Sometimes, the devil really is in the details. This is especially true when it comes to the questions you ask when you’re looking for a job. Asking the wrong question, or not asking the right question can get you into trouble when you least expect it. And, it can be tricky to know when to ask questions.
There are a few good rules of thumb to follow. The first applies to networking. When you’re meeting someone new, they want to get to know you first. They (in theory) have no specific ulterior motive, and they hope you don’t either. When you first meet someone, avoid asking if they’re hiring. Chances are good that they’re not hiring, and if you ask this up front, you may send the message that you’re not interested to get to know them unless they can give you something. But, do ask them if you can stay in touch. Ask to connect on LinkedIn. Ask to have coffee (virtual or in person). Relationship building may eventually lead you down the path of a new job.
Another situation to be on the lookout for is when you find a job posted. You’ve found the perfect job at the perfect company. And, you’ve either found a great connection there – or you already have one. When you’re reaching out about a specific job, be up front about it. A hiring manager will want to know that you‘d like to be considered, so be sure to ask. Ask them if they have time to meet with you to discuss the position. Don’t hint around and hope they’ll get the drift. Be direct.
The most important place for questions is the job interview. It’s truly amazing how much your questions can influence the outcome of an interview. First, have questions – lots of them. Having a long list of questions doesn’t mean you have to ask all of them, but it does mean you’ll have options to go to when it’s your turn to ask questions. One of the primary complaints I’ve heard from hiring managers is that the candidate didn’t ask questions. The hiring manager assumes the candidate isn’t interested in the position (or worse, is lazy), while the candidate simply feels all their questions were answered during the job interview. Avoid this situation by asking a few questions at the end. But, keep your questions focused on the job. Do not ask questions that reflect an “all about me” attitude. Topics to stay away from include pay, vacation time, or anything else that isn’t specific to the work itself. And, always ask about the company’s timeline and what their expected next steps are.
As important as qualifications are, so are first impressions. The questions you ask will influence a hiring manager’s decision. Fortunately, there’s time to plan. If you draft your questions in advance and ask a friend for feedback, you’ll be on your way to success.
The title of my column today may sound a bit confusing. It comes from one of my own mentors. Years ago, when I was finishing graduate school, I spent a significant amount of time searching for the right job.
Occasionally, one would pop up that would seem almost right. It would have a great job description. The company seemed stable. The team seemed interesting. But, there was something about the hiring manager that was off – or perhaps the company wasn’t offering a competitive salary. Many parts of the job would be great, but something would be off.
I would meet with my mentor to tell him about the jobs I was considering, and discuss the pros and cons of each. If a job seemed like the wrong fit, he would encourage me to walk away. The thought of turning down an offer without another in hand was nerve-wracking. My mentor would then remind me, “Jobs are like buses. Just wait; another one is always coming.”
He felt it was more important to find the right fit, than to hope you could take every job that came along. Looking back, these were wise words. Who else in your life do you spend as much time with as your boss and co-workers? For most, the answer is your spouse. You typically don’t choose to marry your first date. Why would you expect that at work?
Often, we want to take every job when we’re feeling desperate. We’re miserable in our current position and we think that anything would be better – even if it were just for a short time.
The problem with this strategy is complex. First, your next job may have just as many problems are your current job, if not more. As the saying goes, sometimes the devil you know is better than the one you don’t.
More importantly though, planning to take a job for a short time forces you to explain why you’re looking for a new job just after accepting one. This means that you’ll be explaining all the dirt on your old company, including the ways that you didn’t get along with your boss or co-workers.
When you choose to wait and select the right job, you’ll find yourself there for more than just a short time. While you’re interviewing, you’ll be able to focus on the positives of what you want in the future rather than the negatives from the past. Whether it comes to interviewing or negotiating your offer, focusing on the positive puts you in a much stronger position.
When you’re having a tough day, just try to remember that jobs are like buses. Just wait. Another one is coming, and you want to be sure you get on the right one.
Look around to see if you find remote jobs that are posted in other locations. You may be able to do them from your current city!
Some people say it takes twenty-one days to change a habit. For those working from home, the habit is now fully set. It’s been over 365 days since we first packed up our offices and began to work from the dining room table of our homes. Some employees have hated this isolation. For others, it has given a huge increase in productivity. And, while some companies are continuing remote work into the future, others are opting to return to pre-pandemic norms.
Many employees are going back to the office between September and January. For those who are already going back, they’re reporting that the days are more tiring than they remember. Contributing factors including driving both ways to the office and getting more dressed up for work – plus more time together with colleagues.
The idea of returning to work has been so unappealing for some that employees are beginning to quit their jobs over it. Studies are showing this number could eventually be as much as fifty percent. Honestly, the timing makes sense. With more people switching jobs, more jobs are becoming available to apply for.
If you’re concerned about returning to the real office, there are a few questions you may want to ask your boss. First, when are employees required to be back at work? Then, what does being back at work look like? In other words, you should find out if you’ll be expected to be back in the office five days a week. Or, will remote work be allowed two to three days each week?
Will employees required to wear masks while they’re at work? Or, will employees be required to be vaccinated?
How will the work culture in the office change? Will meetings happen in person in a conference room? Or, will they continue to happen via Zoom? If your dress code was more formal before, is that what will be expected now?
As you approach your boss, keep in mind that they are likely learning right along with you. There’s no precedent for a pandemic in today’s day in age. They may not have all the answers. But, by asking the questions, you open up a dialogue. Be honest about your feelings without coming across as threatening.
When you learn what your new work status will be, take the time to check in with yourself. How do you feel about going back to work? How do you feel about how the policies at your office are evolving?
If you aren’t happy with your future work setup, there’s good news. New jobs are being posted every day, and at a higher rate than they were in the past. And, even better, companies are struggling to hire. That means that more companies are offering remote work, or flexible work arrangements. If your current company doesn’t offer you the setup you prefer, there is very likely another company out there that is.
The past fourteen months have changed the nature of work, especially for remote workers. They no longer spend hours in the car, making their way to one shared office building. They’re waking up and joining their colleagues via Zoom. And, this remote environment is transforming more than just our morning commute.
Just look at today’s job openings. Many companies are now posting one job in multiple cities, or they’re simply listing the job as remote. What’s considered normal has evolved. Companies are being more flexible in order to be competitive. In the past, employees needed to live in the city where the company was located. If they lived in a market with few opportunities, they might be out of luck unless they were willing to uproot their life. In the world of remote work, employees can now accept jobs that are outside of their local area.
But, the changes go beyond physical location. Things have also changed about the work dynamic. A large part of our work culture is made up of meetings. We gather together to discuss ideas, and to work on projects. In many of these meetings, there is a hierarchy. People position themselves in a meeting room based on important factors. Often, the highest ranking employees are seated at the table. Lower ranking employees can be found in chairs further from the center of the room, such as along the wall. At the table, workers sit at the head of the table or near the middle based upon their status, or a desired perception.
In an online meeting, this hierarchy is reduced. Every employee is given a small video square that is the same size as everyone else in the meeting, regardless of seniority. When participants want to speak up in the meeting, they often raise their hand. And, they are called on to speak based on how soon they raised their hand. No one is any closer to the most senior executives in Zoom meetings.
Beyond this, what we wear to work is now less status oriented. Over video, it’s harder to view a full outfit. It has led many workers to switch to more relaxed athletic wear. And, casual conversations are less casual. There are big downsides to this lack of team interaction. But, if someone felt left out of important networking opportunities, this is likely no longer the case.
Working remotely also allows employees to setup a home work environment that works well for them. So, rather than a standard office setup that may not be desired, each person is able to design a custom environment that is the most productive for them.
Not all of the changes at work are positive. For those with family responsibilities at home, such as children, remote work may be more challenging. And, regardless of how you feel about remote work, one thing is for sure. It is changing the way we work together.
Loneliness is at an all-time high. And it makes sense. The pandemic has been raging on now for over a full year. Many people have been working from home. This includes single employees who now have little social interaction outside of work.
Unfortunately, the remote work environment doesn’t making socializing all that social. Remote work encourages meetings to be more structured and scheduled. When employees log into a call on Zoom, there is often very little small talk. This is especially true when the meeting is made up of more than two people.
This can be efficient. Some people are getting more work done than usual. But, we’re losing sight of the small things, such as how our coworkers are really doing. It’s harder to tell how someone is through the computer screen. It’s harder to remember to ask about their families or special milestones. And honestly, with COVID, there is often less to ask about.
On top of this, working remotely can create new layers of political and social dynamics that add to daily stress. Sadly, when we are feeling lonely and then extra stressed at work, it can multiply the feelings of isolation. This can turn into a viscous cycle where we’re left feeling upset, unmotivated, and very alone.
If you find yourself in this situation, it is important to force yourself to reconnect with those around you. Admitting you’re struggling can be tough. It’s vulnerable. It doesn’t feel good. But, it can help. If you are struggling day to day, consider reaching out to a colleague. Be honest. Share that you’re having a tough time with the current dynamics at work.
You may be surprised to learn that your coworkers are facing some of the same struggles. They will likely be very understanding. They may share positive words of encouragement. If you need help with an assignment, they may volunteer to lend a hand. There’s also a good chance that they need someone to talk to as well.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not suggesting to turn the workplace into a full on therapy session. I’m also not suggesting that you should gossip about your other colleagues.
But, a tremendous amount of good can come from talking to other people. By opening up, you’ll find a friend. You’ll find an alliance. You’ll find help. And, before you know it, you will likely feel less alone.
If you’re hesitant to talk to coworkers about your struggles, try opening up to a close friend or family member. Sometimes, a listening ear can make all the difference. Alternatively, you could spend more time talking to coworkers about something other than your struggles. Feeling like you have friends in the company (even if they don’t know you’re struggling) can help.
Whatever you do, reach out and connect. We are in this together. It’s completely natural to feel lonely and to need others during this very unique time.
When you look at it, the numbers are staggering. Workers are looking to change jobs during or after the pandemic at a very high rate. A number of surveys have been conducted on the topic, and somewhere between thirty-five and sixty-five percent of all employees plan to find a new job soon.
One of the top reasons cited is corporate culture. The pandemic has drawn out for over a year. Not all companies have handled the situation well. Some have forced employees into endless meetings, or have been unforgiving with personal matters. The experience has been especially isolating for young employees who may be home alone, without an option to socialize with coworkers or even to go out with friends.
Many organizations have failed to recognize how tough working from home in this situation can be. Although, in fairness, those at the top are likely struggling with their own pandemic challenges. In the end, employees whose employers haven’t handled COVID well have had enough. They’re ready to move on.
In addition, many people have found added balance during this crazy time. They are reprioritizing what’s important to them. They are no longer interested in the corporate rat race or working themselves to the bone. These employees are not only looking to switch companies, they’re looking to switch careers completely. They want to do something different, and something that better suits their personal values and priorities.
Similarly, many workers have taken advantage of the work from home situation the pandemic has provided. They’ve left expensive cities and have moved closer to family. Many of those workers are not interested to return to the city or to the office anytime soon. They’re now looking for permanently remote jobs.
This change will present interesting opportunities for employees. The more people who change jobs, the more jobs will be available. And, all of this change may in fact give job seekers the upper hand. They may be considered for roles they were previously thought to be less than qualified for. And, employers will be forced to be more competitive with regards to benefits such as work from home.
Today, some candidates are interviewing all the way to the offer stage. Then, if the company is unwilling to allow them to work from home permanently, the candidate is walking away. This is something we never would have talked about two years ago, because the strategy would have had little chance of working. But, today, companies are being forced to rethink work from home in order to remain competitive.
What are you doing to prepare? This is an unprecedented time. With that, there may also be unprecedented opportunities. If you’ve thought of looking for a new job, it’s time to get your resume and LinkedIn profile in order. If you want to switch careers completely, take an inventory of your transferrable skills. Set up networking calls, and get yourself back out there.
The unfortunate truth of today’s job market is that applying for jobs is very competitive. Employers can be picky about who they hire and how much they want to pay. For many job seekers over fifty, the search process is a longer, harder road than they remember from years past.
This is especially true during the pandemic, when it has been harder to keep up things like hair color and regular gym work outs. Greys are showing through and age is becoming more obvious.
Some companies view an older employee as a risk. They can be more expensive, and less likely to stick around for the long term. An older applicant may be looked at as less flexible, and behind the times when it comes to technology.
Older workers want to switch jobs, but they feel trapped. They’re certain another company won’t take a risk to hire them.
If you’re facing this dilemma, start by taking a long look in the mirror. Think about what you can control at this stage of the pandemic, whether it’s home hair color, teeth whitening strips, or updated glasses. Evaluate your interview attire. If your clothes are outdated, consider purchasing something new. If you meet with the same company multiple times, change your shirt and tie or jewelry instead of buying an entirely new wardrobe. And, if you’re interviewing over Zoom, consider investing in a ring light. These can help with your appearance overall.
Next, evaluate your technology. If you’re outdated technology, it may be time to upgrade. Consider signing up for and participating in social media sites such as Facebook and LinkedIn. If you’re using an old email address (such as AOL or Comcast), it’s time to sign-up for a free Gmail account. If you’re not sure whether or not your email is outdated, think of how long you’ve had it and where it came from. If you’ve had it more than ten years, and it ends in your Internet service provider’s name, you could be at risk.
Last, spruce up your resume. Remove positions from the beginning of your career that are no longer relevant to what you do today. Do not include your high school, and keep any college related activities to a bare minimum. It’s no longer relevant that you were the president of the college chess team. You can even consider removing your college graduation year from your resume. It’s much harder to guess your age if you don’t provide the year you entered school.
The bad news is that with the pandemic, our normal upkeep has become a bit harder. The good news is that if you’re interviewing from home, you still have some control. Start with these simple tips, and you’ll quickly find that you shave years off your appearance and your resume. Although you can’t eliminate age discrimination altogether, you certainly can reduce the likelihood that it significantly impacts your search.
How relieved are you that spring is here? After months of winter paired up with snow storms, and a long global pandemic, seeing flowers and clear skies brings much hope for the future. It’s finally warm enough to spend time outside. With the vaccine rollout, we are beginning to look toward the future. And, the job market seems to agree.
In March, the US unemployment rate dropped to six percent. There were 916,000 new jobs created. This is the fastest we have seen jobs added since last summer. Job growth was across the board, with a larger increase in leisure, hospitality, public and private education, and construction. This is good news.
Many people have been putting all of their energy into holding onto their current jobs through the pandemic. And, it makes sense. It has been hard to know which way things would go or how long it would take to get back to normal life. It has been unclear what work will even look like in the future. Will we continue to be remote? Will we go back to the office full time? Or, will it be some combination of the two?
If you’re like many people, you haven’t had the energy to job search. Just getting through each day has been a larger task than we’d like to admit. We’re worried about an array of new problems. Kids are doing school from home. We’re working from home. We’re either completely alone or with our entire family. And, medical risks seem to be around every corner – whether from the pandemic to mental health. It takes more effort than usual to keep moving ahead in a positive direction.
But, spring brings a new energy and an opportunity to take a deep breath. Companies are actively seeking out new candidates for interviews (even when they haven’t applied to jobs). Companies are adding new jobs and for some jobs, it appears there may be fewer people looking than jobs available. Companies are working around the pandemic, interviewing candidates via Zoom and Skype. They are moving ahead with a look to our more normal future.
What does this all mean for you? If you’ve been wondering when to look, this may be the time to get started. If you do, you’ll increase the chances that you beat other candidates who haven’t yet started to think about looking.
Search for the latest job postings. When you apply, there are a few things to keep in mind. First, companies don’t require you to meet every criteria in a job description. They’re looking for the best candidate, not the perfect candidate. Second, if you have a desk job, consider looking outside your local area. Even if a job isn’t listed as remote, the company may be open to remote work.
If you’ve been waiting for the right time to consider something new, the spring may give you just what you need.
Recently, an old question resurfaced. Should high school seniors go straight to college? Or, should they enter the workforce first? This can feel like a difficult question as young people face such big decisions.
Those who argue that seniors should work for a few years believe eighteen year olds are too young to make such life altering decisions. They will take college for granted. They will select the wrong major. And, they will incur high student debt before they know what they really want to do.
While I respect this perspective, I don’t agree with it. I believe high school students, if they can, should go straight to college following high school.
One of the biggest things working against us when we are young is a lack of information. At this age, part of this lack of information is due to a small circle. In other words, you get most of your information about careers from your parents.
Your parents may have very specific careers. They could have done those same jobs for their entire adult lives. And, their knowledge about other careers is limited. Those same parents are the ones who typically advise their children on career choices, such as which major to select. The problem is, parents also don’t have enough information to give a solid recommendation.
Sending these students out into the workforce (or on a backpacking trip) is not the answer. At this age, you’re qualified to do very few jobs. It can be hard to even secure an unpaid internship. A high school graduate may end up working in fast food, as a nanny, or in some other entry level job. These jobs won’t give more information about which major to select.
When a high school student goes straight to college, two things happen. First, they don’t get taken off their normal path. They don’t end up never going back to school. They don’t end up in some unfortunate life situation that derails them.
Second, they are exposed to many other students. Those students come from different families, with different parents, and different information about careers. They also have the opportunity to be exposed to professors from various backgrounds and other career advisors. And, they will likely have the option to complete an internship or two that will give them real life career experience. All of these things expand the amount of information they have access to. It gives them a better chance of making the right decision about their ultimate career.
This brings us to the worry about picking the right college major. It is very common to graduate with a degree in one thing, and end up doing something different in your career. A college major is often less important than we assume. Ask your friends what they studied, and you may be surprised.
But, what is the most important is finishing college. There is no substitute.
Sometimes, I think back on early career lessons. It’s amazing how someone says something when you’re young that doesn’t make sense until you’re older. My very first job was working for General Motors. I was nineteen, working as an engineer while I was a student. My boss pulled me aside. He said words that I’ll never forget, but that didn’t fully make sense at the time.
He said that in the corporate world, there is often a sort of personality trait that’s preferred. It’s a more aggressive, loud tone. He pointed out that my working style was different. It was more subtle. I persuaded people with persistence and patience. He said that one day, someone at work would try to encourage me to change away from my nature style. But, I should resist. My natural style works well, and there is space for me. Don’t change it.
As I’ve grown through my career, I’ve witnessed the sentiment he was referencing. I’ve heard people say things about how introverts aren’t welcome at specific companies. Extroverts are where it’s at. I’ve seen bosses try to imprint their aggressive style on their employees.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for self-development. But, when you’re learning to be your best self, you should still come out yourself in the end. You should not morph into another person with another style. And, there’s no one style or personality type that’s the right one.
So often, when we struggle, we beat ourselves up. We focus on our weaknesses rather than our strengths. Very often, this energy can be better used by trying to get better at our natural strengths, rather than to fix all of our weaknesses. But, that misses the point a bit, doesn’t it? Being your true self is not a weakness. Being your true self is what you have to bring to the table.
If your company is trying to change you, take a little time to digest the criticism. Does the feedback represent a real and actionable issue that you can correct? For example, perhaps you are often late to meetings. This is a real issue that should be corrected.
On the other hand, is the feedback more about your personality or style just being different than the mainstream culture? If that’s the case, start to think about your results. Are you getting your work done? Are you meeting your goals? If not, perhaps it’s time to come up with new ideas. But, if you are meeting your goals, the feedback may be more about your fit within the corporate culture.
In the last year, we have talked a lot about diversity and inclusion. Diversity is about having a seat at the table. Inclusion is about being able to bring your whole self to work. It’s about being accepted, despite differences you may have. At the end of the day, you need to be true to you.