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Make Your Resume Stand Out

With the dawn of a new year and decade comes the yearning for something new and exciting. For some that might mean traveling the globe, while for others it may mean starting the hunt for a new job or even a new career altogether. If the latter describes your situation, you will want to take a look at your resume and start fine tuning it in order to land the job of your dreams in 2020. 

According to Workopolis,  companies receive between 75 and 250 resumes per open position and, on top of that, hiring managers spend just 11 seconds or less looking at a resume before deciding to move on. That means your resume needs to be easy to read, clear, and concise so that it catches the attention of hiring managers who are already overwhelmed with a pile of resumes to review and candidates to interview. What can make your resume stand out? 

resume writing

Don’t Forget the Basics 

It may sound absurd, but you would not believe the number of resumes that appear without contact information including a phone number, email, and mailing address. Put your contact information up top, where they can’t miss it. Also important is to mention what specific position you are applying for since many Human Resource departments deal with multiple open positions simultaneously. The last thing you want is an HR professional or hiring manager to remove your resume from consideration because they can’t find your contact information quickly. 

Customize Your Resume 

While it may seem convenient to make a hundred copies of your resume and send it out to multiple listings, you may be passed over because the business may be looking for specific skills you did not spotlight on your resume. 

It’s a good idea to customize your resume for specific positions. For example, if a position is looking for a certain technical expertise, then place that at the top of your resume under skills. That way the business won’t miss it and you may get called in for an interview. From there you can talk up your experience and knowledge. 

resume writing

Be Organized 

Resumes can look different depending upon the position or field of work. One thing that all resumes should have is a sense of organization. For instance, you may want to organize your resume in chronological order showing what companies and positions you held in the past. Or possibly, you may want to forgo the chronological order and focus on accomplishments and skills. Whichever way you decide to organize be sure it makes sense, has pertinent dates, and summarizes with key words they may be hunting for. 

Proofread

Hiring managers have seen it all from grammatically incorrect resumes, to those that spell multiple words inaccurately. Be sure to have your resume proofread before you send it. 

Need help with your resume? Check out our programs and workshops that can help you write a resume that will get you noticed and may even land you a coveted interview. 

 

performance evaluations

Preparing for Performance Evaluations: An Employer Perspective 

In continuing our two-part series on performance evaluations, we take a different point-of-view today. Last week we examined the perspective of how an employee should prepare. Now we are taking a closer look at what managers and business leadership should do to make these evaluations productive, effective, and if possible, a positive experience. 

Let’s start by saying that performance appraisals should not be a stand alone event. Instead, feedback should be given throughout the year, whether it is in writing or in discussions held at regular intervals. The annual review, therefore should just be a formalized way of talking about an employee’s strengths and weaknesses. 

reviews

Document Performance 

Just as an employee should be documenting their achievements throughout the year, you should also be keeping track of what you see as “above and beyond” efforts including client feedback, completed projects, ability to evolve and learn, any skills training that occurred, and general demeanor in the office. 

In keeping your documentation on each employee, you should be sure to note where the employee improved and where he/she could improve more. These notes will help you give both positive feedback and constructive criticism during the review meeting. 

Plan for the Future 

Most employees envision a review as looking back on what happened in the past year, but as an employer, you should be thinking ahead as well. Use the review to find out what goals your employee has for the future, whether it is specialized training, a degree, or to gain a promotion. Set aside some time during the meeting to explain what you would like to see as goals for the employee and get feedback on your thoughts. 

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Make it “No Mystery” 

Performance reviews are sometimes shrouded in secrecy and the office may take on a different feeling during the days and weeks of reviews. Make your reviews less mysterious by having your team members fill out a self evaluation. This way they know exactly what will be discussed. 

Some managers find that using performance review software can take away some of the secrecy and mystery surrounding these yearly appraisals. 

In addition, some companies find it helpful to have more than one manager in the review to make things more comfortable for all (This is especially important if you are a new manager, or the employee is completing his/her first review process.). 

Most importantly, go into the review with your ideas and thoughts prepared. Be sure to listen as much as you speak. Interested in learning more about performance reviews? Check out our programs and workshops that often include information about performance review and techniques. 

 

business review

Preparing for Performance Evaluations: An Employee Perspective  

As a hard-working employee, there are almost no events at work more nerve wracking than the annual performance evaluation. How can you prepare for this evaluation both professionally and emotionally? There are a few things you can do in the days and weeks leading up to your performance evaluation that may help calm your nerves and help your professional outlook. Let’s take a look at this first from an employees perspective today and in our blog next week we will look at how business leadership should also prepare for this annual milestone. 

Before you begin to prepare for your annual performance review, it is important to put yourself into the right mindset. Yes, it is hard to take criticism. Keep in mind, however, that this constructive criticism is meant to help you grow as a professional in your field. It is an opportunity to connect with your direct manager and let him/her know what you have learned, how you have grown, and the hurdles you have overcome this year. Once in that right “headspace” you can begin your preparations. 

gathering notes

Gather Your Notes 

It’s a really good idea before you head into your review to compile your notes from the year. Create a list of major accomplishments, goals that were completed, projects that were on schedule, positive feedback from clients, and any awards or recognition that your received over the past year. Keep a list that your can refer to as well as pass on to your manager. You would be amazed how some accomplishments are quickly forgotten after the next project has started. It is always a good idea to remind leadership how much has gotten done under your guidance. 

Be Realistic 

In gathering your notes you will want to also be realistic. There were probably some “pain points” during the year or difficulties in some aspect of your job whether it was staying on-time with a project deadline, technical difficulties, or maybe a problem that had to be solved. No employee is perfect, so be ready to talk about these issues and how you handled them, or possibly what you learned from them and how you would do things differently. Employers can’t ask you to be perfect, but they can examine what you learned from the situation. 

Do Some Comparison Shopping 

If you plan to ask for a promotion or raise, be sure to do your homework. Do salary comparisons online before you ask for something that is not feasible. Research current salaries for your position on sites like PayScale or Glassdoor.

Head into your performance review with a positive attitude, your notes, and reasonable expectations of whether you will see a pay raise or not. Need help preparing for your review? Check out our programs and workshops that can boost your education and skill level. 

 

Building a Dream Team of Employees 

Look around your office. You probably have some well chosen employees. Some have personalities that work well with clients, others may have the expertise that helps your company innovate and move forward. Have you nurtured this group into being your dream team? 

Molding your group of employees into a dream team is not only a smart idea to grow your business but it can make working at your company a happy place. Let’s take a look at some things you can do as a business leader to help shape and build your dream team. 

Identify Each Person’s Strength 

Working together means that you probably have a good sense of what each person in your office can and can not do well. Some people are more technical, while others are better on the organization front. And still others are best at working with clients or writing that proposal in a hurry. 

Take some time to get to know each of your team members’ strengths and weaknesses. In fact, you may want to hire a specialist to come in to work with your staff to help them identify what they do well with and where they struggle. Not only is this a good way to pinpoint everyone’s strengths but it lets your team know that you are invested in their careers as well. 

Set Goals 

Once you have identified each employee’s specialty areas, help them set goals for themselves both short-term and long-term. These goals can be in relation to clients, sales, recruitment, networking, or any area that you decide upon. The goals should be given to both individuals and the group as a whole. 

Give them the Tools They Need 

If you read that and said, “Whoa, what about the budget,” then keep reading. Within the limits of your budget, we suggest that you provide as many ways as possible to give your team what they need to do their jobs well. If they need better communication between remote workers, clients, vendors and others, then provide an app like Slack that can help keep all parties along the chain connected and communicating. If they need time to collaborate as a group then carve time out of every day or week to allow for group collaboration meetings. In short, listen to what their needs are and try your best to provide them. 

A dream team doesn’t just happen, they are made by the leaders and people within a business. Check out our listing of workshops that can help you nurture the team you dream of. 

 

Cultivating Creativity in the Workplace 

Is creativity important in your field? Chances are the answer is yes. In a recent poll, almost sixty percent of CEOs called creativity the most important quality for leadership. If creativity is paramount to what you do, then here are a few ways to help cultivate creativity in your workplace. 

Look at the Environment

Take a moment to look around your workplace. Is there adequate lighting? Are there multiple styles of workspaces such as smaller individual work areas and then areas where groups can brainstorm together? Is the area clean and uncluttered? Studies have shown that conditions such as dim lighting, reduced clutter, taking a walk, and even rooms with high ceilings can enhance creativity. Talk to your team members about the work environment and ways that you could make adaptations to encourage productivity. 

Allow for Brainstorming 

We all remember the rules of brainstorming from our school days that said that no idea was stupid. Let’s go back to that. Encourage brainstorming when a new project has been assigned and allow for time to mull through each idea. The process may seem chaotic at times but fostering the concept of brainstorming can help employees and leaders feel supported in their quest to innovate. 

Identify Creativity and Reward It 

If you really want to foster creativity in your workplace, you need to seek it out and, when you find it, reward those who are being creative. A simple compliment would go over well, but some sort of incentive such as an all paid luncheon for employees when creativity is blooming would also be welcome. Use your budget and business know-how to guide you in identifying creativity and encouraging it to occur again. 

Be Flexible 

As business leaders, it is often too easy to be rigid about the hours of operation, getting projects completed, and working outside the box. Sometimes being a little flexible can help your staff be flexible too. You may want to experiment with flexible hours that accommodate family activities or school hours. Some employees find they accomplish more when they are allowed to work from home for a day or two a week. While still others find that meeting in a coffee shop for a brainstorming session works best for them. Think about being flexible in ways that work for your business. 

Need more ideas on cultivating creativity? Check out our workshop on Creativity and Innovation

 

Writing for Business 

During your college years, you were expecting to write papers, draft letters, and take part in all sorts of writing, right? Who knew that would be such an integral skill once you got to your “real” job later in life. Writing for business is a given nowadays with emails, reports, and presentations given on a daily basis no matter what field you are in. 

Don’t think you write often enough to worry about your writing skills? Think again. According to a study conducted by Carleton University, professionals spend one-third of their time at work reading and answering emails. You might spend more than this, or less, but chances are that a significant portion of your day is spent writing something.

Why Writing is Critical to Your Business 

Solid writing skills can mean the difference between being taken seriously in your position or being seen as less professional. Poor writing skills can lead to miscommunication, lost opportunities, and even a loss of business. Think of the number of times you have read an email or report that did not communicate the central message well. It is frustrating to decipher what the message really says. 

Let’s take a look at a few aspects of your writing that can help improve your reports, emails, or marketing materials. No matter what you are writing, it is a good idea to brush up on these areas as you progress in your career. 

Know Your Audience

As with anything in life, it is good to know who you are dealing with when you present, send an email, or write a report. Knowing who you are talking to can give your writing a sense of purpose and direction. For example, an in-office email could be short and informal, but a customer email or a PowerPoint presentation should follow the guidelines of courtesy, clarity, and conciseness. Your audience should be your compass; keeping in mind what the recipient seeks to learn narrows down the possible directions your writing should take (SkillsYouNeed 2019). Think about what they know already, especially as you determine the terminology to use. If you’re writing to a specific person or group of people, look for ways to personalize the document by considering their interests.

Think First 

Take a few minutes to mentally define the goals of the written piece. Do you know the main content: the who, what, when, where, and why of your writing? Think through it first before you even reach for the pen or keyboard. Thinking in broad terms first will help you to focus your message and make sure that you highlight all the important points you want to make. 

Be Brief 

Workplaces are busy places. Take the fluff out of your writing and get to the point. Be direct and short in your writing, unless the type of writing dictates added details and expansion on the topic. Readers will appreciate not having to sift through extraneous information to find the real message. 

Be Careful with Word Choice 

As just stated, it is important to be clear, concise, and direct in your business writings. It is also important not to use too many buzzwords or jargon that could turn off your reader. Jargon often makes you sound pretentious, and it can further alienate your reader. Instead, write the way you talk. Keep it natural and direct.

Edit, Edit, Edit 

It is always a good idea to have someone else read through your work whenever possible. Small mistakes can be easily missed by the original author. If you have no one to proofread for you, copy and paste your writing into Google Translate and have it read the document back to you. Usually, mistakes are obvious when you hear them aloud. Also, Google can usually catch flagrant typos or spelling errors. 

Need some help with your business writing? Join us at our workshop entitled Writing for Business and Grammar Skills on October 23, 2019. 

How Can Your Business Attract Top Talent? 

All businesses have one thing in common when it comes to hiring employees. They want to find the best talent that fits their company, at the best possible price point. While it may be easy to assume that salary is the main component to attracting and retaining top talent, there are other things to consider when searching for top talent. Read on to find out some innovative ways to attract talented individuals to your company. 

Competitive Benefits 

Obviously, the pay scale is a major factor that a candidate will weigh when making a job change. Make sure your salary scale is competitive with companies in your field and shows how increases may occur over the years. In addition to salary, make sure you have benefits that will attract top candidates. 

If you’d like a benchmark on the types of benefits are available, this article on 16 types of employee benefits is a good place to start. Benefits may include: medical, dental, vision, gym membership reimbursement, flexible spending accounts, health savings accounts, life insurance, profit sharing, disability, retirement plans, and the list could go on and on. 

Workplace Culture 

A recent Robert Half survey showed that 35 percent of the more than 1,000 workers polled said they would decline a job offer if the role was a perfect fit, but the company culture wasn’t. Take a close look at whether your office culture promotes job satisfaction. Are people happy to be there? Is there a personality and positive vibe about your workplace or is there a “nine-to-five drudgery” sense about it? Carefully examine your workplace culture and make changes to attract and retain top talent. 

Some changes that could impact workplace culture is flexibility when it comes to work hours and locations. Consider allowing for remote working days or flex days for parents who need to pick up or drop off at school/daycare. Help your employees forge bonds with non-work activities such as pizza lunches, after work gatherings, or fun office competitions. You may also want to consider the way that your office is physically configured, which will determine how your employees are able to interact with one another. Do you want to shift to an open workspace, private work cubicles, or a mix of the two? 

A Chance to Give Back 

One factor that employees have reported as a way to remain loyal to a company is their ability to give back to the community. Most people don’t just want to work for a paycheck. They want a sense that they are contributing to the greater good in some way. Consider allowing your employees to have days off for volunteering in their community or volunteering as a group on a project that your employees choose together. This will not only boost morale, but also give your employees a chance to make a difference outside the halls of your offices. 

Do you need assistance finding and retaining talented employees? Join us for our workshop on October 10, 2019 on Attracting a Talented Workforce

Building a Positive Company Culture 

Not all of us can be Google, which prides itself on a unique and happy employee culture. In some ways, Google Headquarters looks more like an adult playground than a corporate office. In fact, there are people employed at Google whose sole purpose is to create a happy and positive employee culture. How about that? 

Ok, so not all of us can afford to have a gym, playroom, or spa retreat inside our office, but we can still do some fairly simple things to maintain a positive company culture. Here is how. 

Create a Safe Space 

Not all offices have extra room to build an adult playground with a ping pong table or video games, but almost every office can carve out a small area where an employee can relax, enjoy their lunch, and chill out away from their desk. Sperling Interactive in Salem carved out an area in a room that was not very functional in order to build a “nest” where employees can relax, hang out, and sometimes just have a different place to get work done. 

 

Show Gratitude 

When something good happens at work, thank the people responsible. This might mean an email, short letter, or maybe even a small gift to show gratitude for the hard work. Make sure you are consistent in doing this or employees may notice that you gave a shout out in one instance and not in another. 

 

Encourage Positive Thinking 

Encourage your team to think in a positive way. This means in your thoughts, actions, and words, you should keep it upbeat and happy. Obviously be genuine, but try to always have a “glass half full” attitude. This outlook can be contagious. 

Don’t Just Talk… Listen 

Everyone likes to be heard, whether it is complaints about the dishes in the break room building up in the sink or a company policy that someone would like changed. Truly listen to your employees and they will feel valued. It does not mean you need to do everything that it asked but, rather, listen and respond. This sense that feedback is welcome can make employees feel valued and want to stay at your company for years. 

 

Encourage Employee Learning 

Whether you can afford to subsidize a masters program or certificate programs or not, you should be encouraging your employees to learn more. If you invest in them, they will invest in you. I can not say enough about this! 

Check out our events calendar for more workshops on nurturing a positive company culture. We all can’t be Google, but we can make out employee culture a happy one. 

 

Upping Your Communication Skills 

Do you make presentations to clients often or meet face-to-face with consumers? How effective do you feel your presentations are? Even if you have worked in your field for years, and know your service/product well, you may still need to sharpen your communication skills. Here are a few ways to can hone those skills while still sounding natural and genuine. 

Learn the Basics of Nonverbal Communication 

Some studies show that communication is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal. That means that what you are saying is such a small fraction of what your audience is getting from you. They are, however, paying close attention to your body language and vocal variety. That means that the majority of what you say is communicated not through words, but through physical cues. To garner full attention many body language experts suggest making eye contact as much as possible with your audience, having good posture, not slouching, making your voice larger than normal, not crossing your arms, and moving around the space if you are talking to a large group. 

 

Don’t Go Overboard on Visuals 

Sure, having a visual aid can help you stay on message and focus the audience’s attention. However, do not wholly rely on visual aids, like PowerPoint, to get your message across. There really is nothing worse than having a presenter read from the slides. Not only is that boring but it is degrading to the viewers. Instead integrate storytelling into your presentation. Your audience is more likely to remember the story than the slides. If you really want to hook the group, ask them to be a part of the discussion or to relay their own stories about the topic. Once they have made a personal connection, they will be dialed in to your presentation. 

Master Your Timing 

Understand the attention span and needs of your audience. Not all people who have come to a presentation have an hour to listen to you. Remember that Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was 286 words, about two minutes long. Realize that timing is everything. If you can simplify your message, do so. Short and sweet can sometimes help an audience remember what you said. 

Check out our calendar of speakers every month, we often have workshops on improving your communication skills or honing presentations. 

 

Retaining Top Talent

Is your company a revolving door of employees coming and going endlessly? In today’s business world, young workers have a reputation for moving from job to job looking for the next big break. Unfortunately, that means that business loyalty is not as it once was.

How, then, do business leaders deal with this issue and retain the top talent that they worked so hard to attain in the first place? There are several methods that may help with retention and overall employee morale as well.

Create a Detailed Onboarding Process

Some workplace studies show that onboarding properly can help new hires become long term employees. Be sure that your onboarding process includes orientation, socialization with other employees, and continued monitoring that the new hire is learning the specific job well and with support. Seventy percent of new workers report that they are more likely to stay at their new company for three years or more if they experienced a favorable application and onboarding process.

Allow for Flexibility

Retaining top talent sometimes means thinking outside the box. Consider flexible work hours instead of the 9-5 of our parents generation. Flexibility may also be necessary when it comes to remote work. Does an employee have an ailing parent or a young child? Possibly the option of working from home may alleviate personal stressors and encourage an employee to stay with your company.

Provide Incentives

Employees like to feel like they are learning, growing, and moving forward. By providing training and incentives to educate themselves and move up in the business, young employees tend to stay put. Whether you offer a percentage of the cost of a class or include bonuses for each training s/he takes part in, you are investing in your company and the retention of your best and brightest team members.

 

Give and Get Feedback

One complaint that employees who move around a lot have is that they do not feel like they were listened to. Be acutely aware with new employees that you plan to listen and give feedback on a regular basis. Feeling invested in a company and that ideas are considered is a great way to retain some of your top talent.

Retaining your best employees can be difficult but with some creative thinking and an attention to the needs of those employees you can foster a long-term relationship that will be beneficial for both of you for years.