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.

Five Simple Ways to Make the Most of Your LinkedIn Profile

October 22nd, 2013

Consider these four steps to make sure your LinkedIn profile represents you well during your job search and beyond.

1. Make sure your profile is complete and accurate.
This may sound like simple advice, but LinkedIn has so many ways to showcase your background that most people only take advantage of a few. Here is a checklist of things that any profile should include:

  • Professional photo
  • Summary of qualifications
  • Complete job history including dates and brief job descriptions (2-3 sentences each)
  • Education summary
  • Groups (see below)
  • Recommendations (see below)
  • Skills and expertise

Assume that your LinkedIn profile is taking the place of your resume. Research has shown that people are more honest on LinkedIn than on resumes (because the internet is so public), and therefore more and more employers are starting online. The benefit to job seekers is that showcasing your expertise is no longer an 8.5×11 affair. You have the space. Use it.

2. Add connections.
LinkedIn excels at connecting people. Say you hear about a job opening at your dream company. A quick LinkedIn search will tell you if you know anyone who knows anyone who could put in a good word for you. You will have the most luck in this if your network includes over 500 people.

To build your network, click to view your connections, and then select the name of someone you know well. Then scroll through their connections for familiar faces. When you spot one, hover your mouse over their name until a button pops up to “connect.”

You can continue to build your network with every person you meet. It should be standard practice, after every meeting, dinner, seminar, or conference to immediately look up new acquaintances on LinkedIn and send them an invitation to connect. Keep in mind, when you send the invitation, LinkedIn will provide you with a standard form letter – it is well worth it to take a moment to personalize that note, reminding your new friend when and how you met.

3. Join groups.
Groups are a great way to keep your finger on the pulse of your industry. What are people talking about? Who changed companies? How do new regulations affect you? To find the right groups for you, simply set the search bar at the top of the page to “groups” and type in a key word or phrase such as “engineering,” “media relations,” or “hospitality jobs.”

Some people shy away from groups because they can generate a large number of emails, but you can easily manage your email settings under the “communications” tab of your account settings. Click on “set the frequency of emails” and chose the option that works best for you. Receiving a weekly digest is a great way to keep informed without getting overwhelmed.

4. Get recommendations.
Recommendations on your LinkedIn profile have come to take the place of reference letters. With a few simple clicks you can ask a connection of yours to sing your praises for all the world to see.

You should ask for recommendations upon leaving a job, and after completing a project within your company. Scroll down to recommendations and click the little pencil icon to edit. Then click on “Ask for recommendations.” From there you can send a message to any contacts you choose, asking for a few words on your behalf.

Of course, it is always good form to personally call or email current or former bosses and coworkers ahead of time to ask if they would be willing to give you an endorsement. Another hint: offer to write the recommendation for them, so that they can just cut and paste it into LinkedIn. People are busy, and the easier you make this on them, the more recommendations you will receive.

5. Post updates.
LinkedIn is not Facebook. LinkedIn is meant to act as a professional resource, and so many people wonder why they need to post updates at all. The truth is that the occasional post serves to show that you are active in the LinkedIn community, which in turn signifies that your profile is up to date.

Updating once a week is sufficient, and posts should be kept within the realm of the professional. Cute cats and baby pictures are well and good on Facebook, but here it’s better to announce a new certification, share information about a new online resource, or congratulate a friend on a new gig. Keep it short and simple.

Used effectively, LinkedIn can be a tremendous resource to both job seekers and those who are happy in their current position. It only takes a short time to complete your profile. In the long run, you will be happy you made the effort.

Industry Employment Trends

October 15th, 2013

When setting out on a job hunt, it can be helpful to know which industries are growing, and which are experiencing downturns. While we cannot change our entire skill set to suit a shifting landscape, we can tailor our resumes to focus on the skills that lend themselves to industries in need of fresh faces.

For instance, in August 2013, there were 20% more job postings in the transportation industry as there were the year before. In the same time frame, opportunities in manufacturing fell by 5%. If you have previously worked in an industry that is currently offering fewer job openings, it may be time to consider which skills are transferable.

Here’s a look at hiring trends as of August 2013. Percentages represent increases/decreases in number of job postings since August of 2012.

Healthcare -17%
Human Resources -10%
Information Technology -10%
Manufacturing -5%
Education -5%
Media 0%
Real Estate 0%
Financial Services and Banking 3%
Construction 4%
Accounting 6%
Retail 12%
Transportation 20%
Hospitality 34%

It’s worth noting that in August of 2012, the education sector was up 22% from 2011. Likewise, transportation was down 18%.

Trends can be volatile, so it is important not to select your career path based on upward swings. If you feel passionately about information technology, we would never suggest you pursue a career in construction simply because it has slightly more hiring opportunities right now. However, it would be worth your while to seek out a temporary position in construction where your technology skills could be of use.

Taking such a job would allow you to maintain your income, while broadening your skill set. Then, when trends shift, you will have more to offer a potential employer in your desired industry, and you won’t be left having to explain any gaps in your employment.