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Why Should I Hire You?

“Why should I hire you?”

This question might be a lead-in to your worst interview nightmare. However, every employer wants to know why you deserve the job. Be prepared to tell your interviewer why “you” would be a great fit for the position! Better yet, present yourself in a way that provides an answer before the question is ever asked. This is a very valid question if you are to put yourself in the interviewer’s shoes.

  • Know the job description: Do your homework and make sure you examine the job description point by point. Know the requirements of the position you’re applying for and how well suited you are to the position. Make notes on work you’ve done or skills you’ve grown that exactly match points on the job description. Also note skills you may need to learn to be successful in the role. Be honest with the interviewer about your limitations, but focus on your strengths. Tell the interviewer why you would be great at the job.
  • Give concrete examples: While you are looking over the job description, make notes about past projects, growth experiences or life skills that make you well suited for the position or company. Take your notes into the interview and make sure you speak to specific points that show them you’re right for the position. Employers want to know that you’ll fit into their culture and that you’ll hit the ground running.
  • Be confident in your abilities: The best interviews end with you silently asking yourself, “Why wouldn’t they hire me?” Sell your skills and experience in a confident, but non-arrogant way. You bring unique skills, knowledge and experience to the table. Remember that the interviewer is just getting to know you, so you will need to tell them (and show them!) who you are and what you will contribute to their company.
  • Dress for success: Dress for the job you want, not the one you have. Strive to be someone they remember as well put together from head to toe. Even if you know the work environment is casual, go to the interview as if you are applying for a CEO position. A well-dressed person oozes confidence, professionalism and respect; all traits employers seek.

With a little practice, you can master the art of giving a good interview. ACLIVITY offers a variety of Career Services that help you get the job! Call us for coaching, resume help or interview skills training. We’re here to help!

Conducting a Successful Job Search

Thanks to the Internet, searching for a job today is vastly different than it used to be. Until fairly recently, a job seeker browsed local classified ads, found a compatible-sounding job listing, prepared an elegant résumé on bond paper, and sent it out by fax or U.S. mail. That has changed. Today, finding and landing a great job comes with the challenge of learning how to utilize the many available Internet resources to aid in your search.

Searching for a Job on Internet Job Boards
Searching for a job online has become a common, but not always fruitful, approach. With all the publicity given to Internet-based job boards and career sites, you might think that online job searching makes finding a job easy. Job board sites such as CareerBuilder.com and Monster.com list millions of jobs, but actually landing a position is much harder than just clicking your mouse and waiting for a reply; it takes perseverance and wise use of online job boards.

  • Career Builder (careerbuilder.com): CareerBuilder claims to be the nation’s largest employment network. Users can search millions of jobs by category, geographic location, keyword, industry, or job type (full-time, part-time, internship).
  • Indeed (indeed.com): One of the newest and fastest growing job search sites on the Internet, Indeed.com is a metasearch engine that uses a Google-like interface to search the Internet for open job listings.
  • Monster (monster.com): Monster.com offers access to information on millions of jobs worldwide using a search technology called 6Sense that matches applicants with the best job opportunities for their skills. Because of this cutting-edge search system, many consider Monster.com to be the Internet’s premier job site.
  • College Grad (collegegrad.com): CollegeGrad advertises itself as the “number one entry-level job site” for students and recent graduates. In addition to searching for entry-level jobs, users can also search for undergraduate and graduate degree programs to help them develop marketable skills.
  • Career Journal: Part of The Wall Street Journal; CareerJournal provides listings for high-level executive and finance positions.

Beyond the Big Internet Job Boards
Many job seekers may turn their backs on job boards but not on online job-searching tactics. Savvy candidates know to search for jobs in other ways. Some examples are:

  • Company Web Sites: Probably the best way to find a job online is at a company’s own website. Many companies now post job openings only on their own websites to avoid inundation by the volume of applicants that respond to postings via online job boards. Many job seekers find that they are more likely to obtain an interview if they post their résumés on company sites. This allows a more direct connection to decision makers, and job seekers can keep their job searches (and personal information!) more private than on job boards.
  • Professional Organization Web sites: Online job listings have proven to be the single-most popular feature of many professional organizations, such as the International Association of Administrative Professionals, the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, the National Association of Sales Professionals, the National Association of Legal Assistants, and the Association of Information Technology Professionals. Although you pay a fee to join, the benefits of being a member of a professional association in your career field are enormous. Remember that it is never too early to start networking. If you join a professional organization while you are still in college, you will be setting yourself up for future success as you build a network of professional connections.
  • JobCentral National Labor Exchange: JobCentral is a public service website provided by the DirectEmployers Association, a nonprofit consortium of Fortune 500 and other leading U.S. corporations. Many companies now use jobcentral.com as a gateway to job listings on their own websites, which results in the advertising of millions of jobs. Best of all, this service is free and bypasses the big commercial job boards. You can search for a job description or job title, and apply directly on the website of the hiring company.
  • Local Employment Web Sites: Although many of the big job boards allow you to search for jobs geographically, many job seekers have more luck using local employment websites such as Craigslist, Cumulus Jobs and JobStar.
  • Niche Web Sites: If you want a job in a specialized field, look for a niche website, such as Dice (dice.com) for technology jobs, Advance for Health Care (www.advanceweb.com/jobs/healthcare/index.html) for jobs in the medical field, and Accountemps (www.accountemps.com) for accounting positions. Niche websites also exist for job seekers with special backgrounds or needs, such as older workers (www.workforce50.com) and veterans (www.veteranjoblistings.com).

Social Media Sites
Perhaps you already use sites such as Facebook or Twitter to communicate with family and friends. Did you know that users are-increasingly tapping into social media sites to prospect for jobs, and that recruiters use these sites to find potential employees? Linkedln is currently the top site for job seekers, with over 200 million users, including job seekers and recruiters. Other popular sites include Plaxo, TheLadders, BlueSteps and Jobster. Twitter has created a job search engine called TwitJobSearch (www.twitjobsearch.com), and many companies now post recruitment videos on YouTube. Savvy job seekers use these tools to network and to search for available positions. Of course, the most successful job seekers understand the necessity of maintaining a professional online appearance and taking the time to connect personally with recruiters.

Use Caution
Be aware of dangers associated with using Internet job boards and other employment websites. Not only could your current boss see your résumé posted online, a fraudster could use your information to steal your identity. The following tips can help you safely conduct an online job search:

  • Use reputable sites: Stick to the well-known, reputable job boards. Never use a site that makes you pay to post your résumé or a site that makes you feel uneasy.
  • Be selective: Limit the number of sites on which you post your résumé. Employers dislike “résumé spammers.”
  • Use a dedicated e-mail address: Set up a separate e-mail account with a professional-sounding e-mail address for sending and receiving emails related to your job search.
  • Limit personal information: Never include your social security or other identification numbers on your résumé. Consider omitting your home address and home phone number to protect your privacy when posting on big job boards.
  • Post privately: If given an option, choose to post your résumé privately. Doing so means that you can control who has access to your e-mail address and other contact information.
  • Count the days: Renew your résumé posting every 14 days. If you keep it up longer, it will look as if employers have no interest in you. If you have not received a response in 45 days, pull your résumé from the site and post it somewhere else.
  • Keep careful records: Keep a record of every site on which you post your résumé. At the end of your job search, remove all posted résumés.
  • Protect your references: If you post your résumé online, do not include your references. It is unethical for job seekers to post their references’ personal contact information online without the references’ knowledge.
  • Do not respond to a “blind” job posting: Respond only to job postings that include a company name and contact information. It is unfortunate that many scammers use online job boards to post fake job ads as a way to gather your personal information.

Finding the Perfect Job (For Students)
A successful job search requires an early start and a determined effort. Students with proactive personalities are the most successful in securing interviews and jobs during and after college. These successful candidates are not passive; they are driven and “make things happen.” Recruiters respond to a proactive nature. They will also consider your education, life experience, grade point averages and internships when reviewing your qualifications. Communicating what you have learned inside and outside the classroom—and connecting with other—people will continue to be critical elements in landing a great job. Traditional job search techniques, such as those below, can help you find a position that fits your interests and skills, while building your professional and personal network.

  • Check announcements in publications of professional organizations: If you do not have a student membership to professional organizations, ask your instructors (or librarian) to share current copies of professional journals, newsletters, and other industry resources.
  • Contact companies in which you are interested, even if you know of no current opening: Write an unsolicited letter and include your résumé. Follow up with a telephone call. Check the company’s website for employment possibilities and application procedures.
  • To learn immediately of job openings, use Twitter to follow companies that interest you.
  • Sign up for campus interviews with visiting company representatives: Campus recruiters can open your eyes to exciting companies, job locations and positions. They can also help you prepare by offering mock interviews.
  • Ask for advice from your instructors: Your teachers often have contacts and ideas for conducting and expanding your job search and growing your skills.
  • Develop your own network of contacts: Networking still accounts for most of the jobs found by candidates. Therefore, plan to spend a considerable portion of your job search developing a personal network.
  • Attend career fairs: Job fairs are invaluable in the quest to learn about specific companies and future career options. The more you know about the company and its representatives, the more comfortable you will be soliciting a position and giving a great interview.

For information on conducting a successful search for a job, creating a standout resume or performing well in your interviews, contact us. Our Career Services can help you succeed!

Seven Tips for Acing the Phone Interview

The job market is tough these days. There are so many experienced applicants, many with degrees; recruiters find themselves inundated with qualified candidates. If you are lucky enough to receive a positive response to your application, you might be selected for a phone interview. These ten or fifteen minutes are all about deciding if you are worth a recruiter’s time – and if you deserve an in-person interview. That is not much time to get your foot in the door, so it is important to use those few minutes to your advantage. Consider the tips below the next time you are scheduled for a phone interview, and show your interviewer how your experience, skills and attitude qualify you for a second interview. Once you’ve gotten the in-person interview, take a look at our tips here.

Be ready. Do not skimp on the research. Learn all you can about the company and requirements of the position you’ve applied for. Read over the job description and be ready with concise points that demonstrate that you’re the best candidate for the position. Remember that fitting within the company’s culture is critical to your success in the position. Be clear about your ability, and willingness, to fit into the culture.

Be professional. This is not just a chat. It is an opportunity. Take on that opportunity with professionalism. It might be tempting to get comfortable on your couch in your pajamas while you take the phone interview. Resist that urge. Dress as if you are going to an in-person interview, sit at a desk, and put on your “game face.”  Have your resume handy and be prepared to speak to every aspect of your career, and every transition between jobs.

Mind your energy. Put a smile in your voice and convey your enthusiasm about the job. Demonstrate through your energy and attitude that you really want the position and that you are easy to communicate with. If you sound timid, the interviewer is going to think you are timid, or not very interested in the position.

Stay focused. Do not look in a mirror while you hold the conversation – you will be focusing on yourself when you need to be focusing on the interviewer. Visualize the person you are talking to and develop a more personal connection by looking at a picture of the interviewer. Odds are good you can find an image on their LinkedIn or other social profile. Keep that picture in view and remember that you are talking to a real person. One who could impact your future.

Listen before you talk. Be sure to listen carefully to questions posed and construct your responses so they clearly answer the interviewer’s inquiries. When you are nervous, you might blurt things out or talk too much. Pause before answering questions. Demonstrate your thoughtful consideration, rather than a rush to speak. Keep your responses simple. If you are not sure that you have given the interviewer the answer they were looking for ask something like, “Is that what you were after? Would you like me to clarify that in more detail?”

Ask questions. There is always a place in an interview where the interviewer asks, “Do you have any questions for me?” Never say “No” to that question. Be prepared with thoughtful questions generated from your research, and use this opportunity to show your enthusiasm or ask about specific aspects of the job. Your questions should clarify responsibilities of the job, aspects of company culture or simply demonstrate that you are serious about putting your experience to work. At this point, it is not appropriate to ask about processes, salary, benefits or start dates. Those questions come after you have secured the in-person interview. Rather than asking what the company will do for you, stay focused on what you will do for them.

Figure out what comes next. The last thing to cover in a phone interview is, “What’s next?” Ask the interviewer if there is more information you can provide, and if they can confirm what the next steps are. Should you provide references? Will there be another interview? Do not be shy about asking how to continue the process. If you are serious about the job, you will naturally be curious about what comes next. The recruiter will expect no less.

When a company offers you a phone interview, they are really giving you a window of opportunity. Prepare to do your best with that opportunity. With solid research, a professional demeanor, and clear communication about what you bring to the table, you can help the interviewer feel like you are a good use of their time. In the end, your preparation could get you what you really want; an in-person interview.

Good luck!

Handling Criticism at Work

No matter how much work experience you have, there will be times when you do not know the best way to manage an aspect of business communication, or you come up short in your role – and someone will criticize you for it. It can challenge to handle criticism, especially if you take criticism as if it is a comment on your intrinsic worth or ability to perform your job. However, if you learn to take criticism as an opportunity to improve your performance and refocus your strategies, it is less painful – and more productive. In our experience as corporate leaders, we have given out – and received – our fair share of critical feedback. We would like to share a few bits of hard-earned wisdom about handing criticism at work. Hopefully, they’ll help you take the sting out of negative comments and encourage you to be conscious of how your reaction to criticism can help, or hurt, your ability to bounce back.

Know that criticism is nothing special

When you receive negative feedback, it can sometimes make you feel like everyone around you is either infallible (or inept) – and you are the only one who being singled out. Try to take a step back when you are hit with words you did not want to hear. Remember that, throughout history, the best way to improve is to know what you could do better – and then, of course, to actually do it better.

Try to hear through the words used to criticize

The person who is criticizing you has no doubt received their own dose of criticism. Ideally, a manager’s experience with negative feedback will result in a management style that airs grievances with clear and non-aggressive communication. No matter how aggressively the criticism comes at you, try to hear through to the kernel of truth in what has been said. The conversation is about identifying areas that could use improvement. To provide a remedy, you need to be clear on exactly what you are being asked for. If you get upset, allow yourself to be steamrolled or bite your tongue, you might end the interaction without really understanding what you did (or didn’t do). If you can hear the message being conveyed, and clarify when management’s points are unclear, you can more quickly move from “what’s wrong” to “what’s next.”

Find your words and buy yourself some time to process

Your immediate response to criticism will govern your manager’s impression of your character. When you don’t know what to say, it’s best to keep it simple. A statement like, “I hear you saying… and that you want me to…because I did/didn’t…” will show that you have listened to and understand the concerns being raised. From there you can buy yourself some time to process the situation by saying something like, “I’d like to take a little time to consider how I’ll remedy this issue. Can we talk more about this…(specify a time)?”  Reacting poorly in the moment of confrontation can lead to unintended negative consequences. Give yourself a breather to process what’s been said, how you feel about your behavior and what the best course of action is while remaining professional. How will you take this lesson in stride, and demonstrate to management willingness to grow?

Acknowledge what’s true

If you have really heard the criticism leveled – and have taken time to process before responding in detail – you’ll be able to see what is actually true. Did you fail in your duties? Could you have done something differently (even if only considering it in hindsight)? Be honest about what you have, or have not, done and take ownership of your mistakes. Consider it this way: When you feel wronged, and the person who made the mistake verbalizes what they have done and takes ownership of their behavior or choices, do you feel better about the situation? More forgiving? Well, it is the same in business – you do not need long talks, tears or flowers to own up to what’s true – or to refute what’s not true. You just need honest, straightforward communication that makes it clear that you value and understand the expectations of the business relationship – and that you will endeavor to do better.

Agree on what’s next

Depending on the situation, it might be appropriate to outline improvements or changes to processes that arise from the criticism. Do you need training? What does that look like? Do you need support? What specific actions do you need to take to put that criticism to rest? If you are outlining a change in your workflow, skills or processes, run it by the manager who voiced the criticism. Make sure that the actions you intend to take actually solve the problem – and hold both sides accountable for agreements made.

 

When you see criticism as a tool you can use for your own improvement, you save yourself the pain of self-judgment and you demonstrate your ability to respond effectively to requests your managers make. In the end, how you respond to criticism – and the steps you take to remedy your actions – will show your employer that you are serious about effectively handling your responsibilities. Most importantly, learning how to handle criticism helps you feel better about the fact that you’re not perfect. Not yet.

Say Hello to Lisa Kissler!

Have you met the most recent addition to the Aclivity team? Lisa Kissler is our newest Client Services Director, and we couldn’t be happier to have her on board!

Lisa KisslerLisa is a True Business Partner you won’t soon forget! Lisa has over 20 years of growing businesses and professional relationships in a variety of industries. She takes incredible pride in her ability to match your business needs to the right candidate and enjoys finding mutually beneficial business opportunities that provide value to both parties. In addition, she has a knack for recognizing and recruiting the top ten percent talent for your team!

As a Client Relations Director, Lisa will focus her efforts on new business development in the Denver area. Her goal is to continue to provide excellent service to her clients with each and every placement. She believes that her business background and intent listening is the key to her success.

A graduate of University of Colorado in Boulder, Lisa is proud to have both of her children attending her alma mater this year (Go Buffs!) For recreation she enjoys cycling, running, skiing, hot yoga and is currently in 3 book clubs. She loves to travel and her favorite vacation spot is anywhere with a beach.

You can reach Lisa at 303.710.3593 or lisa.kissler@aclivity.com.

Welcome, Lisa!

Happy Anniversary to Us!

This week marks five years in business for Aclivity! From our humble beginnings in a down market of 2010, to our current ten-member team of CPA’s and IT professionals just like you, we’re proud of our growth – and we couldn’t have done it without you!

A big “Thank you!” to our great clients and talented candidates. You support and challenge us every day! We are so happy to be able to put our knowledge, genuine care and consideration to work for each and every one of you. Thanks so much for being part of our network and, whether you’re a client or candidate, thanks for letting us help you find the right fit!

I am so grateful for all of you!

Angela

Seven Ways to Nurture Your Company Culture

Last week’s article “Defining Your Company Culture” helped you ask the questions – and come up with the answers – that hone in on, and clarify, the culture you want your business to represent. But, it’s not enough to just define your culture, you need to maintain it, communicate it and keep it a living, breathing part of your business. Consider these seven ways to nurture your company culture.

Define and communicate your core values. It’s easy to be cynical about this – until you realize how important it is. Some companies come into existence knowing their core values are to “never sacrifice quality” or “always do the right thing.” But if they don’t communicate it, and hold employees to that standard, those values go unsupported. Know your values and communicate them. If you’re not so clear on your values, ask your team to (anonymously) comment on what they think the company’s values are. This could be a rude awakening if you haven’t been careful to manage your values, but it can also give you an idea of what messages are coming across – so you know which messages you need to manage. Defining and communicating your  values is key to bringing everyone on the same team to support the specific vision of your company.

Keep it fun. Culture is all about a certain version of fun. No matter what business you’re in, you can have fun. You could host events for families (summer picnics?), publish media that is specifically for your employees (weekly newsletter to keep them informed and inspired), dress-up days (wear costumes to work) or any engaging and fun activity that purposely blurs the lines between personal and work life.

Show employees you care about them (for real). To build loyalty among your employees, make sure to show you care about them in the totality of their lives. When they start working for you, find out their kids’ birthdays and their wedding-anniversary date, to commemorate those events with a card or a call. Ask about their hobbies and interests, so you can talk about those things, or reward them in ways they’ll actually enjoy.

Hire only the types of people who fit your culture. Finding people who fit for your company can be difficult. It’s common to interview dozens of people and only find one that would actually match your environment. Though hiring is a challenge, don’t settle for someone just because they’re a body to fill a position. Make hiring easier by narrowing the field. Place well-crafted employment ads that define the culture, and demonstrate what fitting that culture would mean in action. Create interview questions that help you define the candidate’s fit for the culture (“How do you spend your free time” or “Select three values from the list below that tell us what kind of person you are.”) Administering a skills test during an interview is a great way to see what aptitudes a person brings with them and get a feel for how a person reacts when they don’t know exactly what they’re doing. Everything about your interview (and possibly a probationary period) should allow the candidate to demonstrate how well they fit your vision, mission and culture. Hire only the employees that really fit.

Get rid of employees that “don’t fit.” Now that you’re trying to hire the best fit for your company, apply that logic to deciding who to keep. Odds are you have staff that are holding you back from embodying the identity you’re trying to bring to life. Many of us have worked for a company where employees whine, act like children, are difficult to work with and generally don’t produce the work results or have the personal qualities that make them a good team member. If you’ve given employees the tools they need to succeed and they aren’t succeeding, you have an obligation to remove them from your team. No matter how developed your culture, retaining staff that undermines your cultural values has a negative effect on your team.

Check in to see how it’s going. Come up with ways to measure your employees’ satisfaction periodically, and then respond to their feedback. Be sure to make any feedback you request anonymous, and don’t just focus on the positive feedback while ignoring signs that you need to improve your management. Employees want to know that you take their ideas seriously. When you receive feedback that is negative, act on it. Change the situation. Make things better. Employees will notice if you pat yourself on the back for the positive feedback and ignore the rest. Deal with the criticism and use it to make your culture stronger, clearer and more attractive for your employees.

Acknowledge your employees. Everyone loves getting a paycheck, but that’s not the most important thing about having a job. We spend so much of our time at work that how we are made to feel at the office determines how happy we are. We all want acknowledgement, respect, recognition, and a simple “thank you.” Don’t expect that paying the wages is all it takes to get great work, and loyalty, from your team. Give them a little extra appreciation and they’ll keep supporting your culture and company success.

Once you’ve taken steps to define your culture, keep developing and maintaining it. After all, when employees enjoy coming to work, they are more likely to contribute their best efforts and stay around. Though nurturing the culture you have defined is a daily, challenging task , it can help you boost productivity and retain your top talent.

Defining Your Company Culture

Having a top-notch team, and a workplace that values its employees, will no doubt help you sell your premium product or service. But how will that work be done? What kinds of answers would you have if I asked you to look at your business and ask, “How do things get done around here?”

The answers lie in the culture you’ve created.

Developing a unique culture that helps your employees drive performance is a significant way in which you can differentiate your company. The challenge is that culture is extremely difficult for leaders to pinpoint, define, quantify, and understand at a level that they can actually manage. It may seem like a nebulous or fluffy concept to those who are used to managing via quantifiable data — and it’s even more challenging to identify aspects of an organization’s culture that, if proactively managed, will have a tangible, positive impact on performance. In this way, the people you retain to implement and manage your organizational, employee and company cultures will be some of the most important people on your team.

Let’s look at three different ways culture is at play in your business.

Organizational culture is the behavior of the people who are part of your organization, and the meanings that they assign to their actions (“Why do I/we do this work?”). Organizational culture includes your company’s values, visions, norms, working language, systems, symbols, beliefs, and habits.

Employee culture is created by the beliefs and behaviors that dictate how your company’s employees are treated, trained, incentivized, how management interacts with employees, and how each person handles outside business transactions.

Corporate culture is often implied, not expressly defined, and develops organically over time from the cumulative traits of the people the company hires. One can also hire specifically to develop a corporate culture rather than letting the definition happen an undefined way.

You can put these definitions to work in this way: Corporate culture is built on the people you hire, and collectively, those people define how the company “feels” while it does what it does. The people you hire work inside an employee culture, which determines how it feels to work inside the corporate culture. The organizational culture is created by how the employee and corporate cultures impact the team’s ability to meet organizational goals.

 

Defining Your Culture

Looking to define your culture? Think about these three questions”

Why does the company exist and where is it headed? How does it do what it does? Successful companies have employees who are committed to the company mission and have a shared vision of the future. Define morals, attitudes, and tactics that are acceptable to your company as it does what it does. The premise of your organization can serve to galvanize the staff toward the success of your mission (Ending child hunger? Helping the world? Employees can get behind that!).

What skills and supports do employees need to do their jobs successfully? How will you structure training and support? What type of employees will best help you achieve your organizational objectives, and what tracks for promotion are available? It’s important to think about what employees experience when being hired, on-boarded, trained and supported in their daily work. Top-performing companies have employees who feel ownership over their work, and provide input on organizational decisions. These employees are more likely to take responsibility within the organization and shoulder the autonomy to carry out those responsibilities. With thoughtful training and a structure that allows for support and advancement within the company, employees are more likely to take the initiative to grow their careers at the company that has supported their development.

How will your organizational structure allow decisions to be made effectively and efficiently? How will people be encouraged to operate in accordance with the stated values and norms of the company? Be clear about what you stand for, and the hierarchy or methods that will allow your business will solve problems . Create systems that help stakeholders reach consensus and know what your values dictate you’ll say “yes” or “no” to. Make your objectives and values clear – so that employees, customers, and shareholders can applaud you when you get it right, and identify actions that mean you’re getting it wrong.

Most employees tend to prefer a work environment where organizational goals are communicated and the company has developed methods to support the employees while they meet goals. The way you define evolve your company’s culture will touch nearly everything that happens – or doesn’t happen – in your company. Though clarifying your culture can be a tricky, time consuming (and daily) task, it is incredibly important to your success.

5 Common Workplace Myths

Everyone brings ideas about what’s “good” and “bad” into the workplace. Your ideas about how you are supposed to perform your role will affect not only the company and the team, they will affect you too! While some employees choose to stress out, check out, just wing it, stay in a rut or keep their mouth shut, wise, professional employees keep it together, stay focused and contribute. If any of these 5 workplace myths are directing your actions at work, you might want to reconsider your ideas of what’s “good” and “bad”.

Multi-tasking is the best way to go: Just because you can do more than one thing at a time doesn’t mean it’s effective. If you are splitting your attention between a phone call and an email, odds are good you are not going to be focused enough to take in the details of either task. You tune out your conversation while you’re typing your email, or send your email while you’re talking and lose focus that would allow you to catch your mistakes. Especially if you have a lot of work to do, do one task at a time. If you’re multi-tasking, you might limit your ability to get the job done effectively. Stay focused, and each part of your work will turn out better. And, you’ll save yourself the stress of juggling too many things at once.

It’s OK for you to chat with your friends at work: You may have close and long-lasting friendships with your coworkers. If you do, keep them professional. Don’t give preferential treatment to your friends or exclude other team members. Establish clear boundaries that will help you and your friends stay out of deep or personal territory, and keep your actions and discussions professional.

You don’t need to track your work because you know what you’re doing: Chances are you have a lot of individual tasks, processes and deliverables tugging at your attention. If you’re not keeping track of what needs to happen, and when, you might miss important details. You’ll be more productive if you plan your day ahead of time and group similar tasks to create a more streamlined workflow. If mornings are the most hectic, plan your day at the end of the previous weekday – or vice versa. Having your tasks and timelines mapped out will keep you on track when there is so much work to do that it’s hard to think.

It’s better if you stay in your comfort zone: Most jobs are routine. If you’re not careful, you might think that you should stay right where you are, doing exactly what you’re doing, just the way you’re doing it. Things are working, right? Everything is fine. However, coming out of your comfort zone is important – as a push toward professional and personal growth. To push the envelope a bit, reinvent processes to make your work more accurate or efficient, volunteer for projects or tasks that pose a challenge, ask a supervisor for direction on expanding your knowledge. Learning new skills makes your mind stronger, and spreading your wings a little might help you create professional connections. Of course, you need to be a reliable and focused employee, but while you’re at it, push your limits.

Being assertive will get you in trouble: The professional environment is a collaborative space. Though some team members are more ‘senior’ than others, each person has unique knowledge and perspective to contribute. There are times when stating what you think, want or believe in can be intimidating. If the stage isn’t set for smooth and easy dialogue, you might need to be assertive. But don’t worry. Assertive doesn’t mean aggressive, or that you should deny other’s rights to state their opinions. It just means to stand firm and thoughtfully (and calmly) state your ideas and suggestions. Take an active part in discussion and advocate for change when it’s needed.

The rules you follow at work can support, or hinder, your Professional success. Your attitude, methods and personal style can allow you to contribute your best at work, become a valued member of the team and grow your skills. You spend a lot of time at work. You might as well make good use of it!

Looking for a new opportunity? Contact us today!

How to Answer the Most Common Interview Questions

Job interviews can intimidate even the most hardened professionals. It’s a challenge to be on the spot and come up with targeted answers to questions that you may not have prepared for, especially when you want to be (or NEED to be) offered a job. Even if you’re a perfect fit for the job and a great communicator in normal circumstances, on the day of the interview you might find it difficult to convey your skills when stammering becomes your primary method of communication. But preparation… ah, preparation. It can foil the nerves and make you sound concise, even erudite.

How do you prepare? With some online research and time spent considering your strengths, interests and needs, you can be prepared to answer a variety of interview questions. Below, we’ll cover the ten most common questions. With just a few well-constructed sentences, you can win over an interviewer and find the words to express just how perfect you are for the position.

As you look over the questions below, think about how you might answer. Your responses don’t have to be wordy but, if you want the job, they do have to be well-targeted and speak to the point the interviewer is trying to get you to talk about.

Tell me a little about yourself. The interviewer really wants to know how you’ve directed your life experience to be where you are today – and how they might benefit from your experience. A seemingly innocuous question, this one could sound like you’re being asked to share about your personal life. But, it isn’t a personal question. It’s an opportunity, like every other interview question, to tell the interviewer how you fit in to the company or position. When sharing bits of your history, include accomplishments or experiences that have helped prepare you for the job you’re applying for. Make your answer succinct; don’t expand on your entire personal or professional history.

How much do you know about the company? The interviewer really wants to know if you’ve done your homework and knew what you were getting yourself into before you sat down for the interview. You could give a simple answer, something you found on the company website, but the interviewer has already heard that from candidates they didn’t hire. Make a short statement focused on what you know about the company’s goals, vision and culture and add a personal touch about how you gravitate toward, and might support, those goals.

Describe your areas of strength. The interviewer really wants to know how the skills and attitudes you’re bringing to the table might play out against the responsibilities of the role. Whichever of your strengths you choose to highlight, pick the ones most relevant to the position, and then elaborate. For instance, if great at working under pressure, you might say, way like “I am able to manage multiple priorities effectively, and under pressure. I think that will be important as a (Job Title).”

Describe a few of your weaknesses. The interviewer really wants to know how self-aware and honest you are, and how your shortcomings might show up if you are hired. Everyone has weaknesses, and if you can’t talk about them, or show you’re working on self-improvement, you’re not going to be able to answer this question. You don’t have to share too much personal information, just a couple of things you’re currently struggling with but are trying to improve. For instance, “I’m not great with conflict so I’m working on developing my communication and stress management skills. I’d like to learn to remain present, open and communicative when conflict arises so that I can excel in situations where conflict is a necessary part of strategy development.”

What is your greatest professional accomplishment? The interviewer really just wants to hear you say that the work you’ve done has had a positive, productive result. Give the interviewer some context before you dive into what you did and what was achieved. If you’ve singlehandedly reworked the company’s operational goals, improved workplace efficiency, or increased revenue by 500%, say so. For some in the work force, this will be a tough question to answer. If you’re not a manager or process developer, your positions might not have afforded you the opportunity to accomplish extraordinary things. But in each position, there is room for accomplishment. Describe any way in which you’ve excelled at your position and highlight the results of your efforts, even if the results aren’t mind-blowing. You might have more to say here if you’ve expertly managed finances to reduce expenses by 25% or managed company mergers. Don’t be shy about stating your accomplishments, no matter your previous experience.

Why are you looking for a job? Why did you leave your last job? The interviewer really wants to know if you were in a position that didn’t fit you, if you behaved badly, or if you’ll make excuses to explain why you’re interviewing. No matter the reason you’re looking for a job, keep it positive. Don’t throw anyone under the bus, even if you had to leave your last job because the manager was inept, yet entrenched, and brought down the morale of everyone in the office. Give a short explanation and then state that you’re trying to find a better fit, and you believe the company you’re interviewing for is that fit.

Why do you want this job? The interviewer wants to know if you really want the job and understand the company and the role you’ll be playing. Employers want to hire someone who is enthusiastic about the job. This is another opportunity to fill your answer with reasons you’d be a great fit for the job and company. Rehash why you are the best pick for the role and why you’re excited about working for the company. Talk about how you think you can contribute immediately and make an impact long-term.

Why should we hire you? The interviewer really wants to know why they should care that you want the job when so many others do too. Here is another opportunity to tell why you’re the best hire. Try to stay away from half-hearted responses like, “I’m fully capable of the work required.” Focus on how well you’ll fit into the culture, that you’re great to work with and how thrilled they will be with their choice when you use your skills and experience to their benefit.

Where do you see yourself in 5 years? The interviewer really wants to know if you’re interested in moving through or moving up. This is not a personal question. It’s about where you see your career going. If you’re interviewing for a job that has no room for advancement, don’t say, “I see myself growing into a new position with the company.” In most professional roles, there is a need for ambition and drive, so an answer focused on growth would be appropriate. Demonstrate that you have realistic expectations of the position and your trajectory, and know that it’s ok if you don’t have it figured out yet. Maybe this position will help you define what’s next.

Do you have any questions for me? The interviewer wants to see if you’ll take the easy way out and say “No.” Always, always, always say, “Yes” to this question. Before your interview, do some online research to identify questions you might ask the interviewer. (We’ve posted an article with some great questions to ask, which you can find at: https://aclivity.com/questions-to-ask-in-an-interview/ ) When this question comes up, you have a chance to learn more about how the company might be a good fit for you. Ask about the team, the pressure, the expectations, the down-sides – anything to gain insight into the reality of working for the company.

When you have been offered an interview, it’s important to make the most of the opportunity. Being prepared to answer the interviewer’s questions will help you feel at ease while you are trying to make a positive impression. It will also help you stand out from other applicants. Remember that job hunting is about finding the right fit. Though you want to convince the interviewer to hire you, be sure it’s a job and company that really fit what you have to offer and can support you in taking your career where you want it to go.

For more interviewing tips, or to take advantage of our Career Services, contact us today!

Setting Your Team – And Temp – Up for Success

Utilizing the services of a Temporary employee can be incredibly beneficial to your team’s productivity and success. Finding the right resource, in this job market, is pretty easy. Getting a new person acclimated and up to speed is the challenge.

Some employers believe that when a Temp comes on board, it should be plug-and-play. The Temp should show up in the right place at the right time, get right to work, contribute exactly what is needed to the team or project, and that’s that. No support necessary. Let’s rethink this idea. For a few seconds, imagine how it feels when you come into a new environment and want to feel welcome, be acclimated quickly, find and embrace your niche. You’re the new kid here. Do you want to be left to your own devices, or would some help make it easier on you (and everyone around you)?

In our experience, our clients’ state of preparation when contracting a Temp has a strong influence on the assignment’s success. If a client has not prepared for a Temp’s arrival, it can result in an awkward, unproductive and disheartening experience for everyone involved. Think back, doesn’t it make sense that we all come up to speed a little quicker with some support? Set your Temp – and team – up for success by putting the tips below into action.

  1. Ready the existing staff. Make sure that your current staff knows when a Temp will be coming in. Tell your team why you are bringing in outside help, what you expect that help to do for the team and convey your expectations of your team’s behavior and relationship with the Temp. Will certain staff members be responsible for orienting the Temp? What about when the Temp needs training or oversight? Let your team know your expectations ahead of time, so they can think through their role in the process, adjust their workload, and be ready when the Temp arrives. You can bolster your team’s faith in the help you are bringing in by qualifying the value of the Temp. Let your team know the history, skills or industry experience the Temp is bringing to the table. Remember to encourage your team to come at the experience with a good attitude, no matter how heavy the current workload, or how tense (or loose!) the work environment. Ask your team to refrain from complaints or derogatory statements about the workload, or other staff to allow the Temp to come into a positive workplace.
  1. Host a meet and greet. On the first day, assign an employee to introduce the Temp to key team members and any employees with which they will interact. Since you have already advised the staff that a Temp will be coming in, your existing team should be prepared to take a minute to acknowledge and introduce themselves to the Temp. Anyone involved in, or affected by, the work the Temp will do should be included in the meet and greet.
  1. Take a tour. Giving your Temp a tour will help them survey the new environment and feel more comfortable with their place in it. Assign an employee to take the Temp around the facility. Show them where the lunchroom, coffee area and restrooms are, where the copy machine is (and how it works, if applicable), and where they will get supplies like pens and paper. The tour might include the meet and greet, or might be separate, but it should land the Temp at their workstation for an introduction to the equipment and supplies they will be using.
  1. Help the Temp feel welcome. You know how busy your team is – and it’s probably why you’re bringing in help. Don’t let the flurry of normal daily activity stop key players from slowing down to help your Temp feel welcome and acclimated. Be helpful and encouraging while the Temp comes up to speed. The Temp is now part of your team – and will become productive faster if, in the first days of the assignment, they are properly oriented to their role in the organization and feel welcome.
  1. Get out the organizational chart. In certain positions, it is vital that a Temp identifies the major stakeholders in their work product. If appropriate, take a minute to review the organizational chart and highlight any hierarchies of which the Temp needs to be aware.
  1. Communicate your expectations. Every Temp comes into an assignment aware that there will be unique rules and requirements. The beauty of a qualified Temp is their adaptability and willingness to do exactly what’s needed. If you convey the rules and expectations early on, you are more likely to get what you want out of the Temp. Make sure you go over exactly what you expect of them in the role, what specific duties they are to perform, point out important deadlines and timelines, and connect them to an employee who will provide training or answer questions. Tell the Temp the do’s and don’ts of company policy – like eating or drinking at their desk, taking breaks, personal phone calls, emails and social media rules.
  1. Check in. Check in with the Temp a few times during the day, and at closing, to see how they are fitting into the culture. Ask how they are feeling about the workload, their level of understanding about expectations, and identify any difficulties they might be having performing their job. Also, check in with staff members to learn how they feel about the Temp. Get your team’s perspective on how well the Temp is performing in the position and fitting into the culture. Check in again weekly, to make sure you do not miss any changes in attitude or interpersonal issues that come up among the team. Once you’ve seen the Temp demonstrate they are a good fit and know what they’re doing, you can rest easy. Until then, check in regularly.

As an employer, you should prepare for a Temp just as you would prepare for a new staff member. Make sure the stage is set to support the success of the Temp, and your team, by readying a dedicated work space, all necessary equipment, passwords, access badges and training resources. If, from the start, you do the work of preparing for, orienting and training your new Temp, you save yourself (and the Temp) the time, trouble and headache of dealing with performance problems, access issues and workplace disruption.

If you consider the tips above, and prepare yourself for the specific, intentional work of bringing a Temp on to your existing team, it can be a smooth and rewarding process for everyone involved.

Seven Tips for Temps – How to Keep the Job

Congratulations, you have landed a temporary position! Now that you have gotten your foot in the door, is it time to coast? Nope! It is time to think about being a valued temporary employee and improving the odds that you will be offered permanent placement.

In today’s employment marketplace there are many skilled, educated candidates vying for open positions. Employers have the freedom to choose from a large pool of qualified candidates. Once you have been selected for a temporary assignment, it’s important to start thinking about how NOT to lose the job. Putting into action the seven tips below can improve your odds of being kept on, given a great recommendation, or offered permanent employment.

  1. Be on time! Employers see tardiness as a sign of disrespect, or worse – inability to conform to expectations. If you must be late, make contact as early as possible and have a good reason.
  2. Present yourself well. Do not let go of your professional manners or behave casually in a professional environment. Remember that, at work, there are always unique, and sometimes lofty, expectations. Be willing to meet those expectations and present yourself as a willing, courteous and engaged employee.
  3. Know your culture. Before you accept a position, ask your recruiter about the type of company culture you will be working in. If the temporary position is short-term, it might not matter as much to you, but if you are taking a temp-to-permanent position, it is important that you know what type of work environment you are expected to fit into. Fitting well into your company’s culture is a key determinant of longevity in a position – and increases the odds of you being happy to go to work every day.
  4. Learn willingly and take notes. All new jobs come with a learning curve. Chances are good that you will make mistakes as you come up to speed on the requirements of your position. Own up to your mistakes and learn from them. Coming into a position with a “beginner’s mind” and a willingness to learn as you go will make it easier for others to work with you – and will help you develop your skills, making you a more useful member of the team. Always have a note pad on hand, and take notes on “who, what, where and when”. This will not only help you remember important details, but show the client you are serious about learning and mastering your position.
  5. Remain productive and volunteer. You have worked with the type – the paycheck-focused employee that takes any and every opportunity to use their “down time” to check Facebook or Twitter, email friends or make personal phone calls. If you want your employer to see you as a valued employee, do not be that type. When you are on the clock, there is no real “down time”- there is always something to do to add value. If you are at a loss and feel there is time to twiddle your thumbs, ask someone in charge how you can make yourself useful. Do not just sit there surfing the web.
  6. Be part of the team. A workplace is a small, specific community. Even as a temporary employee, you are part of that community. You can increase your comfort and communicate your willingness to continue in the company by getting to know the people you work with and letting them get to know you. No matter the role a person is playing on the team, you are on equal footing – because you are human too. Try not diminish, or let others diminish, your value as if you are “just a temp.” You have a part to play, and it is easier to play that part if you are willing to be a friendly, interested and engaged part of the team. Establishing rapport with the people you work with does not just improve your chances of being made a permanent part of the team; it is also a great way to expand your personal and professional network by practicing your interpersonal communication skills.
  7. Take care of your health and wellness. Your physical and mental state has the potential to affect everyone around you. Take good care of your body and mind – make time for lunch breaks, get enough sleep and exercise, voice any concerns you have about your work environment, and communicate any personal problems you might be experiencing to your supervisor or recruiter. There are often resources made available for people working through loss, depression or other personal challenges. If you speak up when you are not feeling physically or mentally well, you will be seen with understanding. If you keep quiet, you might be viewed as unproductive, moody, or unable to meet the requirements of your position.

It can be challenging to be a temporary employee. You have been pre-approved for a job, but you are also on probation the minute you walk in the door. Your actions in the workplace will determine if the employer trades you for another temporary employee, or if they bring you on board permanently. Be willing to bring your best self to your work. Use the tips above to become a better employee, and a more considerate person.

Is Your Resume Catching Attention?

As the first communication you make with a recruiter, your resume should demonstrate your skills and successes while telling the story of your career. Recruiters want to hire people who have a history of success with the tasks and responsibilities specific to the position for which the company is hiring. When you apply for a job, it is important that you describe how your strengths and goals align with the position so the recruiter can see that you are a great fit for the job—and the company.

If your resume reads like a job description, it probably will not land you an interview. A recruiter is more likely to contact you for an interview if you have effectively quantified the work you have performed in your previous positions. When evaluating the strength of your resume consider the tips below.

  • Highlight certain skills and experiences by using a “Strengths & Skills” section at the top of your resume. Use bullet points to detail the skills you have used and the ways you have succeeded in your career; just make sure those skills align with the job description.
  • For each previous employer, list the company name and department, size (in revenue), industry, number of employees, the states or countries the company operates in and the name, title and department of your direct supervisor.
  • Use action words! Words such as managed, led, organized, reduced, improved and won are all great ways to communicate that you have actively contributed to your employers’ success.
  • Demonstrate how you have utilized your skills to create measurable success for the companies for which you have worked.
  • Quantify your work. Use dollars, numbers and percentages to show that show you have been an asset to your previous employers. You could detail the number of your direct reports, size of your department or budget, important schedules you have followed, reduction in turnover rates during your employ, specific projects you have successfully completed or key entities you have supported. You could also include information on changes in company rankings, revenues, clients, customers, sales and/or procedures directly attributable to your efforts. Be sure to highlight time or money saved and increases in efficiency. Draw the recruiter in with numbers that prove you are a great candidate for the position for which you are applying.
  • Proofread your resume! Typos and omissions speak volumes about your attention to detail.
  • Perform a final review of your resume, ensuring that it clearly describes your strengths and accomplishments in a quantifiable Remember, recruiters want to hire people with experience in the role they are staffing!

Our Career Services can help you create a resume that communicates your unique skills! For more tips on finding and landing the right job, contact us today! We’re here to help!

Writing a Cover Letter

Your cover letter is just as important as your resume. Cover letters offer you an early opportunity to highlight your experience specific to a position or company. Any time you are responding to an advertised opening, inquiring with a company about possible opportunities, or asking to do some networking within a company of interest, you should include a cover letter.

All cover letters should:

Explain why you are sending a resume:

  • Introduce yourself and let the reader know what you are asking for. Be specific: are you responding to a specific ad for an open position? Are you inquiring about future opportunities? Are you looking for an internship?

Indicate how you learned about the position or the company:

  • Reference the location of a job posting, or name a networking connection or current employee. If you were referred by someone, mention their name to solidify the referral.
  • State why you are interested in the position and/or company.
  • If you are not responding to a specific position, indicate the types of positions you are interested in.

Convince the reader to view your resume:

  • The cover letter forms a recruiter’s first impression of you. Take the time to write a detailed letter that demonstrates your communication skills and reflects your personality.
  • This is your opportunity to “sell yourself.” Call attention to any skills and experiences that directly relate to the job or company.
  • Let the reader know why you are a perfect fit for the position.
  • Provide any information requested in the job advertisement, especially if the information is not on your resume.

Indicate your plans for follow-up:

  • Do not assume the contact will call you. Provide your contact information as well as a statement about your intent to follow-up.
  • If you are applying for an advertised or open position, take the initiative! Say something like, “I will follow up with you in the next two weeks to arrange a time to meet and discuss my qualifications.”
  • If your cover letter is expressing an interest in the company, but not for a particular position, say something like, “I look forward to contacting you in the next couple of weeks to learn more about your organization and possible opportunities.”

Our Career Services can help you find and land the right job. Contact Aclivity today! We’re here to help!

Hiring an Intern

Have you considered the benefits of hiring an Intern? Real-world experience for a student is invaluable to their future—and incredibly beneficial to your company! An internship can be part-time or full-time, long- or short-term, and at any time during the year. Many employers think that internships are primarily beneficial to students. However, the benefits to your company are equally important:

  • Interns bring in new perspectives on organizational issues: Interns are not stuck in the “This is the way we’ve always done it” mentality. They can bring fresh, new ideas to your company. Interns are good at questioning processes and can often see a different way of doing things that an existing manager might not.
  • Young professionals are familiar with new technology: Social media, computer programs, smart phones, and iPads; new technology is a piece of cake for young professionals. Even if you are a young entrepreneur, you can always use a hand from a fellow Gen Y tech-savvy professional who is up to date on the newest tech trends.
  • An Internship allows a trial period that could lead to something more: Your company gets the opportunity to screen and work with potential entry-level employees prior to making a full-time commitment. Moreover, if the Intern becomes part of your team they have already screened your company and received on-the-job training, reducing your training outlay and risk of turnover.
  • Interns can help you meet important project or task deadlines: There are always projects or tasks that you need help with or are struggling to complete. Utilizing an Intern offers you an eager helper to meet your most pressing deadlines.
  • Interns are productive, courteous and trying to make an impression: Your company can capitalize on the convenience and flexibility of hiring additional staff during peak seasons, without the issues that often come along with short-term hiring.
  • Your company can gain brand advocates and free advertising: The best marketing tool is social media. You can expand your company’s online presence in an organic way as the Intern posts online about their favorable experience with your company.
  • Hiring an Intern can develop your existing team: Junior-level managers within your organization can gain supervisory experience by working with Interns. By screening Interns, your company can grow its pool of qualified candidates for future recruiting needs.

Hiring an Intern is a great opportunity for your team, and for the future graduate! Aclivity has teamed up with Lew’s List (https://sites.google.com/site/lewslist) and Colorado Universities to identify and recruit developing talent in the Accounting and Finance fields. We would be happy to leverage our connections to help you find the right Intern!

Protect Your Resume and References

Protect Your Resume and References

We have heard from clients and candidates who are displeased with other staffing firms sharing resumes and other personal information without consent. It is important to protect your resume and references – and Aclivity treats your personal information with care!

Did you know that when a staffing firm calls you for an interview, a position might not actually be available? Many times, staffing firms call on candidates to simply fill their database or “fish” for leads. Sometimes, they send your resume to multiple clients, making the selection pool look larger to a client even if you are not right for the position. Providing your resume and references might not always be to your benefit.

A reputable recruiter will ensure that they are sharing your information with your consent, and offering you available positions that fit your interests and skill set. When deciding on your next career move, be sure to find a professional advocate or online service that will protect your privacy.

Here are some tips to consider when sharing your personal information with a recruiter:

  • Ask the recruiter to identify the opportunity clearly, including the client name and job description. You have a right to know where a recruiter is sending your resume. If a recruiter claims he/she cannot tell you the name of the client, or that the company name is confidential, you should immediately disengage and seek out a more reputable staffing firm.
  • Tell your recruiter that he/she will need your permission before posting or sending your resume anywhere. In the worst case, a staffing firm can/will send your (and others’) resume to dozens of companies without your consent.
  • Protect your references. DO NOT list them on your resume, as staffing firms use the information to identify new business opportunities.
  • Ask the recruiter about the staffing firm’s placement success rate. How many of their candidates are placed in jobs? How soon after application? What is their job turnover rate? The answers will determine how much time recruiters spend matching you with the right job; not just any job.
  • When posting at online recruiting sites, avoid posting your resume to multiple job boards. Consider using other sources, such as LinkedIn, personal networking or a trusted recruiter’s website.

Whether you are actively looking for work or just curious about opportunities in the market, share your resume and references carefully. Research the staffing firm or recruiter website and review social media profiles and reviews. Avoid the temptation to restrict your job search to the Internet and speak directly with a recruiter. Ask questions. Make sure you feel comfortable and confident that the recruiter will protect your privacy before you share your personal information. An experienced, professional recruiter can safeguard your privacy while finding you a rewarding career!

For more help finding and landing the right job, contact us. We’re here to help!

LinkedIn

The Value of Using LinkedIn

Becoming a member of LinkedIn can be a great way to network, find jobs and promote your business!

LinkedIn is good company to be in:

  • The LinkedIn community has grown to over 200 million users around the world
  • The average LinkedIn member has an average annual household income of $109,000
  • Two people create a LinkedIn profile every second!
  • Nearly 50% of LinkedIn members have decision-making authority for their companies
  • The people on LinkedIn are there primarily to network or grow their business

LinkedIn allows you to:

  • Show people where you’ve come from and who you are; it’s an online resume that can work for you all day long!
  • Get others to endorse you via online recommendations that back up claims you make about your professional abilities and character
  • Share links, images or documents that demonstrate work you’ve done
  • Get introductions to potential employers, colleagues, or clients in your field
  • Directly search member job postings
  • Join various groups that align with your interests and participate in discussions. Having an interest group in common with another LinkedIn member is one way you can invite others into your network and have access to group job listings.
  • Be more connected than you could have ever imagined. In business, it’s all about who you know. With LinkedIn, you can benefit from the connections of people you know and benefit others with your connections.

To get started on LinkedIn, you’ll need to:

  • Know how you’d like to use LinkedIn. Are you directing people to your website? Are you looking for employment? What you want out of the social network will determine how you use it.
  • Create a login and take the time to create a profile that demonstrates your unique strengths and experience.
  • Check in frequently and make connections to resources that align with your current or desired field.

With a few  basics in place, you can market yourself or your business worldwide!

If you’d like more help getting started on LinkedIn, email amy.mead@aclivity.com to receive information on upcoming training workshops!

Negotiating a Raise

Negotiating a Raise

Most Finance and Accounting professionals are well versed in the technical side of their jobs but are not as skilled at the behavioral and interpersonal side of business. Many employers assume technical skills are a given, so employee skills can quickly become an overlooked commodity. In this culture, Finance and Accounting professionals must develop effective communication and negotiation skills in order to receive performance-based pay increases.

“In business you don’t get what you deserve, you get what you negotiate.”

Negotiating your salary with your employer is a good test of your negotiation and communication skills. Many people dread this often-intimidating process. However, it is important develop these skills for two key reasons:

  1. You would like more money and;
  2. You will be judged by your employer based on how you handle yourself during the negotiations. Most savvy employers are able to make quick, accurate judgments about your value to the company based on how you negotiate.

So how do you negotiate your salary? Consider these tips to demonstrate your masterful negotiation skills and improve your chances of getting an increase:

  • Understand the macro financial constrains that exist: How is your organization doing vs. the overall plan? How is your department perceived? Is your organization’s market growing? How is the organization’s performance vs. its peer group?
  • Remember that there is always budget for salary increases for great employees: Just keep in mind that there is seldom a reason to mention this to your employer!
  • Be able to quantify the value have you added to the company over the last year: What real, tangible cost savings or revenue enhancements can be directly attributed to your performance? It only counts if it has a real dollar impact, not if it “made us more efficient.”
  • Know how your boss is perceived in the organization and how much authority they have: Can they approve a raise without anyone else’s input or do they need to get approval? Are they going to go to bat for you? Why would they?
  • Consider your relationship with your boss: If it’s not great, it needs to be rebuilt before you request an increase. If there is no trust between you and your employer, odds are that you aren’t going to get anywhere in a salary negotiation.
  • Step into the shoes of your boss as you prepare for your negotiation: If you were them how would you respond to such a request? Your chances of success are greatly enhanced if your employer agrees that an increase is fair.
  • Be yourself in discussions: Prepare what you are going to say but make sure it’s in your own words and comes from the heart. If you are new to negotiating, tell your boss that you are nervous. Your honesty will melt all but the most hardened hearts. In certain situations, you could improve your bargaining position by asking for help. Getting your boss on your side of the table when negotiating with the organization can improve your chances of being heard.
  • Keep the negotiations face to face: Don’t use email or text, as these means are useless when trying to convince people to do anything for you. Using text or email will simply demonstrate that you’re not being direct; you’re actually avoiding face to face interaction.
  • Pay attention to non-verbal signals you are giving: Eye contact and hand movements are the most common means of non-verbal communication. Take a pen and notepad into the meeting and take notes if you need to keep your hands busy. Be sure to make eye contact.
  • Talk slowly and ask questions: Be prepared for questions that your boss might ask about why you think you deserve an increase. Answer the specific question that’s asked and listen well to responses that indicate you need to improve (or more clearly demonstrate!) your performance.
  • Plan the timing of your request: What day of the week and time of the day is best for your boss? Drop hints before your request to let your boss know what’s coming. Mention that you would “like to find a convenient time to discuss your compensation” so they can take time to think about it before you meet.
  • Prepare for your scheduled meeting: Do some industry comparisons as a guide or get some coaching from Aclivity or another trusted resource. Talk to colleagues and find out what tactics have worked for them. Write down your thoughts in advance and practice your negotiation with your trusted advisor. Be brief. Make your points and stress that you are seeking fair compensation for the value you provide to the company. If possible, don’t rely too heavily on your notes in the meeting. If you are trying to make more than 5 points, it’s too many.
  • Own your perspective: Truth is a matter of perspective. If you are going to make a point in the discussion that is subjective, be clear that you’re conveying “how you feel.” No one can argue about how you feel and it sounds less threatening than telling your boss what’s “true.”
  • Don’t compare your salary with others’: Don’t use comparisons of your compensation vs. other internal employees as a bargaining tactic. This argument will make you look petty since it attempts to justify your increase by comparing yourself with other people. It also reveals that you have had conversations about confidential topics with other employees, suggesting that you may not be trustworthy. Focus on the value that you bring to the table.
  • Don’t make threats: Don’t threaten to quit or say you will be forced to start looking for another job; your boss will know that’s a possible outcome if they turn you down. Listen and take feedback. Being told “No” this time will make it easier to get a “Yes” next time. If your negotiation is trending negative you could ask to defer the conversation and request their agreement to bring the topic back up again at a specified time. Ask your boss what behaviors, skills or contributions would necessary for them to consider giving you an increase in the future.
  • Don’t justify the raise by talking about your personal expenses: Bringing up your personal finances will be interpreted as a request for your company to compensate for the fact that you cannot manage your own affairs. Focus the negotiation on your tangible value to the company (how you personally make or save them money).
  • Remember that there are other types of “increases: There are a number of other things that you can ask for other than a pay increase which may be easier for your boss to grant. Consider asking for an increase in bonus potential, an extra week of paid vacation, tuition assistance, expense reimbursements like cell phone or home office, a spot bonus for specific tasks well done, or a 401(k) match.
  • Do your research: Communication, negotiation and interpersonal skills can be learned. We all have weaknesses in these areas, but we can compensate for them with a little effort. Learning about effective communication and negotiation methods will also help you “read” your boss—and adapt to limitations in their communication skills!

Negotiating a raise is a process, not an event. Introduce the topic and plan on having a number of discussions. Be patient and demonstrate your value without getting defensive. Let the other party warm to your point of view. Rarely will you go in, ask for a raise, and get it without a bit of negotiation. And, remember that we’re here for you if you’d like advice (or practice!) before your negotiation!

Good luck!

Networking

Networking for Students

Have you ever heard the phrase, “It’s not what you know, but who you know?” The saying is true. Ask any senior executive, politician or community leader which single skill or habit helped them excel in their career. An overwhelming majority will respond with one word: Networking.

Developing relationships with a network of other people provides you with professional and personal opportunities—and connects you to people who need what you have to offer. The process of networking for students is centered around making connections during your college years in order to jump start your career and find opportunities for development through professionals linked to your network.

What is Networking?
Networking is all about making personal connections; creating long lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with individuals in a web of interconnected people. Your network might include friends, professors or students in your classes, co-workers or professional mentors. You can network anywhere, anytime—in your personal or professional life, on the ski slopes or golf course, at school or cocktail parties. Your network will provide references for you, and points of reference for you as you grow, learn and develop your career.

Why Network?   
Networking might be initially daunting, but you will find compatible personalities in your networking whether you are shy or outgoing. Consider a few good reasons for networking:

  • Personal relationships enable you/your organization to stand out, rise above the noise and remain at the forefront of others’ minds
  • Relationships are a catalyst for success
  • People do business with (or hire) those they like and trust
  • If you offer others your experience, knowledge and connections, you can help them succeed
  • Networking is the single most powerful marketing tactic to accelerate and sustain success for any individual or organization
  • Networking will undoubtedly provide you with opportunities to learn, share and grow
  • Networking could quite possibly open the door to your next career move
  • Networking goes hand in hand with recruiting. When it’s time to find a job, your network can help you find opportunities you’re well-suited to
  • Networking with accounting societies provides many opportunities for recruiting, including the opportunity to intern during your college years.
  • Every year companies send their top recruiters to colleges to start identifying future employees to court for positions within their company. If you have built strong connections, odds will be good that a member of your network (who is connected to the recruiter’s network) will speak up for you when recruiters ask for recommendations.

Networking: A True Story
A senior-level accountant lost his position during a corporate restructuring and did not want to relocate. He received company-paid outplacement counseling and spent the next few months following the standard process of researching opportunities, making calls, scheduling interviews, tracking listings on online job boards, and sending resumes to employers. This process led to a few new leads every week, but none that were such a perfect match that his interviews brought job offers.

On his way home one Friday afternoon (after another unsuccessful interview) the accountant pulled into his local gas station. The station owner struck up a conversation with the accountant and asked, “How are things going?” Instead of giving a thoughtless reply like, “I’m fine”, the accountant answered honestly. He explained that he had lost his job a few months before and was not having any luck finding a new position close enough to home. The station owner asked what he did, and when the owner learned that this customer was an accountant said, “My sister was telling me last weekend that her company is having a hard time finding a new accountant, and she’s just a few miles from here.”

The accountant had a job interview a few days later. An offer followed within a week. He accepted.

Where Can I Go to Network?
Many professional associations offer networking events, which connect you with a circle of contacts in a particular field or area of interest.

  • You can get information on local networking events from various industry organizations. The accounting organizations below provide networking forums:
    • The Colorado Society of CPA’s: cocpa.org
    • The local chapters of Institute of Internal Auditors iia.org
    • The Institute of Management Accountants: imanet.org
  • Look into student accounting societies such as Beta Alpha Psi
  • Talk to your professors; they can help you make connections with people in varying circles of influence
  • Try a student membership for the Colorado Society of CPA’s: cocpa.org. They can connect you with a mentor that can help you chart your career path and recommend networking opportunities

Tips for Networking Events
When you attend networking events, you are opening the door to making many acquaintances that could grow to become part of your network. It can be a little intimidating to attend social events focused on making personal connections, but you can set yourself up for success by considering the ideas below:

  • The purpose of a networking event is solely to meet potential business contacts and to have them meet you. Go in with an open mindset and be willing to share yourself in a professional, authentic way.
  • Hold your drink in your left hand, because the right hand is the one you will be using to shake hands. A cold and clammy hand does not make a good impression!
  • Put your name tag on your right shoulder. This way, while you are shaking hands, your contact can focus on your name.
  • Do not be afraid to mingle, introduce yourself to strangers and shake hands. That is how people strike up new connections!
  • Searching for conversation ideas?
    • Offer to introduce people, and share a few details about each person during the introduction: “Edgar, this is Mary. Mary is an auditor at Company X and a chess champion. Mary, this is Edgar. Edgar is a CFO at Company Y and a great golfer.”
    • Share your opinions about a great book you have just read or movie you have seen.
    • Ask people to tell you about themselves. Many people like to have an open invitation to choose what they will tell you about their life and experience. They may give you an answer to a question you did not think of asking!
  • Remember to have fun! Networking isn’t just about finding a job, promoting your company or keeping your name “out there.” At the core, it’s really about making personal connections.
  • Don’t forget to stay connected! In a world of text messaging and e-mails it’s easier than ever for people to stay in touch. Distance breaks networks down, so be sure to reach out to your contacts frequently to let them know you are there.

Networking is an important skill in every stage of your career. You can benefit from connections made through your network, and you can help others by making connections for them. Next time you’re looking for new opportunity, put your (or our!) network to work!

Do you want help learning the art of networking? We offer candidate coaching!

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