Monthly Archives: May 2016

Tips to Choose the Best Job for You

images-25Choosing a career can be a difficult task. College students and seasoned professionals alike often seek out the advice of career counselors to get them on track for a fulfilling and enjoyable occupation. You might have an idea of what you’re good at and what you’re passionate about, but where do you begin the search for a job that lets you do both?

Whether you’re an entry-level candidate who’s unsure of where to apply or an older worker who wants a career change, follow these steps to help you decide your ideal path.

Determine if you’re really in the wrong career

If you’re considering a career change, chances are you already know you may be on the wrong track. You first need to determine if you’re in the wrong field or just the wrong environment.

“Many people who contact me don’t need a career change but just a move to another company,” said career coach Phyllis Mufson of Catalyst for Growth. “What was bothering them was their relationship with their supervisor, or the need for a new challenge, or perhaps they need a change of culture.”

However, if you frequently find yourself feeling anxious, bored or stressed at your current job and struggle with or dislike your daily tasks, a career transition may be necessary. Dreading going to work, constantly watching the clock and daydreaming about leaving your job are other telltale signs that you’re not where you should be.

People end up on the wrong career path for many reasons. They may choose a job to please a friend or family member, to achieve a certain status or salary, or simply because it seemed like a good idea at the time.

“We are taught that if we are good at something, we should do it as a career,” said Joanne Sperans, owner of Volo Coaching. “The problem is, we’re often good at several things, and we’re passionate about several things. It’s where those two meet that we should look. I know many people who followed a career because they were told they were good at it, and 20 years down the line, they found themselves miserable.”

Figure out what you want — and don’t want

Once you arrive at the decision to change careers, your next step is to ask yourself what you really want from your next job. Jane Sunley, CEO of employee engagement company Purple Cubed and author of “It’s Never OK to Kiss the Interviewer” (LID Publishing, 2014), said it’s best to be specific about your end goals when deciding on a new career direction. You can discover those goals by asking yourself questions such as:

What do you enjoy doing?
What skills do you use when doing the things you enjoy?
What means a lot to you?
What are you good at?
What do others admire about you and why?
What things do you do that you’re better at than others?
Once you’ve answered these questions, where you want to be and what you need to do to get there will become clearer, Sunley said.

You also need to consider what type of role you want. David DiMartile, president and managing director of DiMartile HR, said there are three generic roles in any given career: individual contributor, manager of people and executive. Based on your individual preferences and capabilities, you should determine which of these roles best suits you before settling on a specific career discipline.

“Each path requires different competencies, and not everyone is skilled in or can develop the required competencies,” DiMartile told Business News Daily. “Some of the questions that individuals need to ask themselves related to their competency skill level and job fit are: Am I most comfortable when others rely on me to solve problems, or when I am given solutions to implement? Would I rather lead a team or be a team member? Do I want recognition for my personal accomplishments or for the accomplishments of my team? Would I prefer dealing with the here and now or anticipating what challenges are ahead?”

Assess your background and personality

When you know what you want out of your career, evaluate your qualifications for jobs in that field. Two of the most important factors in choosing your ideal path are your background (education, previous experience, practical skills) and your personality (character traits, interests, values). Both should be taken into consideration, but depending on your desired career, your personality may be more important than what’s on your résumé.

“Obviously, for highly technical careers like engineering, medicine and law, training is very important,” Sperans said. “However, for the ‘softer’ roles, including executive management, personality traits — like a commitment to one’s workplace and employees, a strong work ethic and empathy — are as important if not more so. You can teach skills, but you can’t teach attitude and ethics.”

Holding a degree in your chosen field can certainly help, but not having one won’t necessarily bar you from getting a job. A person with the right aptitudes and a willingness to learn can be a good fit for a position, without having formal education in that field. Ideally, your career should be a place where your personality and background intersect.

“People who are thriving in their careers are easy to spot because there is such consistency — they are living what they do, and it shows,” said Lisa Severy, career services director at the University of Colorado and past president of the National Career Development Association. “People who are dissatisfied and stuck in their careers are usually experiencing some disconnect between what they are doing and who they are.”

Before you search for potential workplaces, Sunley advised defining your own personal values, so you can find an employer whose values align with yours.

“If you’re looking for a workplace where you can progress, make a contribution and enjoy yourself, it will help if you know in advance what the employer stands for and how they do things,” Sunley said. “If you know your own personal values, then you can compare these to those of the employers, telling you how they run their business and whether there will be any conflict. You can learn a lot by looking at [an employer’s] website, [but you can also] ask interviewers what’s important to their company. If you find that they don’t have an answer, then that should tell you a lot.”

Ask for advice, but don’t always take it

The people closest to you often take an interest in your success and want to offer their advice when you’re taking your life in a new direction. These individuals may know you fairly well and have nothing but good intentions, but ultimately, the decision about your career needs to be based on your own self-assessment.

“Suggestions can always be welcomed as a courtesy, but it is unlikely for friends and family to know all the dimensions of the person who is making a career choice,” said Jane Roqueplot, owner of JaneCo’s Sensible Solutions. “Most people don’t even realize their own total person until [they are] assessed to reveal the information about their style, aptitude and values. Family and friends can be far more important in helping one get a job after the appropriate career path has been determined.”

Similarly, Mufson noted that outside advice can be very helpful, but only if you take control and ask specific questions that will assist in your self-discovery and career research.

Be open to all possibilities

No matter what stage of your life or career you are in, the most important thing to remember when choosing a job is to keep your options open. If you’re just entering the job market, take the time to explore your interests and learn about different career paths.

“Trust your own instincts, and refrain from being swayed by naysayers,” said Joellyn Wittenstein Schwerdlin, owner of The Career Success Coach. “Know that trial and error in choosing a career path is part of the process.”

The same can be said for individuals making a career change. It’s never too late to achieve your professional goals. Even if you’ve been on the wrong path, you can still switch to a job that you may not have considered but that will make you far happier than the one you have now.

Let’s Learn About Personal SWOT Analysis for Your Career

Many professionals recognize the value of a SWOT analysis for their companies. Understanding a business’ Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats gives leaders a new perspective on what the organization does well, where its challenges lie and which avenues to pursue. However, few people realize that a personal SWOT analysis can do the same for an individual in pursuit of his or her career goals.

The SWOT analysis was first devised as a business tool in the 1960s by business icons Edmund P. Learned, C. Roland Christensen, Kenneth Andrews and William D. Guth. In 1982, Heinz Weihrich took it one step further, constructing a 2-by-2 matrix to plot out the answers to the four key questions for easy comparison. Strengths and Weaknesses were across the top, and Opportunities and Threats in the bottom row. This remains the most common and effective way to conduct the analysis.

Why conduct a personal SWOT analysis?

Ian Christie, founder of BoldCareer.com, said that while most professionals look at their strengths and weaknesses, a SWOT analysis takes things a step further by forcing people to think about the external factors that bear heavily on the health and direction of their careers.

“Looking at the quadrants together can be a creative way to think about where you are in your career and the directions you could take,” Christie wrote on Monster.com.

SWOT can also help people become the best versions of themselves, said Marlo Zarka, co-founder of coaching partnership Designed Alliance.

“Self-assessment is a key activity in striving to achieve a sense of one’s personal best,” Zarka told Business News Daily. “The SWOT analysis exercise ignites an enhanced awareness of what one brings to the table in a balanced light of both advantages and challenges. Organizations roll out elaborate schemes to remain competitive as well as innovative. Why wouldn’t individuals want to achieve the same level of excellence for themselves?”

How to do it

To conduct a personal SWOT analysis, ask yourself questions about each of the four areas being examined. Answer honestly. Honesty is crucial, or the analysis will not generate meaningful results. With that in mind, try to see yourself from the standpoint of a colleague or a bystander, and view criticism with objectivity.

It’s also important to imagine the potential of what you can become, noted Caroline Smith, copy and commissioning editor at leadership training company Mind Tools.

“Don’t limit yourself to the strengths that you’re currently exhibiting in your job,” Smith told Business News Daily. “List all of your strengths, even the ones that have been dormant for a while. And pay particular attention to the things that you have that your peers don’t — how are you different, unique and special?”

Begin by identifying your strengths. These are the traits or skills that set you apart from others. Questions to ask include:

What are you good at naturally?
What skills have you worked to develop?
What are your talents, or natural-born gifts?
How strong is your network of connections?
What do other people see as your strengths?
What values and ethics set you apart from your peers?
The next step is weaknesses.This part examines the areas in which you need to improve and the things that will set you back in your career. Questions to consider include:

What are your negative work habits and traits?
Does any part of your education or training need improving?
What would other people see as your weaknesses?
Where can you improve?
What are you afraid to do or most likely to avoid?
What negative feedback about your personality or work habits have you received?
For the opportunities section, look at the external factors you can take advantage of to pursue a promotion, find a new job or determine a career direction. Questions to examine include:

What is the state of the economy?
Is your industry growing?
Is there new technology in your industry?
Is there new demand for a skill or trait you possess?
What are the biggest changes occurring in the current business environment?
Have customers or co-workers given you feedback about new services you could provide, or ways to improve your manner?
Finally, look at any threats to your career growth. This part takes into account the external factors that could hurt your chances to attain your goals. The factors to take into account include:

Is your industry contracting or changing directions?
Is there strong competition for the types of jobs for which you are best suited?
Do your weaknesses inhibit your ability to rise in your company or change jobs?
What is the biggest external danger to your goals?
Are there any new professional standards you cannot meet?
Are there any new technology, education or certification requirements that will impede your progress?
Finding the necessary objectivity to conduct a personal SWOT analysis can be a challenge. For this reason, Zarka advised inviting others who know you well to review your ideas for accuracy.

“We often cannot see how we come across in our interactions with others, so their feedback is valuable,” Zarka said.

In some cases, you may be well-served by getting the help of a professional. Zarka encouraged job seekers to work with professionals certified in various assessment instruments, or to research assessment tools online that can provided measured feedback for consideration.

Next steps: match or convert

Once you have filled out the matrix, there are two ways to analyze the information and build a strategy: matching or converting.

Matching means connecting two of the categories to determine a course of action. For example, matching strengths to opportunities shows you where to be aggressive and take action. On the other hand, matching weaknesses to threats exposes those areas you should work on or situations to avoid, and lets you know where to be more defensive of your position.

To convert is to turn negatives into positives — in other words, converting your weaknesses into strengths, or threats into opportunities. This can mean growing a skill set through education, or finding a creative way to feature a weakness as a strength. For instance, if you are very outgoing, working in an introspective and isolated environment may not suit you very well. But if you can work toward a position, such as sales, in which you interact with many people, that weakness turns into a strength and could allow you to excel.

Outcomes

Once your personal SWOT analysis is complete, it is crucial to follow through on the insights you uncovered.

“SWOT analysis can fail to be effective if it is simply treated as a ‘laundry list,’ without any tie-in to how the elements identified in the analysis can be put into play for the individual carrying out the assessment,” Zarka said. “For example, how can the identified strengths move the needle in the endeavor to achieve a key goal? Or how can one navigate a potential threat once it is identified, so as to ensure no ground is lost?”

“The best outcome is to take action and succeed in the opportunities you have identified,” Smith added. “This can benefit you on a personal and professional level, and set you apart from your peers and colleagues.”

Know More About Career Boosting Habits You Should Adopt Today

From entry-level to senior management, most workers have something more they’d like to achieve in their professional lives. But advancing your career doesn’t just mean getting a promotion or switching to another company. Every day, there are simple, little things you can do to improve your productivity, your job satisfaction and your overall standing with your colleagues. Here are eight habits you can start forming today to help your career.

Learn how to listen
There’s a big difference between truly listening to someone and simply waiting to talk, said Dana Brownlee, founder of Professionalism Matters. Most people tend to do the latter when they’re pretending to do the former, but if you make the effort to hear, process and respond thoughtfully, your colleagues will take notice.

Brownlee’s advice: “Listen to others as if you’d be quizzed on what they were saying. Listening keenly not only allows you to extract better information, it makes the other person feel heard, which is huge in terms of building relationships. That type of skill, if nurtured and developed early, can be invaluable.”

Double-check and confirm
One of the biggest causes of workplace conflict is unclear expectations, both on the part of managers and employees. If one person gives directions in a vague or confusing way, and/or the other person assumes his or her own interpretation is correct, neither party gets the results and validation it wants. Adam Robinson, co-founder and CEO of hiring tech company Hireology, said the best way to combat this is to consistently check in about projects to clarify what the other person expects from you (or what you need that person to do).

Robinson’s advice: “Accountability and communication are key when it comes to improving your career. In any role, you should confirm the goal and requirements, manage expectations and keep people informed. This will help you manage to the result you’re looking to achieve. By proactively keeping people up to speed, they’ll be aware of what you’re working on and see that you are invested in achieving the goal.”

Say “thank you”
Gratitude is a very simple but often overlooked tool for building strong relationships, especially in the workplace. Everyone wants to feel appreciated, and making a regular habit of thanking others for their efforts can go a long way, said Deidre Paknad, CEO of collaboration software Workboard.

Paknad’s advice: “Work is a team sport and there are no solo victories. While most of us expect recognition and gratitude from our boss, give as much recognition to others as you’d like to receive. Be the person who recognizes the wins and actions of others.”

Seek out quiet
Today’s workers are always “on.” Even when they’re not physically in the office, people are answering emails, taking work calls and completing tasks at all hours of the day and night. The constant influx of notifications and communication can make your mental space awfully noisy, which can really hurt your focus at work. That’s why Melanie Wells, founder and clinical director of national psychotherapy franchise The Lifeologie Institute, recommends taking a few minutes every day to remove these distractions and reset your mind.

Wells’ advice: “Implement a daily period of quiet, of meditation or reflection [to manage] anxiety and stress. Carve out a brief period of time when you can get rid of the static and clear out the mental clutter so that you can focus and get back in the game. [Spend] 10 minutes in a quiet place with no distractions. You’ll feel refreshed and ready to put forth your best work and effort.”

Stick to a schedule
Some people go through their work day as if they’re treading water. They deal with issues as they arise because they haven’t planned ahead, and they may feel like they’re struggling just to keep up. Setting a specific schedule and blocking out time to deal with specific tasks such as answering emails — and really adhering to that schedule — can help you manage your day better, Dana Brownlee said.

Brownlee’s advice: “Don’t be reactive; be very intentional and proactive. Instead of grazing through emails all day long, identify specific times to check and process email. Turn off the chime that announces each incoming email. Focus on one thing at a time and avoid the minute-to-minute distraction of random emails.”

Embrace positivity
Who would you rather have on your team when a project is going poorly: Someone who tries to stay positive and get back on track, or a “Debbie Downer” who constantly laments the situation and blames others? Hireology’s Robinson said that negativity is one of the worst habits that hold people back, in life and in their careers. Actively working against your inclination to complain when things get tough can really improve your team morale — and your standing within the organization.

Robinson’s advice: “Nobody cares how busy you are, because everyone is busy. This shows a lack of awareness of other people, and ultimately doesn’t look good [on you.] Having a positive attitude and not complaining shows that you’re level-headed and do well under pressure.”

Set goals and monitor your progress
Goals are a prerequisite to success, Workboard’s Paknad said. They’re how you define what you’re striving for, what success looks like and how your impact is measured. Before you begin your workday, take a moment to write down and review your short- and long-term goals, and any progress you’ve made on them.

Paknad’s advice: “Make it a habit to set and check your goals every day. When you can describe what you achieved, why it mattered and how much it’s worth in real-time, your career and résumé will grow by leaps and bounds.”

Be honest with yourself
Taking stock of your strengths and weaknesses — and being realistic and honest with yourself about them — can help you to do your very best in your current and future roles. This is especially true of your weaknesses. Wells, of The Lifeologie Institute, noted that taking full inventory of what she’s not good at has been much more important than listing what she is good at, because understanding your own skill gaps means you can seek out the right people to complement them.

Wells’ advice: “The best thing you can do for your career is to understand your strengths and weaknesses and admit they’re real. For example, if you’re creative, but disorganized, you will need to find a way to compensate for the fact that organization does not come naturally to you. That may involve a number of different solutions, but the key is that you should never try to be something you’re not. No one can fake it forever.”

Tips to Negotiate a Higher Salary

Job seekers spend so much time fine-tuning résumés and preparing for interviews that they are often unprepared for the salary proposal that accompanies a job offer. The company has made a significant investment in filling that vacancy and may be willing to come to more attractive terms, but many candidates fail to realize that employers are open to salary negotiation.

A 2013 study by The Creative Group revealed that professionals who accept an initial job offer may be leaving money on the table. More than 60 percent of the executives surveyed are at least somewhat willing to negotiate compensation when extending a job offer to a top candidate.

“Job seekers often have more leverage than they realize when negotiating a starting salary,” Donna Farrugia, then-executive director of The Creative Group and now CEO of Nelson Cos., said in a statement. “Businesses that have gone through the process of selecting a top candidate are motivated to hire that person, even if they have to sweeten the deal.”

Because salary conversations are delicate and can easily go off track, Farrugia said job candidates who are thoroughly prepared for negotiations are the ones who have the most success. The key to a good, mutually respectful negotiation is informed and honest communication. Here are six tips to help you get the salary you deserve. [7 Salary Negotiation Mistakes (And How to Avoid Them)]

Prepare for your negotiation
Research a reasonable salary for the position considering your education and experience. Do not base your counteroffer solely on the wage you would like to make. By approaching the negotiation with appropriate information and a reasonable expectation, you will make a better impression on the employer as well as position yourself reasonably from the start. In an article on The Ladders, career expert Amanda Augustine suggested looking up how your current role compares to the market rate, and then changing some of the variables to match those of the companies you’re applying to.

“If the roles you are targeting are in different industries or locations, or the size of the company is very different, this could have an impact on what salary you can expect to make,” Augustine wrote.

Keep personal issues out of it
Do not use your mortgage payment or other bills as a reason you should be paid more. Employers may be sympathetic, but that is not a reason to provide more compensation. Instead, focus on the increased value you bring to the organization. Stress your unique qualities, experience, education or some other feature to demonstrate benefit to the company’s goals, vision or purpose.

Be honest
Honesty is always the best policy. If asked what your previous salary was, don’t lie about it. While you may fear that it will weaken your position, it instead provides a strong foundation for your future working relationship. A reference check will reveal a lie, which could result in the offer being withdrawn altogether.

Remember that compensation is more than money
Salary offers include benefits such as vacation time, sick days and other work-life-balance options like a flexible schedule or telecommuting. Those items may also be negotiated. Depending on their importance to you, maybe an extra week of vacation is worth a little less in pay throughout the year. Consider the offer as a whole, and be open to negotiating aspects other than money.

Be willing to compromise
How you conduct yourself during a negotiation is as important as what you say. Be kind but firm, confident yet compromising. Your tone and demeanor will keep the conversation going or shut it down completely. Delivering ultimatums seldom works, and if it does, it can result in a negative atmosphere for future interactions.

Don’t lowball yourself
Many employers will ask you for a salary range on your application, during your interview or when they first contact you with a job offer. Whatever your very bottom number is, make sure the lowest number in your salary range is still above that (but within a reasonable range based on your research). If you go in with your minimum acceptable offer, the final number may be dangerously close to that.