All posts in Candidate Tips

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.

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!


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: ) 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!

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!

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!


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 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 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:
    • The local chapters of Institute of Internal Auditors
    • The Institute of Management Accountants:
  • 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: 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!

Call us! We’re here to help!

Working with Aclivity

The Aclivity interviewing and placement process streamlines the challenging task of finding the right career or candidate. When you join up with Aclivity, you’ll have our national recruiters working together on your behalf—connecting you with the right people and the right opportunities at the right time!

Clients, we save you time and money:

  • We free you from the work of posting and renewing employment ads, reviewing resumes, setting up and conducting interviews
  • We bring resources right to you; offering well-screened, position-appropriate candidates
  • We build your team and meeting your project deadlines – without the hassle of finding the right help
  • We adapt our placement services based on your specific needs. Need help locating qualified candidates, but want to handle the interviews yourself? No problem! Need a short-term consultant? We’ve got one! Our recruiters are flexible experts and will take on the parts of the hiring process that you don’t have the time, or resources, to manage.
  • We get clear on your needs up front! Our recruiters are great at helping you to define your needs, outline your goals, and clarify requirements and prerequisites of the role you need to fill.
  • We understand that sometimes skills aren’t everything! We get to know your company culture—and our candidates’ behaviors and proclivities—to find the right fit for your team. Our candidates are interested in actively developing their skills, and in the right environment, they—and you—thrive!

Candidates, we make your job search easier:

  • We get to know who you are and what you bring to the table before trying to fit you into an available position. It’s important to us that you find a job that fits to ensure that you’re happy and that you’re offering our clients the expertise and professional attitude that meets their specific needs.
  • We represent your interests and needs in a market that can often be impersonal and difficult to navigate without the right personal connections.
  • We leverage our well-developed professional network to market your expertise to a trusted community of successful clients.
  • We offer support throughout your career! Our Career Services include educating you on the ever-changing job marketplace, mentoring you on career development goals and coaching you on creating a resume that highlights your unique experience and skill set.

At Aclivity, we believe in building relationships that endure. That’s why we consistently offer well-targeted connections between candidates and clients. We succeed by helping candidates put their unique skills to work and by offering our clients stable, qualified talent. And, we stay connected over the long term, so you know that when you need us, we’re here to help! Contact us when you are looking for a new job opportunity or star-candidate. Our placement and consulting expertise will help you succeed!

Resignation Letter

Don’t Forget the Resignation Letter

Found a new opportunity? Don’t forget the resignation letter!

A resignation letter is more than an official notice that you are terminating your employment with your company, it is also a professional means of ensuring that you will leave your employer on good terms. When it’s time to move on to another position, don’t forget to resign at least two weeks in advance with a tactful, diplomatic letter. You will show respect for your employer and better your odds of a positive reference in the future.

To create a resignation letter, use the basic elements below (or search online for a template):

[Company Name] [Supervisor Name] [Supervisor Title] [Supervisor Department] [Company Address] [Company City, State, Zip Code]


Dear [Mr./Ms. Supervisor Name],

As of [Date], I will be resigning my position as [Your Title] at [Company Name].

I am very grateful for the opportunities I’ve had during my employment with [Company Name] and offer my best wishes for your continued success.

[Conclude by providing summary information relevant to the next steps that you will take; i.e. offering to help with the transition, or terms for return of key cards or company equipment.]


Respectfully yours,

[Handwritten Signature] [Typed Signature]


Though you could resign verbally (or leave a Post-It on the computer saying “Goodbye!”), it’s a good idea to take the time to tactfully end your relationship with your current employer. It will give you good practice at communicating in a potentially difficult situation, and will remind your employer that you are a respectful employee.

Need help with your resignation letter? Want to find a new career?

Call us! We’re here to help!

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