

I tend to land somewhere in the middle, clearly stating what skills and experience I have related to the position I am applying for and building off of that. I call it Skills and Related Experience. How many years of experience do you have in your field? What programs or applications have you used and do they jive with what the potential employer is looking for? What applications are you comfortable with? How fast can you type? Do you have experience answering phones? Handling mail? Things like that.

REFERENCES:

Ah – the all-important, “Do I put References on my resume,” question. My answer is: That depends.

You: What? That’s so wishy-washy. Why am I even listening to you in the first place?

Me: Would you, kindly, give me a chance to explain my reasons behind that so-called wishy-washy answer?

You: Um…OK?

You see (I say kindly) there are times when submitting a list of references is totally appropriate and there are other times when it’s just…well…not.

You: How do I know the difference?

You’ll know. No, really – you will. Sometimes the specific electronic application (or any application, really) you are completing asks you to include references and, therefore when you are prompted to attach an electronic copy of your resume, it should, by reason of consistency, include those same references. Sometimes, it’s just not appropriate to attach a list of references; you can save that for the physical interview when you hand your potential employer a hard-copy of your resume and say professionally, “I brought you a clean hard-copy of my resume, along with a complete list of references.”

 As a general rule, I recommend having anywhere between three and five professional references and two or three personal references on hand, ready to go. It’s common courtesy, however, to let these people who you’re using as reference know that you intend to do so. Make sure you have all their contact information correct. Also, you will want to list next to, or below their names whether they are on the list as a Professional reference or a Personal reference.

For example:

Davy Jones                  Executive Director – Under The Sea, Inc.

(Professional)             123 Mermaid Lane, The Ocean, The World, 12345 ♦ Mobile: (123) 456-7890 ♦ Email: d.jones@utsinc.org

 Arial Mermaid             Owner, Voice Studios

(Personal)                    456 Mermaid Lane, The Ocean, The World, 12345 ♦ Mobile: (123) 654-0987 ♦ Email: arial@voicestudios.com

OTHER TIDBITS: 

  • Try not to make your resume more than 2 pages long. In fact, it’s better if you can keep it to one page, or two pages printed on both sides of one sheet of paper.
  • Bullet Points are your friend. Paragraphs work, too, but you want to make it easy for employers to see, at a glance, what you’ve done at any one job. Use this only in the job-duties section under each current or previous employer.
  • Formatting is also your friend. Formatting and fonts are important because these things draw your potential employer’s eye to key pieces of information. You want them to see what your job title was? Make it bold.

FOLLOW-UP READING / REFERENCE ARTICLES:

5 do’s and don’ts for building a winning resume

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/09/26/5-tips-for-a-great-resume/2875465/

How to Handle These 5 Common Weaknesses on Your Resume

http://career-services.monster.com/yahooarticle/handle-common-weaknesses-on-resume#WT.mc_n=yta_fpt_article_handle_common_resume_weakness

Resume Writing: How to Write a Masterpiece of a Resume (Rockport Institute)

http://rockportinstitute.com/resumes/

Savvy Job Hunting: Tricks of the Trade

Did you know that finding a job is, in itself, a full-time job? I’m just going to lay that right out there, up front, so you don’t get any ideas. There are no shortcuts on this one, folks, I’m sorry – you must do the work.

For the purposes of this article, let’s say you’ve been laid-off.

You’re angry because, let’s be honest, it was the last thing you expected and you feel like you’ve been hand-picked for the pink slip you’ve just received. It’s tough to take into consideration things that may have lead your employer to decide on layoffs in the first place and even harder to realize that it isn’t personal, it’s financial.

You’re scared because you’ve got bills to pay and the bills don’t auto-magically (yes, I said that on purpose) stop coming just because your regular source of income has suddenly ceased. You’ve got a cartoon-esque tornado over your head which is rotating a constant barrage of thoughts: mortgage or rent, utilities, phone bills, car payments, doctor bills, money, money, money…and these crazy question marks that, for some reason, look like they are morphing into what could be interpreted as ultra-sharp scythes. <shudder>

You’re hurt because, let’s face it, it does feel personal even if it really isn’t and it’s hard to separate how you feel from the facts that led to the decision that led to you ultimately losing your job. (gasp!) You gave those folks lots of good years of your life, by golly. You worked hard. You dotted every “I” and crossed every “T”. How could they do this to you?

You feel worthless because…well…all of the above.

If you’re a Harry Potter fan I’ll bet you’re thinking the same thing I am, right? That part, in Order of the Phoenix, after Harry kisses Cho and has gone back to the common room. Hermione is trying to explain to Harry and Ron how Cho must be feeling:

HERMIONE:

“Well, obviously, she’s feeling very sad, because of Cedric dying. Then I expect she’s feeling confused because she liked Cedric and now she likes Harry, and she can’t work out who she likes best. Then she’ll be feeling guilty, thinking it’s an insult to Cedric’s memory to be kissing Harry at all, and she’ll be worrying about what everyone else might say about her if she starts going out with Harry. And she probably can’t work out what her feelings toward Harry are anyway, because he was the one who was with Cedric when Cedric died, so that’s all very mixed up and painful. Oh, and she’s afraid she’s going to be thrown off the Ravenclaw Quidditch team because she’s been flying so badly.”

RON:

“One person can’t feel all that at once, they’d explode.”

 HERMIONE:

“Just because you’ve got the emotional range of a teaspoon doesn’t mean we all have.”

 (Credit to J.K. Rolling, author of the Harry Potter series of books)

I’m not making light of this no job thing, but you get the correlation, right? There is just so much stuff is going on inside your head you feel like you’re going explode. Also…you are not worthless.

But, what do you do now? Well, in my opinion it’s okay to take a couple of days to refocus. For me, that means cleaning and music because those two things focus me and allow me to think objectively about any given situation. Don’t take too long, though, because then the refocusing thing simply becomes an excuse. After a while it just turns into laziness and apathy and the next thing you know you’re six, eight, twelve months down the line, collecting unemployment and still feeling sorry for yourself.

WAKE UP! (Sorry – I didn’t mean to yell. I know, I’m on my soap box right now and I feel very passionately about this, but you’re awake now, right?)

Let’s look at some next steps:

  • Update your resume. Break out the old resume and start updating. If you don’t have one, make one. Look it over carefully and think about not just the content, but how a prospective employer is going to view it. Proof-read, spell check, and make certain that all your dates, facts and information are correct because I’m telling you, attention to detail within your resume is a big deal. Print out several hard copies of your resume and keep them with you at all times.You never know when you might need to hand one to somebody. (For me, it’s hard not to go into a ton of detail with regard to resumes because I feel very strongly about them and the magic they can work. I am also writing an article about resumes in which I get to go into a ton of detail and which I promise I’ll eventually post.)
  • Treat finding a job as your job. Make it the first thing you think about when you get up in the morning and the last thing you think about when you go to bed at night. I know that life gets in the way sometimes, but you have to make this your priority. Finding a job, even when you’re diligent about it, can take a while. But you don’t have to prolong it and, in fact, can speed it up by focusing on that one pursuit.
  • Call the local Chambers of Commerce. Huh? Why? Well…call them and ask them if they have a list of all the businesses in the area. Sometimes those lists are online, which is great; sometimes they’re not. Ask them if they would be willing to email, mail, or fax these lists to you. You don’t need to explain why – unless you just want to. Sometimes, though, explaining your situation (I’m unemployed and seeking a job and would like a list of area employers that might be hiring) can unstick a hesitant person.
  • Talk to your friends. Seriously? Talk to my friends? That’s the best advice you can give me? Well, no – not the best advice, but certainly sound advice. Here’s the thing: Your friends (most of them, anyway) have jobs, know people, have contacts you may not have. Your friends may know of available positions you are not aware of. Listen, you’re going to talk to your friends about this anyway, right? So why not network with them? Plus, sometimes a friend is just the foot in the door you’ll need to your next job opportunity.
  • Update your social media profile. Yes, this one is touchy and my learned counterpart, Tananda, is writing an article as we speak about what your social media profile says about you – but update it anyway. LinkedIn, Facebook, maybe your personal blog… I won’t say any more about this right now, though. Tananda has that covered here: http://tananda.com/2014/04/putting-your-best-facebook-forward-social-media-in-the-modern-job-market/.
  • Pound the pavement. It’s an old term – and it still applies – but maybe in a more, ah, virtual way. Think about it. It used to be that when you were looking for a job, you got up, showered, shaved (hopefully), shined your shoes, put on a suit and tie, slicked back your hair, grabbed your briefcase (because, hey, it looks awesome with a suit), walked out your front door, got in the car, and started quite literally pounding the pavement looking for work. Knocking on every door of every business you were qualified to work for and then some. And, while that still works and is definitely something to consider, there’s this wonderful invention we have now called The Internet. Oh, and email, too! Remember that list of area employers you got from the Chamber of Commerce? Do they have an online presence? If they do, check it out and see if they have a Careers section. (Alternately called Jobs or Employment, too.) Check out their available position and apply for everything you could possibly be qualified for. If there isn’t a website, or if you cannot immediately find a careers section, is there a Contact Us page? An email address? Draft a strong, introductory cover letter and email them a copy of your resume. Even if there are no available positions, send them an unsolicited inquiry. Sometimes employers don’t get around to posting available positions right away and your unsolicited inquiry, containing an awesome cover letter and a well-thought-out resume could be the key to getting you in the door.
  • Don’t let the moss grow. Huh? What does that mean? Simply this. The longer you wait the harder it’s going to get. It’s a market people, and every market runs out of stuff every now and then…including jobs. So don’t wait. Look every single day and sometimes twice a day. 

Stuff to take with you when you go:

indeed – one search. all jobs.

http://www.indeed.com/

This one is great because you can enter your search parameters and it remembers them every time you visit. And the next time you visit it will tell you how many new jobs are posted under that category! It pulls from all available, posted positions from all the major job sites including Monster, Career Builder, and more…plus it pulls directly from individual employer sites that have posted positions as well as temporary agencies with available positions.

Monster

http://www.monster.com

CareerBuilder

http://www.careerbuilder.com

Holster It: A coming of age tale

holsterit

So, those who know me in the real world outside the “interwebs,” have heard my tales of woe as my own decrepitude and mortality was shamelessly flaunted before my very eyes in my quest for convenience. I shall share with you my pain, but this is not only a revelation… it is also a cautionary tale for the astute professional.

I do not know about the rest of you out there, but despite my best efforts to resist, I have become completely attached to the evils of technology. By this I mean, of course, the mobile phone. Yes, sad as it is, I seem to have forgotten what it was like in the days when you left home or office and people would just have to wait until you came back to speak with you on the phone. Other elements of my life have been impacted, however, in addition to just the communication-from-anywhere-at-anytime phenomenon. I no longer wear a watch. I rely upon my clever little mobile device to provide that information and be correctly matched to time zone (since the time is received from the closest tower). It is a right handy trick, especially for those of us who might be in multiple time zones on any given day. It truly was a bit of a challenge to keep appointments and meetings straight when merely relying on the timepiece secured to the wrist. Not to mention, there was always the issue of returning to your home time zone only to forget to set your watch back… ah yes, much like the Daylight Savings Time, there was always the risk of missing a meeting or showing up ridiculously early upon return from a different zone. But I digress…

Unlike many of my technologically savvy and technology-adoring friends, I firmly resist getting the latest and greatest every time something new comes out. I am not criticizing the impulse to get the newest shiny on the market and try out the latest updates. I am just not one to be always on the cutting edge. I will leave that to my dear ones who are always happy to provide me with unsolicited reviews of “Look What It DOES?!?” and “Oh my, they will need to fix that bug on the next firmware upgrade…” It helps me avoid any of the less successful technological advancements. However, as logical and appropriate as that sounds, I’m totally lying. I anthropomorphize my equipment. It’s true. My fear of change and resistance to same stems in many ways from my feeling deep down that my poor gadget will feel abandoned and cast aside for the younger model.

Regardless, the time came after four blissful years with my iPhone, that my formerly reliable equipment was no longer so reliable. It just no longer worked. It would reboot at random, never get a good signal, and froze up regularly. Sadly, the day came when I could no longer give the excuse of “It works just fine for me.” I had to bite the bullet and get a new phone.

I will not go into the details of that painful drama. With shaking hands and sweaty palms, I discussed and made arrangements with my telecommunications provider to get a new phone. Those of you out there that relish the excitement of new tech in your life cannot possibly understand my anxiety and stress over what must seem to most a very simple, though costly, transaction. However, by the end of the day, the deed was done. A new phone was mine. Herein lays the unexpected snag…

I have for many, many… I shan’t say how many years carried my mobile device in a holster. This is a pouch that attaches to a belt or waistband and into which you can put your phone. I found that it was also handy for carrying the most frequently used of my wallet denizens, driver’s license, ATM card, insurance card, etc. As you might expect, the holster was in about the same condition as the old phone. Sure enough, it disintegrated shortly after the new phone came into use (possibly died of grief, who knows).

Now, these days, it seems most people have their phones surgically attached to their hands. Seriously, this is merely from observation that no one seems to be able to put the darn things down. I have noticed that some folks pocket phones or maybe have them in voluminous purses, but primarily, the devices appear to be constantly in use or held in the hand. How do these people go to the bathroom?!?

I am not of the ilk to have phone in hand at all times, and not all of my fashion choices have pockets. I ceased carrying purses long ago as I had a tendency to leave them wherever I hung them over a chair or happened to set them down. Needless to say, I have been reliant on my handy holster for many years. When my old one disintegrated, therefore, I had absolutely no suspicion that this was the serious loss that it became. I figured, “I’ll just buy a new one.” Oh hell no… Did you know that there are about a metric blue-billion different colored, designed, bedazzled, blingged-out Otterboxes on the market? Did you?!? There are. I walked into the first store, and the young man working there became completely baffled when I asked for a holster. With his head on one side like an inquisitive dog, he proceeded to show me the varying array of rubberized phone condoms that I could choose. “No, I want a holster.” I was told that they had nothing like that, but wouldn’t I like a nice fuchsia Hello Kitty Otterbox? I managed to escape minus Hello Kitty, rhinestones, or glitter. I continued my search in a variety of office supply and technology gizmo stores. With every stop along the way, my spirit became more and more dejected. The lowest point of the day was when a store employee shortly out of his infancy and looking no more than 12 years of age informed me that he didn’t believe anyone made holsters anymore, because no one of the current technology age used them anymore. He hadn’t seen one in “ages,” and wouldn’t I like a nice Otterbox?

Now feeling even more like a relic of a bygone age, I was close to tears as I approached the last bastion of hope. I dared not meet the eyes of the staff who were likely young enough to be my offspring. However, I recollected myself enough to notice that a nice gentleman (who looked to be at least past puberty) holding the door open for me. I meekly asked if they carried holsters… AND they DID! I was giddy and in tears as I purchased my lovely leather holster and found that it fit my new phone with space for cards. It seems that despite my advanced age, I must not be entirely alone in my quest for an efficient carrying method for my phone.

Why, you may ask, is this particular article in The New Cheese? Isn’t TNC supposed to be about professional stuff? Yes indeed it is. Here is why. It is not only to free up my dexterity that I prefer to use a holster instead of a colorful rubber phone condom.

It has become common practice to keep your mobile phone permanently in your hand. People sit in social circumstances with their devices constantly before their eyes, consulting them approximately every one or two minutes. Sadly, this is the status of our society today. We spend every moment incapable of being separated from the electronics.

Most professionals holding positions of responsibility in any organization will have one or more electronic devices connecting them with the plethora of information sources on the internet, their staff, and their customers. Today, the instantaneous access to any individual has created the expectation that all employees, managers, and leaders have their phones on at all times. Phones remain in hands or on conference tables immediately visible to anyone present. However, many individuals in the modern workplace believe this expectation gives them license to have their mobile devices permanently attached to their hands in all environments and situations.

True professionalism involves basic civility and manners. What do mobile phones have to do with this? In interviews, meetings, business discussions, and trainings, people deserve the attention of their target audience. Distractions such as incoming phone calls, text messages, and social media notifications detract from the interaction and give the impression of disinterest, immaturity, lack of focus, and unprofessional conduct.

Be a professional. Presenters, trainers, and potential employers or employees deserve your respect and full attention. Holster the phone, iPad, or personal assistant device unless using it specifically to take notes or perform a function related to the discussion at hand. Use the silent mode. Turn off ring tones and notifications for the duration of the meeting, interview, or training. Use the “airplane” mode to suspend all potential signals until after the meeting. In the event of forgetting to silence your phone and receiving a call or message, remedy the situation by switching on silent mode and in one on one or meeting situations, apologize concisely and move on. People lived without instantaneous access for many years. You can always check messages, texts, and Facebook at a more appropriate time when you are not infringing upon the valuable time of others.

So, the moral of the story? The appearance of the professional is not enhanced by a constant barrage of incoming electronic communications on a rubber encrusted mobile device permanently ensconced in your hand. To all those currently holding or hoping to hold a professional position in some organization, with regards to your mobile phones, literally or figuratively, do yourself a favor. Present yourself in a mature and professional way… Holster It!

Salary & Skilz

So I was thinking about something. In my experience, and most especially my experience of late, it seems to me that the subject of salary (how much an employer is willing to pay you to work for them) is becoming more and more of a taboo subject. Yes, we all know that you shouldn’t discuss what you make – and especially not with your co-workers – but what about with prospective employers?

Well, here’s one person’s thoughts on the matter, should you be interested.

Let’s take me, for example. I have a very specific skill set that fits a very specific need in the corporate world. I am an Executive Assistant. Or, an Administrative Assistant. Or Receptionist. Secretary. You get the idea. I possess the skills one needs to support one individual, or several other individuals, so they can do their own job and so things can run more smoothly. In theory. (I’m over-simplifying this. Anyone who has ever had an admin job knows there’s a lot more to it than that and that administrative folks in general usually wear multiple hats.) I know what I can do; I know what I cannot do. I know when it comes time for me to seek alternate employment that I am worth whatever salary I am requesting. Or, alternately, that I am worth more than what an employer may offer me.

So why is it not okay to talk about this up front? During the interview process, why is it always such a touchy subject? Why do the job seeker and the interviewer always skirt around the very subject that is integral to the decision making process? Yes – skilz are cool. Skills are important. Hiring managers want to know what your skills are and how you can put your skills to work for them. But they don’t want to talk to you about what they’ll pay you to use your skills for their company?

Consider this conversation:

Friend 1: So, what’s the salary?

Friend 2: I don’t know yet. We didn’t exactly get around to that.

Friend 1: Why? Aren’t you afraid you’re wasting your time? What if they come back and offer you the job, but at much less than you could afford to accept?

Friend 2: Yes, that’s definitely a concern but I want them to want me for me – for what I can offer them in the skills department – not because they can afford me. If they want me, and want me badly enough, they’ll pay me what I think I’m worth.

Friend 1: Risky.

Friend 2: Yep – but all part of the process.

But what if it didn’t have to be part of the process. What if employers were up front with regard to what they were willing to pay for an employee? What if job seekers could look at a posted vacancy at Company X and know, immediately, if they should apply because the salary was right there for everyone to see?

Consider this conversation:

Friend 1: So, what’s the salary?

Friend 2: $12.00 an hour. Way less than I can afford to accept if I want to stay current on all my bills. I’ve already cut back to the bare minimum. The job itself looks great, but if they’re not going to budge on that salary, I don’t think I’ll even apply.

Friend 1: Well, at least you didn’t waste your time.

Not only did Friend 2 not waste her time, but the employer doesn’t waste his, either, by weeding through hundreds of candidates who applied for a position they might not have gone after if the salary was posted up front. This, therefore, leaves it wide open for the field of candidates who are not only qualified for said position, but are happy at the prospect of said salary.

In a perfect world, right? But it certainly is food for thought.

Now, I’m sure you’re sitting there, after having read all of my musings, thinking to yourself, “Yeah – that’s all great, but now I have more questions than I did when I started. Where do I go from here?”

Here are a few helpful tips:

Know what you’re worth. Know, in any given market, what a person with your skill-set would make and do your research in advance of any possible interviews.
Do your research. If you’re changing jobs, changing marketplaces, moving from state to state, or town to town, research the pay scales in your chosen area and be thorough with your research. Not all pay-grades, salary grades, pay scales (whatever you want to call them) are the same. For example: A Pay Grade 30 on the East Coast could be a Pay Grade 54 on the West Coast (I’m making that up, but you get the picture.)
Consider cost of living. If you are a Pay Grade 30 on the East Coast, is the same salary (remember the example above?) going to be enough to cover the cost of living on the West Cost?
Have a bottom number in mind. After you know what your salary level is for any given area or market, come up with a bottom number. This is the lowest number, the lowest amount of money you would be willing to accept if offered a position. This way, when you’re negotiating your salary you know when the time is right to accept a position, and when it is time to let something go.
Consider For Profit vs. Not For Profit salaries. They are not the same, even if you are doing the same work.
Get comfortable with negotiating. It’s your salary, and really, you shouldn’t be afraid to haggle over it regardless of the look that may cross your prospective employer’s face when the subject of salary comes up. And I believe it should come up whether you bring it up, or they do. You will find an employer respects you a lot more if you’re not only willing to discuss this subject up front, but able to do so in a thoughtful, accurate, fully-researched way. This is where knowing what your worth really comes in handy.

And…to get you started, check out:

Salary Dot Com
http://www.salary.com

Relocation Essentials: The Simple Solution
Cost of Living Calculator
http://www.relocationessentials.com/aff/www/tools/salary/col.aspx

CNN Money
Cost of Living: How far will my salary go in another city?
http://money.cnn.com/calculator/pf/cost-of-living/

Putting your best facebook forward: Social media in the modern job market

Some of the readers may actually know that technology and social media are actually one of my areas of expertise from a psychological viewpoint. I spent about five years of my life and considerable efforts of research looking at how different people approach technological socialization. However, in that five years, technology changed and the impact of socializing through the internet became a much broader phenomenon than perhaps anyone with the exception of Heinlein and others of his ilk may have expected.

I’m sure some visionary souls saw the implications and potential of the information superhighway, but for the majority of humanity, it was a fad, a fluke, a diversion to entertain the technology enthusiasts. It couldn’t possibly impact things in our grown-up worlds? Could it?

The adventurous back in the early 90’s started creating their own identities on the internet. Between the bulletin boards (BBS) and internet relay chat (IRC) people of all ages were developing handles and becoming personalities around what would become the World Wide Web. Eventually, the urge to express theirselves combined with expanded graphic interface options led to the personal web page. People used hypertext markup language (HTML) to put their words and images up for the internet savvy to see, often accompanied by dreaded musical instrument digital interface (MIDI) files and animated graphic interchange format (GIF). I still cringe at the thought of some of the midi-file animated gif pages that would give you a seizure if you looked too long.

It soon became evident, even to the most itinerant cave-dweller, that the internet was the big thing in communication, commerce, education, and entertainment. Technology moved right along and expanded with faster processing and more real-time interface options. More and more of the regular everyday Joe’s and Jane’s out there, who were not necessarily of the geek persuasion, were drawn to the internet for learning, growing, talking, and shopping. People who may not be so skilled in the languages of the computer were given the same opportunities as programmers with new platforms such as MySpace and Facebook. People could share their interests, their talents, and their enjoyments with like-minded folks… and the rest of the world. No HTML (or any other languages) needed. Businesses found that not only was the internet the place to advertise and sell their wares but also to look for potential employees.

So, where is the downside? Broader market equals more opportunities to find the best options available, right? I wouldn’t argue that point, but along came social media. Gone are the days when your private life is kept private. Imagine what would have happened if J. Edgar Hoover had a Facebook or Twitter account. I’m not here to tell you that social media is the enemy either, but all that desire to express our individuality and free speech (among other freedoms) online have resulted in privacy breeches that make the British paparazzi look restrained. Seriously. As a friend of mine recently paraphrased, “Don’t put anything on the internet you wouldn’t want to see plastered across the front page of the New York Times…”

This is where so many people are failing to truly comprehend the impact of their self-expression. I believe in free speech. I believe in freedom of expression. I also believe that you still need to understand that the freedom you relish is everyone’s freedom, not just yours. That means that others have the freedom to not agree, to tell you to @#$% off, to have a less than shining opinion of you as a human being, and to not hire you as an employee… or discipline and fire you as an employee. What?!? Did she just say that?!? That’s discrimination, you say? No, it isn’t. It is the same right as you demand for yourself applied on a less restrictive basis. You have every right to express yourself however you choose… as long as you are content to experience the consequences, whatever they may be.

The next contradiction I can hear your little keyboards screaming at me: It’s my page! Only my friends can see it, because I know how to use my privacy settings! Well, I will refer to what my friend said about anything you put on the internet, and I will raise you the fact that no matter how private you think you are being about things you put over the electronic airways, once it is out there… it’s out there for good an all. Things that you would never expect to can go “viral” in the blink of an eye and click of a mouse. The only way you can insure that something is not visible to current or potential employers? Make sure it is never on the internet at all.

One of the more recent tactics in guarding the personal from the public has been to use fake names. It works… to a certain extent. Aliases are great, but remember that contrary to common belief, not everyone on the internet is a moron. There is a prevalence of facial recognition applications available. Also, you may have changed your name, but your friends and connections through the social media are not as a whole embracing the alias movement, are they? Adoption of a fake name or alternate profile will baffle some of the more amateur profiling attempts, but a good HR recruiter worth their salt can easily read between the nomenclature.

Am I saying you should avoid social networking via technology and the internet? No, I am not. There are some significant benefits to having an online profile, for many different career paths. Aside from having a social profile like Facebook or Twitter, there are professional social network sites like LinkedIn that provide an excellent resource for job search and connecting with professional recruiters and “headhunters” that can help expand your career options. I am saying that before you take the next selfie or post the next inappropriate meme, consider your potential audience. Employers are taking more stock of what current and potential employees are putting on the internet. Human resources policies have been written to address appropriate content or inappropriate as the case may be. Many employers will take the opportunity to search potential hires to see what profiles appear online. It can help or it can hurt. Keep in mind your professional goals and how your profile can speak to the people you see to impress with your skills and talents. Think about this: What does your online profile say about you?

Because I am also a proponent of neurolinguistic programing and know that the human brain pretty much ignores “no”, “not”, “don’t”, “won’t”, “couldn’t”, “shouldn’t”, and “can’t”; I am focusing primarily on the Do’s and not so much on the Don’t’s.

  • Do use privacy settings. Just because they won’t keep everyone out or everything in doesn’t mean they aren’t useful. They show that you have some sense of decorum and aren’t permanently on public blast like an exhibitionist.
  • Do use different types of profiles. For instance, I have Facebook, which I use for what I might call my “private life.” In other words, it is mostly friends and family and people I socialize with outside of business. I share jokes, interests, pictures, rants about traffic and people who don’t observe the 15 items or less sign… you get the idea. I use LinkedIn for my professional profile where I say where I work, include my resume, and I rarely turn down a link on this. All connections can be useful in this job market.
  • Do use some common sense in posting pictures of yourself or allowing others to do so. Right now, that picture of you participating in the wet t-shirt contest might be hilarious. Next week when a potential employer sees it or the guys down at the break room discuss the size of your assets… yeah, not necessarily the professional image you wanted to put out there.
  • Do check privacy settings and policies of social networking sites regularly. Updates have been known to change the broadcast options and settings.
  • Do change your passwords occasionally to deter hackers. The last thing you really want is for someone to get hold of your profile and represent you in a way you would never wish to be portrayed.
  • Do avoid negative comments about co-workers, supervisors, or corporations for whom you work. Sure, everyone wants to gripe occasionally about the usual trials and tribulations and basic asshatery that we experience in the world of what I like to call occupational hazard, BUT think about how that might appear to others. Even if it is not me or my company about whom you choose to vent your vituperative spleen, I’m highly unlikely to want to employ someone with such a negative attitude, and I may assume you will bad-mouth me and mine in the same way you do your current co-workers. Save the venting for your buddies at the pub like the rest of us.
  • Do be wary of friend requests from people you do not know on Facebook or the less professional networks. These can be phishing techniques, and they may not be people with whom you would necessarily be honored to have connection.
  • Do be wary of even private messages to individuals. Take for instance the cautionary tale of the young lady in the U.K. who passed along an email she received from her fiance’s step mother (The Daily Mail, 2011). The bride to be passed the email to a few “trusted” friends and she ended up having paparazzi at her wedding. So, take heed, and watch what you put in any format that might be taken “viral” or used against you in future.
  • Do searches on the internet for yourself periodically and see what comes up. You might be surprised what you find. Also, take a long hard look and try to see your own profile from the perspective of a potential employer or someone you might want to impress. What would a complete stranger assume about you if they found your profile on the internet?

There are a lot more specifics out there. I’m sure some of you probably have a lot of other tips that I have missed. The bottom line is that once you have put something speeding out there on the information superhighway, you may not be able to throw the breaks on or put up roadblocks to prevent specific people from seeing it. For some, you may not be concerned with the perception of professionalism, or possibly infamy and even bad attention is still attention and works for the career you are hoping to promote. However, if your purpose is to obtain gainful employment in any field where a professional appearance, reputation, maturity, and decorum are part of the “uniform,” you may want to reconsider the plethora of inadvisable selfies or vituperative rants rife with expletives, racial slurs, or political extremism. Your personal profile can easily become a professional nightmare if you are incautious. We’ve come a long way from the BBS, IRC, midi-files, and animated gif pages out there. With all the freedom of expression and opportunities for connection, there are incredible benefits for finding jobs and getting the word out there about your mad skills on a variety of topics. You can attract employers with the right kind of profile in the right places. Treat your online profile the same way you would your interview wardrobe. Make sure you aren’t scaring off your next opportunity for advancement with the wrong impression in your personal profile. Keep it classy out there!

Carolyn Bourne: Mother in law from hell. The Daily Mail. June, 2011. Retrieved from http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2009518/Carolyn-Bourne-Mother-law-hell-sends-email-bride-Heidi-Withers.html

Dress for Success -or- Professionalism vs. the Interview

Dressing professionally is never more important than when seeking employment.  When a hiring manager gets their first look at a prospective employee – for the sake of this article that would be you – what do you want them to think?  Let’s see if I can help you make them think, “Wow! I want that person on my team!”

I am constantly amazed by just how casual this world has become.  I have seen prospective employees wearing jeans, t-shirts, flip-flops, ill-fitting clothing, dirty clothing, sporting all manner of piercings and tattoos (more on that, specifically, later) unkempt hair and a general outward appearance of apathy.  I find myself wondering about the thought processes of these individuals while they are dressing themselves.  It seems to me that in order to get a job – a decent, well-paying, respectable job – one needs to actually care not only about what skills one can offer (which is obviously important) but also how one appears to a prospective employer.  A good first impression is not necessarily the most important thing in the corporate world, but it certainly helps.

In my opinion, it does not matter if you are applying for fry cook at McDonalds, a call-center representative, a sales manager or the company CEO – it is always a good idea to dress professionally for your initial interview and then let your employer dictate the dress code thereafter.  Also, once dress code has been discussed, stick to it!  This, of course, applies to all jobs, unless you are applying for a position with a company that promotes self-expression such as the little store on the corner that specializes in original vinyl recordings or the little bead and yarn shop with the wacky owner, or the trendy art gallery downtown.  Even then, it is better to ask how you should dress for an interview than risk showing up in something inappropriate and being turned down solely based on your appearance.

Speaking of the corporate world, I’ve been in it for quite a while now; long enough to have a good idea of what the word “professional” means.  And while I may not be a hiring manager, or one who has any say in hiring practices, I have observed much and have had multiple discussions about this very subject with those who are in such positions.  I made copious mental notes and serve them up for you now, on the virtual silver platter. 

LADIES:

  • Go easy on the make-up and jewelry.  You are there to discuss how your skills can benefit the company, not show them how well you can accessorize or demonstrate your skill with an eye pencil.
  • Do not wear perfume.  Seriously.  This one is pretty important, folks.  If you must wear perfume, go easy with the application!  Keep in mind that many people are sensitive to artificial or overwhelming scents; an allergic reaction can end your interview before it starts.  Also, if you have a thing for patchouli oil…just don’t.  OK?
  • Wear clothing that is comfortable and fits well.  Clothing that is tight, revealing, loose or ill-fitting is inappropriate.  Not only that but if you are fidgeting with your clothes (or jewelry, or hair) during the interview, you run the risk of seeming insincere.  It’s okay to be trendy, but make a concerted effort to do it in a professional, well-put-together way.
  • Wear your hair away from your face.  Think pony-tail, French twist, clip or barrette.  Having your hair in your face during an interview is a distraction to both you and your interviewer.  If you are constantly tucking stray tresses behind your ear, your interviewer is more likely to focus on your movements than your words.
  • Skirts should be no shorter than one inch above your knee.  Seriously.  I realize that short skirts are the thing right now and that some companies don’t care if you wear them – but do you know that when you go in for an interview?  No, you don’t.  Short, tight clothing just isn’t appropriate, so let’s not and say we did. 
  • If you wear a skirt, always wear nylons.  Forget comfortable and go with professional and modest.
  • If you wear nylons, please, for the love of all that is good and decent in this world, do not wear open-toe shoes or sandals.  In fact, open-toe shoes, sandals, flip-flops and other footwear such as this appear on the “inappropriate” items list of the dress codes of most professional places of employment.

 GENTLEMEN:

  • Shave.  Unless you have a fully-grown beard or mustache, please shave.  A five o’clock shadow at nine o’clock in the morning is just lazy.
  • Make an attempt to tame your Harry Potter hair.  If your hair naturally sticks up at all angles, and you have done everything to tame it with little to no success, that’s one thing.  However, if you look like you’ve just rolled out of bed…well, I’ve already used the word lazy.
  • Wear slacks or freshly laundered khakis – with a crease!
  • Wear lace-up shoes.
  • If you wear lace-up shoes, you must wear socks.  I cannot tell you how many times I have seen a well-dressed man come in for an interview wearing no socks!  Do I need to call your attention to that dreaded “inappropriate” items list?  Believe it or not, a lack of socks is considered inappropriate on most dress codes.
  • Wear a button-down shirt.  Ironed and creased in all the right places, please?  If you do not know how to iron, take your shirt to the dry cleaners well before the day of your interview and don’t forget to pick it up the day before!  The cost of dry-cleaning one measly shirt is a small price to pay for looking crisp, clean and professional.

NEATNESS AND GENERAL APPEARANCE:

  • Wash.  Wash yourself and your clothes.  There’s nothing worse than sitting in a small room with someone who smells less than awesome.
  • Clean and clip your fingernails.  Yes, believe it or not prospective employers do, actually, look at your hands.  They’ll probably shake your hand, too.  Dirty or ragged fingernails are a small sign that you don’t really care about yourself.  If you don’t care yourself, why should a prospective employer think you’ll care about your job?  Details, people!  Details!
  • Iron your clothing.  Wrinkled shirts, pants, blazers or any article of clothing only shows that you are…oh – there’s that word again…lazy.  No one wants to hire someone they view as lazy.
  • Jeans, t-shirts, shorts and flip-flops, and sneakers are unacceptable.  Period.

 TATTOOS & PIERCINGS

I told you I’d say more on this subject.  I have no issues with tattoos and piercings in general.  Hey, whatever floats your boat, right?  And, not to ooze clichés but, it’s your body and who am I to judge?  Tattoos and piercings are a bit more widely accepted these days, but tread lightly with prospective employers with regard to body personalization.  (Go me with the political correct-ness!)  I’m also not saying you should hide who you are – an employer needs and wants to hire the real you – but until they get to know who you really are, do you really want to flaunt that?  Well…maybe you do.  Maybe you’re a take-me-as-I-am kind of person, and that’s fine.  I guess what I’m trying to say is this is a touchy subject and use your best judgment.

 FOOD FOR THOUGHT:

  • Don’t arrive 30 minutes early and sit in your car smoking, or fixing your makeup, or chatting on your cell phone.  If you are there early, go in.  Let the receptionist (if there is one) know who you are and why you are there.  You may even say, “I know I’m early, but…”  Most places of employment have a lobby or waiting room and will encourage you to have a seat inside.
  • Go over your resume so you know it in detail and be prepared to answer for any lapses in employment.  (Keep your eyes open for an upcoming article regarding Master Resumes.)
  • Give a firm handshake.  Don’t present a limp or “wet noodle” handshake.  You can almost guarantee that you will be passed over for another candidate.  Now, the flip-side of that coin is to try not to break your prospective employer’s hand, either.  Many hiring managers base their entire opinion of you solely on your handshake. 
  • Eye contact is always extremely important.  Look your interviewer in the eye as you shake their hand, as you answer questions.  Use caution, however, as too much direct eye contact can be viewed as hostile or defensive whereas not enough eye contact can be viewed as evasive or untruthful.  Easier said than done, but try to find that happy medium.
  • Drive someone else’s car.  I realize this one is a long-shot, but think about it.  If you drive a beater, or something with a smashed rear quarter panel, or something with a hood that is a different color from the driver’s side door, which is a different color than the trunk, what impression are you making.  You know these people are watching you, right?  They’re judging you from the moment you pull into the parking lot and thinking about things they could never say out loud, legally speaking.  So consider borrowing someone else’s car, or possibly having someone drop you off.  This is not to say that once you have been offered the position you should hide what you drive, but just another way to put forth a professional first impression.

THANK YOU NOTES:

Do you really need to send a thank you note to your interviewer?  Not really, but it’s a nice touch.  This is usually reserved for higher-level positions.  Does receiving a thank you note (for your time and consideration) tip the scales in your favor?  Maybe.  Just maybe.

The New Cheese: The every-person’s guide to the functional job market

In light of a number of conversations I have had with friends and colleagues of late, it has become more apparent than ever that the world of occupation has changed and continues to evolve. Every day, I still see in the news reports that unemployment and the economy are not particularly healthy in our nation. Layoffs and expenses have hit very close to home for me and others close to me. The impact of losing income and searching for ways to meet the expenditure needs of family have increased my own attention on how the job market and occupation focus has changed since I first entered the workforce.

Additionally, I have recently had exposure to the hiring side of the job market as well. What I saw, to my dismay, is that the ability to compose a coherent resume and the art of the interview appear to be a dying. In conversation with my co-author (yes, Tananda.com is welcoming a new contributor… more about that shortly), I noted that technology has not only changed the function and focus of the occupations available, but it has changed the ways we judge and are judged by employers.

The new job market has presented prospective employees with some challenges in the form of needed job skills and public displays of their private persona in the form of social media. The same job market has presented prospective employers with a dwindling pool of potential hires with an understanding of professionalism that outshines a sense of entitlement. Sadly, the people entering the job market today have frequently never been taught to fill out an application much less build a decent resume, or due to layoffs or delayed retirement due to financial constraints, individuals re-entering the job market are lacking familiarity with new technology and procedures.  Even those who previously had the marketable skills and were taught to present themselves in resume and interview find now that they may not have the knowledge they need to put themselves into the current market in the most attractive way, or they are lacking the technological comfort to use all the tools available to them.

The idea came to us that people might actually appreciate a little information or instruction about the new, modern job market including the benefits and challenges it presents. And so… this is The New Cheese. It will be a series of posts from me or my colleague about everything from applying for employment to telecommuting. A series of this breadth and magnitude would not be done justice from a single perspective, and the idea was a collaborative effort as well. My co-author is a dear friend and colleague who has generously agreed to contribute to what I feel is an worthwhile project for helping people navigate the new working world. We hope to include interviews from others who have faced the obstacles of the modern job market, changing career paths, technological advances impacting job function, and mining for gems in the pool of potential candidates for hire.

A new “About” page will soon be available to give you a little more information about my co-author. We are both excited about this series, and we hope that it will be informative, helpful, and even a bit entertaining. Stay tuned…