Stepping Out of the Echo Chamber

November 12th, 2013

It’s a normal human tendency to want to build our teams with people we relate to and understand. Working with like-minded people is comfortable. Unfortunately, it can also lead to an office culture akin to an echo chamber.

In the echo chamber, when one person has an idea, the rest of her team will be quick to tell her all the things that are good about it. This is different than being surrounded by yes-men. The problem of the echo chamber, of being surrounded by people who think and act like we do, is that our team members have the same blind spots as we do.

We can build much stronger teams when we recognize the value of a diverse workforce and learn to praise our workers when they tell us things we don’t necessarily want to hear. It’s a two-step process that can lead us out of the echo chamber and toward a company culture of innovation and productivity.

Step 1: Hire a diverse work force. This could mean hiring more women, or people from different cultures, but it is just as important to consider personality types. Introducing a few number-crunching introverts to an office full of aggressive sales reps can add much needed substance to otherwise great sales pitches. Something as simple as bringing a democrat into an office full of republicans can create opportunity for new discussions.

Having different perspectives interacting can help teams to see holes in their work, question assumptions that might be negatively impacting performance, or recognize new opportunities.

The challenge is to get a diverse team to work well as a single unit. To do that, you must take one more step. You must learn to be open to ideas that don’t immediately mesh with our own.

Step 2: Appreciate people who bring you seemingly bad news. This is the harder step and the reason may people shy away from hiring individuals with opposing viewpoints. It can be hard to hear what’s not good about our work, but consider the upsides.

Imagine you spent a week compiling a presentation for your board of directors. In your mind it is perfect, but when you show it to your team one person notes a data point that was not included, and which dramatically affects the results as you’re presenting them.

Resist the urge to retreat into defensive rhetoric such as “you just don’t get what I’m going for,” or “that’s not important.” If instead we are able to recognize the value of having caught an error internally, we will see the employee who brought the bad news as the true asset they are.

Managers interested in fostering a truly creative work environment need to encourage people to voice their thoughts carefully. It’s important that nobody feel attacked during the feedback process. Using phrases such as “I noticed…” or “I wonder why you chose to…” can open discussion. Taking ownership of observations by using “I” can make feedback easier to receive and create space for dialogue.

By building a team with diverse perspectives and fostering an environment of creative feedback you will see new and interesting developments in office dynamics. Ideas that never would have occurred to you will come into play. Not all of them will be exceptional, but it only takes one great idea to change the course of a company.

Making Moments Count

October 29th, 2013

Daniel Kahneman is a Nobel prize winning psychologist studying how people chose to be happy. He has proposed that humans have two versions of themselves: the experiential self and the remembering self. Though our remembering selves tend to dominate, there can be great benefits in nurturing our experiential self, for recognizing and appreciating the many moments that make up a day.

By Kahneman’s calculation, a moment is about 3 seconds. Given that our lives are nothing more than a string of moments coming one after another, the average person has about 20,000 moments in the course of a day.

Think back on your day yesterday. How many of your 20,000 moments do you remember?

Odds are, it’s not very many. We tend to rush through our lives without thinking. But what if we were able to slow down and appreciate even a small fraction of the moments in a day? What if we took advantage of those moments to appreciate the people in them?

A worldwide study conducted by Towers Watson showed that the single highest driver of worker engagement is whether or not employees feel appreciated. That means that simply taking a moment to tell someone that they’ve done a good job goes further than any other activity when it comes to building an engaged team.

Now let’s assume you’re one of those rare individuals who spends just eight hours of your day at work. If every moment takes about 3 seconds, that means you have 9,600 moments in every workday. Even if you devoted just one tenth of one percent of those moments to checking in with your team to appreciate their work, you would have over 9 positive interactions every day.

Let’s look at a few of the ways in which we can let our employees know they are appreciated in 3 seconds or less:

  • Respond to an email with a quick note saying “good work on this”
  • Saying the words “thank you” takes about half a second, leaving you 2.5 seconds to say what you’re thankful for
  • Leave a note on a public white board announcing the completion of a project and the parties responsible
  • When someone hands you a document, take two seconds to look at it and one second to give a little nod of approval
  • Take the time to cc someone on an email in which you say something nice about them
  • Forward an email from a happy client

When you start looking for them, opportunities to turn average moments into positive reinforcement abound. When you slow down to take advantage of them, you will notice a difference in your team.

Psychologists have found that negative feedback tends to create low performing teams. While we cannot create a space where negative feedback doesn’t exist (we do still need to give constructive criticism to help individuals improve) we can offer more positive feedback to balance out the ratio of positive to negative. As it turns out, that ratio is important. Teams that perform well experience positive feedback five times more than negative.

So how do you find time to give so much positive feedback? By taking advantage of just one tenth of one percent of the moments in your day.

Preparing for Reentry after Long-term Unemployment

August 27th, 2013

Reentering the job market after a long period of absence can be challenging. But for the candidate with the right tools the outlook can be hopeful.

Updating your skill-set

The best time to prepare for reentry is before you launch. If you are considering employment take smart steps to update your skill-set well in advanced of your anticipated job hunt.

Check out adult education classes, your local library and community college for opportunities to upgrade your skill-set.

Résumé and interview tips for reentry

Review the résumé tips we shared in our recent series of posts on social media and résumés, here. If you are a mature candidate, do consider leaving off old employment history information that may date you, especially if the information is not key to the position for which you are applying.

Reentry may mean that your significant education and job history may over-qualify you for many positions. A true Catch-22. The good news is that social media and online networking can help you to circumvent this bias by establishing relationships online with key personnel before you actually apply for a job.

Review our post How to Network Yourself into Your Next Job.

Utilize social media not only for networking but to prepare you for the job hunt. Learn as much as you can about the career and the specific businesses you are interested in. Follow Twitter feeds to keep apprised of job openings well before they are posted on job boards.

When interviewed, be prepared to share only necessary information about your lapse in employment, focusing on the skills utilized during your absence. Be sure to emphasize what steps you have taken to maintain and upgrade your skill-set.

Looking forward and easing in with confidence

Do consider volunteer positions. Volunteering several hours a week is an excellent way to begin reentry, learn new skills or sharpen current ones. It’s also a networking tool. You are establishing resources for job recommendations and referrals. Additionally, you will have the advantage of knowing when employment opportunities are available, and you’ll already be positioned for first consideration for the next available opening.

Remain hopeful and confident. You have much to offer potential employers. The good news is that temporary and part-time positions are expanding and offer excellent stepping stones to reentry and preparing you for a full-time future.

We at Olympic Staffing Services can help your job search.  We don’t simply fill positions—we build relationships, taking the time to understand your unique talents and qualifications. Contact one of our seasoned team of staffing professionals to learn more about what Olympic Staffing can offer you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Strategies for Making a Career Change

August 20th, 2013

CNN Money’s recent article on the job market indicates that July 2013 was one of the slowest employment months since March of this year. With this in mind, what is the best advice for a job candidate considering a career change? Capitalize on what is in your control: assessing your potential, evaluating the marketing and creating a realistic plan of action.

Assessing your potential

Changing careers involves personal assessment. The Employment & Training Administration of the US Department of Labor (DOL) provides career assessment tools and online career resources including the location of career centers in your area. Don’t overlook this valuable resource. Your local library can also direct you to their career tool resources (along with resources for local employment opportunities).

After you assess your skills and qualifications, match that against what you want to do and what’s out there.

Evaluating the market

Where are the jobs? As you evaluate your next move, be sure to evaluate exactly what’s trending in the employment market.

The U.S. News 100 Best Jobs of 2013 lists the “occupations that offer a mosaic of employment opportunity, good salary, manageable work-life balance, and job security.”

A May 2013 survey by Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce shows that the lowest unemployment rates are for college graduates with majors in “education (5.0%), engineering (7.0%), health and the sciences (4.8%)”-basically anything connected to the health care and education industries. This is valuable information to utilize as you evaluate the job market.

Developing a plan of action

Changing careers should be approached as though you are starting a new business. You are. The business of you.

Once you decide on your new career path, formulate a plan of action that includes:

  • A business plan
  • Career counseling
  • Training
  • Evaluation of loans and grants for education
  • A financial plan to transition and or finance your new path

Do check into the counseling center of your local community college to see what they offer and to evaluate their classes to train you for your new career path. Find out what adult education classes are available in your area. Consider volunteer opportunities to in your new career. These resources can not only train your for that new career but can allow you to explore that new career before you make the switch.

Now is the time to begin to network online and in person among professionals in your new career area. Check out local professional organizations as well.

Employment projections all agree that temporary and part time jobs are on the rise. Remember that these are valuable opportunities to develop new career skills.

We at Olympic Staffing Services are here to help. We don’t simply fill positions—we build relationships, taking the time to understand your unique talents and qualifications. Contact one of our seasoned team of staffing professionals to learn more about what Olympic Staffing can offer you.

 

Is It Time to Leave the Job?

August 13th, 2013

According the Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale, changing jobs is one of the highest
life event stressors. Getting fired? Even higher. But knowing when it’s time to
leave and being proactive can reduce that stress and put you in control.

Five warning signs

The foundational warning signs that it is time to  consider leaving your job:

  • Despite your protests to the contrary, your annual evaluation reveals that you are less productive, consistently arrive to work late, call in sick excessively and you are not engaged when you are at work.
  • You know you are unhappy at work and are manifesting your unhappiness in anger and negativity.
  • You’re under-challenged. All efforts to remedy this situation have been met with resistance from your supervisor.
  • Your place of employment fails to deliver on career promises, advancements, training, benefits and financial remuneration.
  • Your core values do not mesh with the company culture.
  • Your current job is no longer on your career path.

Consider your options

The old adage is correct: A job in the hand is worth two in the bush, especially in today’s economic climate.

Decide your next step. Will you quit before you have another job? Will you wait until you have a new position and then give notice? Consider temporary work while you go back to school for a career change?

Review your finances and consider how you will meet your obligations including health insurance and emergencies. Will it be necessary to dip into savings? Write your detailed budget and plan on paper. Consider a thirty day and sixty day plan, followed by a long term plan.

The best scenario is to budget and plan before you quit. Get all your indicators
in place and then set a target date.

How to quit

Timing is everything when it comes to giving notice of your intent to leave the job. Review the company policies for sick and vacation accrual. Time your exit carefully according to anticipated bonuses, paid holidays and other benefits.

Don’t burn bridges by observing these professional guidelines:

  • Give your supervisor notice before you share with coworkers.
  • Provide adequate notice.
  • Maintain a good attitude and continue to give the job one hundred percent.
  • Be prepared to answer the question of why you are leaving in positive manner.

Good planning and professional behavior can ensure you transition out of the old job and into your future smoothly and without stress.

Your goal is to match your skills with the right company. At Olympic Staffing Services that’s our goal, too. Contact us and let’s chat about how we can partner to make that happen.

 

 

Dealing with Difficult Coworkers

August 6th, 2013

When conflict exists, it shouldn’t be ignored. The key is to remove emotions from the situation and remain professional.

How you react in a conflict situation will be noted by coworkers and supervisors. Look for opportunities to build bridges and relationships instead of allowing conflicts to make you look unprofessional in the workplace.

Conflict resolution

First, step back and review the relationship. Evaluate the interactions, taking ‘you’ out of the equation. Can you change your responses? Can you empathize with your coworker’s point of view? Will taking a few minutes help you calm?

If not, schedule a conversation away from workplace traffic with the coworker in question.

When you sit down to discuss the conflict, remember to be courteous. Take the word ‘you’ out of the meeting. Simply state your observations and then actively listen. Come prepared with solutions and ask for input and ideas to resolve the problem. If you sense the interaction is moving toward confrontation rather than objective conversation, cut the chat short before things escalate to an emotional level.

Taking it to the next level

When direct confrontation fails or isn’t an option, the next step is to schedule an appointment with your supervisor. Have documentation ready instead of generalizing. Present your problem and how it is related to the job (not simply a personality conflict) and be prepared with a solution. Give your employer time to process and act on your complaint. It is okay to inquire about status of a resolution if some time has passed.

Should you find the solution unacceptable, or if nothing has been accomplished, your next recourse is to talk with a representative from Human Resources.

Ask for a copy of the company’s procedure for filing a complaint or requesting mediation. Always document situations with specific dates and the specific details of what occurred, and keep this information for your personal files. Don’t rely on your memory when you sit down with a mediator. Always insist upon on having information documented in your files, and ask to review those files to ensure information is documented correctly.

Your rights

Eleven states have enacted Healthy Workplace Bills to reduce bullying in the workplace. If your coworker situation has escalated to bullying, review the laws in your state. If your coworker problem involves discriminatory practices be sure to review our recent post on Equal Employment Opportunity Laws and the accompanying resource links to further evaluate your recourse.

Ultimately, your goal should be to resolve the issue and move on to facilitate productivity and reduce tension in the workplace.

Olympic Staffing Services monitors what is important to you. We address news and legislation that impacts you. Contact one of our seasoned team of staffing professionals to learn more about what Olympic Staffing can offer you.

 

How to Network Yourself into Your Next Job

July 30th, 2013

We’ve mentioned before that who you know is as important—or more important—than what you know.

U.S. News & World Report, Money, suggests that 80% of available jobs are hidden. What are hidden jobs? They’re job opportunities that are not advertised. So how do you find those hidden jobs?

Networking. It is an opportunity to connect with who you know and who they know.

Online opportunities

The majority of networking is now done online. (See our recent post on the importance of social media.)

Stay active on your social media sites:

  • Maintain an up-to-date online profile.
  • Schedule time to engage. For example: recommend others on LinkedIn, ‘like’ and comment on Facebook, and retweet on Twitter.

Networking online isn’t just about how many followers, circles, friends or contacts you have. It’s about cultivating relationships. While online professional communities provide excellent bridges to contacts, it’s very important to keep this a two way street. Provide your contacts with tips and feedback, and in return you’ll receive them.

Networking events

Don’t be afraid to casually let your friends and family know you’re looking for employment. Then move to local networking opportunities, utilizing business organizations that target your job interests.

Be open to any event where you might make a connection, and develop a relationship that can lead to an open employment door. Don’t forget volunteering. This can often lead to a job opportunity that is only advertised in-house, plus it provides you the opportunity to hone or upgrade your skill-set while helping others.

The best advice is to be genuine. Your passion for your interests and skills will come through without the need to pitch. But when asked, you’ll already have your elevator pitch ready (see our last blog post).

Emailing a connection

Not many of us have time for cold calls or cold emails. That’s why establishing a connection online before that networking email is so important. Remind your contact exactly who you are and your connection level.

Add a connection comment, such as a how you appreciate an article or blog post the person wrote. Or mention a link provided. Then be to the point by asking for advice or direction. (Don’t ask for a job.)

Be respectful of time and say thank you. The best advice is to always behave in an email like you would in person. Professional.

Finally, remember that the essence of networking is building relationships.

We at Olympic Staffing Services can help your job search.  We don’t simply fill positions—we build relationships, taking the time to understand your unique talents and qualifications. Contact one of our seasoned team of staffing professionals to learn more about what Olympic Staffing can offer you.

 

 

 

 

Creating Your Elevator Pitch

July 23rd, 2013

The elevator pitch answers two questions:

  • Who are you?
  • What you want?

And you have thirty seconds to deliver your answer in a way that ensures you are remembered.

Fondly.

The value of a pitch

Pitches are a tool to succinctly share information.  What they are not is a thirty-second commercial, or an in-your-face branding advertisement. It isn’t a memorized list of your accomplishments.

The value of a pitch lies in the quality of the content and the delivery. Share your motivations and goals in such a way as to humanize you.

“Hi, I’m Chris Candidate. I’ve got a background in early childhood education. Have you ever seen a kid get excited about learning? I love being the one who turns on that light bulb.”

Creating a pitch

Forbes recommends crafting two pitches. “Craft one pitch for formal settings like job interviews and another version for social settings where you can do informal networking. The informal version should include several nuggets about your personal life.”

What you’re pitching isn’t as important is who you are pitching to. Every word should be specific to the person catching your pitch.

Pitches should not be static closed-ended forms of delivery. They should be open-ended. The bottom line is that a pitch is not successful unless it gets the conversation ball rolling.

Whenever possible, end with a call to action, a question, or an intriguing thought.

The final aspect of the pitch is practice. Practice so your pitch doesn’t sound practiced. It should be conversational, not technical, in tone and verbiage, and it should be used as a lead-in to encourage the person on the receiving end to respond.

The goal is to get the other person to ask you more about yourself. Then be prepared to converse.

When not to pitch

Not all situations call for an elevator pitch. A social event may be a great opportunity to network, but an official pitch is probably going to make the person you pitch feel awkward. You may actually alienate him.

Instead, be yourself.  Show genuine interest in the person you’re talking to. Ask questions. People love to talk about themselves. When the moment is ripe and the questions turn to you, subtly weave information about you into the conversation.

Save your practiced pitch for the next time you’re standing in the lunch line with the head of your department and they query, “You’re the new temp, right?” Or you’re at a tradeshow and an HR manager says, “Tell me about yourself.” That’s the perfect opportunity for a practiced elevator pitch that delivers your message and engages you with the person you are pitching.

Olympic’s pledge:  We match the best candidate with the best companies, and we get it right the first time. Contact us and let’s chat about how we can partner to make that happen.

 

 

Best Answers for Those Tired Interview Questions

July 16th, 2013

Your résumé got you the interview. So how do you turn those clichéd interview questions into an opportunity for you to shine?

The key to answering these questions is to take ‘you’ out of the equation. It’s all about the potential employer. So, focus your answers on what the employer needs.

Why do you want the job?

Of course you’ve already done your due diligence on the company. You are connected through social media and have been observing discussions, tweets and even hiring notices. You’ve also researched the company culture and the key players. Now it’s time to let that savvy show.

Share what excites you about the company and why you would want to be part of the organization. Weave tidbits of what you’ve learned about the company into the conversation to show you have done your homework, and use quantitative information whenever possible.

Then, step out of your comfort zone to share what you think you can contribute to the company. Sure you’re pitching, but if you are enthusiastic and real, you can be sure your genuine responses will be remembered.

What are your strengths and weaknesses?

Start with your weakness so you end on your strengths.

First, forget the old ploy of spinning your weakness into strengths. Instead share a little about yourself. Be forthright. Share a genuine weakness and how you’ve taught yourself to overcompensate for it with examples.

Asking your strengths seems like a benign question, but consider turning it around with a positive and memorable answer. List your strengths as related to the potential employer and the position for which you are applying.

Smile, engage with the interviewer and be yourself.

Where do you see yourself five years from now?

Alison Green in USA Today News & World Report/Money translates that question to “How does this job fit in with where you see your career going?” The answer an interviewer wants to hear is that the position means a career to you, not just a paycheck or a place holder until something better comes along.

Answer thoughtfully, honestly and with enthusiasm. Your answer must demonstrate that:

  • You have vision and it involves the potential employer
  • Your goal is to invest yourself in a career with the company.

Once again, it’s all about making that interview all about what you have to offer a potential employer.

Let Olympic Staffing Services help with your job search.  We don’t simply fill positions—we build relationships, taking the time to understand your unique talents and qualifications. Contact one of our seasoned team of staffing professionals to learn more about what Olympic Staffing can offer you.

 

Turning that Temp Job into a Full-time Position

July 9th, 2013

According to Forbes magazine, “70% of people in temporary positions ultimately get a permanent job at that company.” If you would like to try to turn your temp position into a full-time one, the steps are simple.

Learn the company culture

Learning the culture not only helps you fit in, but it helps you get ahead. Become familiar with the company from the ground up. Know the chain of command. Show interest in the firm’s position and results in the industry.  Observe the company dynamics and internal personalities.

Be able to recognize the key players by face and name. Establish and build relationships with these key personnel. Know who you’re standing next to in the break room and don’t be hesitant to strike-up a positive and upbeat conversation. This is a great networking opportunity!

Remember that you are also auditioning the company. Are they a right fit for you? Is there room for you to grow?

Act like an employee

Remember that those first few days and weeks on the job set the tone for how you are viewed. You may not feel you are being observed, but others do see how you act. Be punctual if not early, and don’t rush to leave.

Don’t be a clock watcher. Engage and own the job, no matter how low you are in the pecking order. You aren’t just a temp; you’re a qualified candidate who is auditioning for a full-time position.

This is where your résumé becomes real. Qualities such as “self-motivated, detail oriented and strong work ethic” need to be demonstrated on the job, not just once but continuously. Show you can adapt to change and how the company does things.

Then, make yourself indispensable so that you’re the first choice if a permanent position opens. And be sure to communicate in casual conversation that you’re interested in a full-time position.

Be a team player

Part of being a team player is interacting and networking with your coworkers. Don’t isolate yourself or overshare, but do be friendly and enthusiastic. Above all show you are genuinely interested in your position and the company. Do ask relevant questions and don’t gossip.

Show your coworkers that you are there to complement their workday, not create more stress. When you’ve completed your assigned work, ask if there are any other ways you can help them. Be willing to work outside your job description and learn new things to help the team.

Temporary positions can easily bridge to a permanent position if you’re willing to go the extra mile with these simple steps.

Your goal is to match your skills with the right company. At Olympic Staffing Services that’s our goal too. Contact us and let’s chat about how we can partner to make that happen.