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.