Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Interview like a professional

Article originally published on SharpHeels

For many of us, college was our first experience as adults. We lived away from home and took care of our own schoolwork, schedules, and responsibilities. College is a time of constant transition and learning, but there is one thing that students might not learn during their college career: how to ace the employment interview.

While many college campuses across the country offer classes focused on career preparedness and interviewing strategies, these courses are usually not required to graduate. Knowing what’s really important when it comes to interviewing will help you successfully transition from student to working professional. Here are three key tips:

1. Don’t go in blind or empty-handed.

Reading a company’s mission statement and scanning a few pages on its website won’t necessarily arm you with the information you’ll need to ace an interview. Instead, spend your time learning about the values that are important to the company. Make sure you read through employee bios to get a feel for who the staff is, and take note of any similarities in your own personality or of anything that makes you feel as though you would be a good asset to the team. These are the things you should know before going to the interview.

Additionally, educate yourself on the company’s culture. Employees who fit in with the company’s culture make a work environment successful, so employers look for applicants who share the company’s vision, values, and norms. Show your interviewers that their beliefs and values are important to you by highlighting aspects of your personality and work ethic that align with them. This will differentiate you from other candidates vying for the same position, and help your interviewers to visualize you working in the office alongside them.

It is not recommended to show up for an interview empty-handed, but the traditional notion of bringing paper and pen to take notes is outdated and not useful anymore. You need to portray yourself as a professional, not a student, and engage with your interviewer rather than sit and listen while taking notes. Bring things that show your talents and skills; for example, class projects that show potential employers what you’re capable of.

2. Dress comfortably and appropriately for the environment.

Keep your outfit polished and professional. Don’t wear anything that is too tight or revealing. Many companies have adopted casual dress codes, so it can be difficult to decide what to wear, but something between business casual and business professional is always a safe bet. Most importantly, make sure that you are comfortable in what you are wearing.

The first key to comfort is wearing shoes you can easily walk in. Companies in metropolitan areas often do not have parking that leads to the front door. You don’t want to show up to an interview with blisters forming on your feet because you wore shoes that weren’t easy to walk in.

It’s also a good idea to opt for pants rather than a skirt, because you don’t know what kind of environment you’ll be interviewing in. Having a wardrobe that works in a variety of settings and that you are comfortable and self-assured in will eliminate some of your pre-interview stress.

3. Be confident in your strengths and honest about your weaknesses.

While confidence is the key to making a good impression, over-exaggerating your capabilities is not a good tactic. In the moment, you may feel like playing up your skills and overstating your strengths might increase your chances of landing the job, but if you do, in fact, land the job, your employer will expect you to deliver on whatever you promised in your interview. If you claimed to know something that you don’t actually know, it won’t matter how poised or personable you were in the interview, or how much you connected with your interviewers; your credibility with the person who hired you and the people you are working with will be ruined. This kind of mistrust can possibly lead to your termination from the position.

It’s important to remember that someone running a business will appreciate your honesty when it comes to your skills. As long as you can show a potential employer that you are aware of weak spots and are actively working to improve, you should not be afraid of being truthful. Your interviewer will appreciate you even more for your candor, and it may position you as an even better fit for the company than he or she may have originally thought. Stay confident and be honest in how you represent yourself and your abilities.

The more you interview, the more things you will learn and the better able you will be to develop your own unique style, but these tips are a good starting point to help you showcase your personality, honesty, and work ethic. Don’t be intimidated by the transition from student to working professional. Embrace it, and remember that you have skills and talents to offer. Let those shine through and you’ll find success.

Have questions about interviewing, or your own tips for new grads? We want to hear them! Comment below or contact one of our expert recruiters today! Find the closest CFS location to you here

Read the original article published on SharpHeels

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

The tips I wish I knew when I started my career

First impressions matter
Remember, you only have one chance to make a great first impression! Meredith Woods, Staffing Manager of CFS Bethesda, agrees that it’s important to introduce yourself with confidence. Whether you are meeting the CEO or the receptionist, greet everyone with a smile and respect. Also, your colleagues will take note of the effort you put into meeting them, so be sure to put yourself out there.

Don’t forget to ask questions
Landing your first professional job out of college is a big deal. Although you may feel you know everything, navigating the real world isn’t as easy as navigating a college campus. Patrick Senn, Managing Director of CFS Minneapolis, says “often times we feel like asking for help or not immediately knowing the right answer to something can show weakness, but it is critical to ask for help.” You’re not supposed to know everything right away, and asking questions shows your eagerness to learn.

Take chances
You were chosen out of numerous applicants to do this job because someone believed in you. Now you have to take a chance on yourself and step outside of your comfort zone. Step up and tackle that new project. Volunteer to lead a new marketing strategy. Whatever it is, even if it scares you, look at it as a chance to grow and accelerate your career.

Accept feedback
The first 90 days at a new job generally serve as an evaluation period. When working on your first big project or submitting that first proposal, you are likely to receive some feedback. John Jameson, Executive Recruiter of CFS Chicago, advises that you "view all constructive feedback as criticism, then learn to recognize the true value of it.”

When a manager advises you of a mistake you’ve made, it’s easy to be taken aback or even offended, but you need to remember that mistakes happen. The key is to utilize the valuable feedback and use it to grow. Your manager’s knowledge and experience is an amazing resource.

Never burn bridges
Through the course of your career, you’ll meet a lot of people at the office, work functions, networking events, and more. These connections will prove useful when you want to transition out of your current role. “It is very rare now for someone to start their career and then retire from the same organization. With this being said, your reputation/personal brand is very important and you don’t want that tarnished by burning bridges with your current employer,” explains Senn.

Say “Thank You”
Senn also adds that there is a lot that goes into training/developing/mentoring a new employee, and sometimes you need to take a step back to realize that you should be saying “thank you”. Your manager is giving up their time to make an investment in you and your future, and saying “thank you” is the easiest way to show your gratitude.

Prepare your own lunch
It’s easy to think that you’ll be able to eat out more often when you start your career. Think again. Being that this is your first “real” job, you should still maintain a budget. This isn’t to say that you should skip the lunch outings with coworkers, but instead just do them sparingly. Your health, your waistline, and your wallet will thank you.

What were some of the lessons you learned when you started your career? We want to hear them! Leave us your story in the comments below.

Looking for a job? Contact a CFS recruiter today and we’ll help you with your search! Find the closes CFS location to you here

Thursday, December 1, 2016

4 reasons you don't like networking (and 4 better options you will like!)

Article originally published on The Muse

If you’re a normal professional, you may just feel at least a smidge of apprehension or resentment when it comes time to drag yourself to (or get dragged to) a professional networking event. Sure, sure, the crab puffs might be killer, but there are so many things to not love about these shindigs that I’d be here for hours if I tried to highlight each one.
Because that doesn’t sound fun for either of us, let’s start with four common reasons why you don’t enjoy them—even when you know (or suspect) they’re important to attend. And then let’s find a better option for every stinking one of them.

1. They’re More Stressful Than Fun

Especially if you’re not a natural extrovert, or if you aren’t terribly practiced in the art of small talk, walking into a room of strangers can create all kinds of anxiety and tension. They often seem formulaic to the point of being comical, just without the funny ha-ha part. And this typically nets out to a fairly unenjoyable, stressful, and overtly corporate-feeling session.

A Better Option

Have you heard the news? Many, many professional groups (both the formal ones and informal ones) are realizing that we humans actually enjoy mixing business with pleasure when it comes to networking , especially when doing so lowers our stress levels, while still enabling us to meet influential people, gather information that may be beneficial to our careers, or grow professionally.
If you cringe at the thought of the “traditional networking mixer,” consider heading over to Meetup.com or LinkedIn Groups to see if you can find events in your area that pertain to your area of expertise or professional interest while combining a social or recreational element.
In the Portland market alone, you’ll find gatherings like these: Coffee & Copy (a gathering for writers), Wonder Women in Business, and a Tech + Pong hangout (for developers and other IT people). There are hundreds of these types of events, in pretty much every urban market. Go find a couple that suit you.

2. I’m Afraid to Approach People

Here’s the thing: We’re all afraid to approach people we don’t know, just at varying levels of terror. It’s human nature to fear rejection or looking awkward or stupid, it really is. And networking events are often just teeming with scary strangers that we dread approaching.
Given this, a lot of us tend to completely underperform in these environments. We go through the motions and survive, but we end the evening with very little to show for the agony we’ve just endured. And that’s not at all what our goal is here.

A Better Option

First, recognize that we’re all scared. All of us. That may ease your feelings of “I’m all alone in this.” Next, if the event has genuine potential (and, really, most of them do), try constructing a game plan in advance, which will make it less intimidating to walk in the doors and approach new people. Consider bringing someone who’s a natural connector, or who knows a lot of people in your industry. And ask that person to make introductions on your behalf.
(See? Less terrifying already.)
Or, you might create a game out the entire event. Challenge yourself to see how many people you can meet or what specific goals you can achieve before the end of the evening. And, if you can get your hands on an attendee list in advance, be sure and do so. This will make pre-planning much easier, as you will know who your “target connections” are beforehand.

3. The Events Feel So Forced and Fake

The events I most despise are the ones in which everyone just stands around shoving their cards at one another while trying to juggle appetizers, cocktails, and handshakes. I often feel like I’m in some bad 1991 movie scene, one that’s overtly making fun of how corny and fake so many of these professional mixers are.
Seriously, does anyone ever forge genuine, lasting connections in these awful environments? I probably can’t say, because I’ve admittedly exited stage left in the middle of many of these types of deals before even giving them a chance.

A Better Option

If the fakeness of “classic networking” really doesn’t work for you, choose non-networking networking opportunities. This isn’t an oxymoron at all. Sleuth out (and get your rear end over to) events that allow you to actually contribute, do, or achieve something while you meet like-minded people.
Raise your hand to volunteer at an event or for a cause tied to your area of expertise or interest. Organize a fitness group or book club specifically designed for people in your field. Join a committee within your own company, with the specific intent to get to know new people within the organization. You get the theme here.

4. I (Literally) Have No Time to Attend Networking Events

I’m absolutely not one of those people who says (in a judging tone), “It’s never that you have no time, it’s that you choose to not make the time.” Oh, God, spare us all. Hi, I’m a married business owner with multiple children—who are in multiple extracurricular activities. I actually “get” what it is to have almost no extra time to be flitting about town talking shop over mediocre wine.
However, I also actually “get” how important it is to forge and maintain strong professional relationships throughout one’s career. I have personally and professionally benefitted (over and over again) from having a supportive and influential network of people around me (and hope I’m helpful to them as well!)
So, what happens if you’re someone with so many demands on your time that physically attending networking events is nearly impossible?

A Better Option

I’ve got two words for you: social media. No matter how good (or not good) you are at it or how much you like (or dislike) it, you’ll need to harness the power of these platforms as a solid alternative to participating at live events. Your specific strategy should be customized to your own needs, personality, and comfort level with various platforms, but you absolutely must leverage networking tools like LinkedIn, Twitter chats, Facebook live events (to name a few) if you’re not able to attend face-to-face gatherings.
Blipping off the radar entirely may feel more safe and comfortable, but you’re shortchanging yourself (and may cause yourself a lot of unnecessary stress when you need support from others) in the long-run. Business is built around relationships. It is truly who you know in many, many instances.

So even if you abhor the idea of networking, try your darndest to find survivable (and maybe even enjoyable) ways to stay connected with influencers around you.
And for sure have a firm handshake.
Read the original article published on The Muse.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The follow-up email that works even better than “Just Checking In”

Article originally published on The Muse

Fact #1: After you’ve interviewed for a job, hiring managers don’t always get back to you in the time frame they told you they would.

Fact #2: You should absolutely follow up with a polite email if you’re expecting to hear back and you haven’t.

Fact #3: You can use this message not just to check in, but to give the decision-maker even more info that’ll show you’re the right person for the job.
That’s right. Take this traditional “just following up” email:
Hi Damon,
I hope you had a great week. You had mentioned that you’d be in touch with next steps on the hiring process by Wednesday, so I just wanted to check in. Please let me know if there’s anything I can do to help with your decision.
There’s nothing wrong with that note. It’s brief, it’s polite and it gets your name in front of the hiring manager.
That said, instead of asking if there’s anything you can do to, in essence, boost your candidacy, why not take that next step and provide something that does just that?

Let’s say you’re applying to a social media position with Dolby. You might say something like this instead:

Hi Damon,
I hope you had a great week. You had mentioned that you’d be in touch with next steps on the hiring process by Wednesday, so I just wanted to check in.
In the meantime, I wanted to share a social campaign that I launched this week. It’s already had more than 5,000 shares—the company’s second most successful program ever. I think something similar to this would be very impactful for Dolby, and I’d be excited to jump right in and get started.
In this message, you’ve shared another example of your work, you’ve highlighted a recent success and you’ve reiterated your enthusiasm for the position. And you’ve done so proactively, which is never a bad thing.
You can tailor this template pretty easily if your work is online or easily sharable, like writing, marketing or design.
Or, if your work or goals can be quantified—you’re in sales or account management, say—you might try something like this:
In the meantime, I wanted to share that I finished this month as the #1 sales rep in the New York market. It was a big honor, and also a reminder that I’m ready for my next challenge, hopefully as the Sales Manager at Dolby.
If your work is more behind-the-scenes, or you’re working on proprietary information that can’t necessarily be shared externally, you might consider describing a project you’re working on (one that could apply in some way to the job you’re applying for) in broader terms:
In the meantime, I wanted to share that I just put the finishing touches on a crisis communications plan for one of our technology clients—a three-month process that involved collaborating with everyone from the customer success team to the CEO. It was a great experience, and one that made me even more excited about the opportunity to work on the communications team at Dolby.
Still stumped? Here’s something anyone, in any field, can do:
In the meantime, I wanted to share an article that I published last week on LinkedIn, which was inspired by the conversation we had about [topic you discussed in interview]. It’ll give you a little more on how I think about [subject matter]. Thanks for the inspiration—I hope we have the opportunity to work together and have many more of these conversations.
Assuming you’re not the only candidate in the pipeline, your “just checking in” email will probably be one of many sitting in the hiring manager’s inbox. Use the opportunity not just to follow up, but to show once again why you’re the best candidate for the job.

Have questions about your job search or interviews? We want to hear them! Comment below or contact one of our expert recruiters today! Find the closes CFS location to you here

Read the original article published on The Muse.

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