LOOK FOR OPPORTUNITIES BOTH WITHIN YOUR COMPANY AND BEYOND
If you’ve been in your job for at least a year, a promotion isn’t the only path toward career advancement. Applying for and landing an internal job of higher rank and responsibility is another way of getting ahead. Most companies will pick qualified internal candidates over qualified external ones. Beware, however, of applying for an internal position if you haven’t spent at least twelve months in your present job. While companies are partial to internal candidates, they don’t want someone who will leapfrog from one position to another.
Take a gander at the new openings at your company frequently. Better yet, look for a suitable internal job before it’s publicized. Sometimes, you’ll get a heads-up through word of mouth or office gossip. From there, it’s a matter of speaking to the HR person responsible for filling that position.
While applying for an internal position is a perfectly legitimate means of career advancement, don’t hide your intentions from your boss. He’ll probably find out down the road, through a human resources person or another employee, so you might as well be up-front from the get-go. Also, while it’s acceptable to apply for one or two positions, don’t apply for every opening under the sun. For one thing, human resources won’t take you seriously. And for another, your lack of specificity will signify that you don’t have direction. It’s much better to wait until the right opening comes.
While looking for opportunities internally is important, don’t ignore the opportunities that exist outside of your company. If you successfully used a recruiter in the past, let him know if and when you are about to begin another job search. It’s also a good idea to keep your resume available on at least one employment site in case another company wants to contact you about an open position. Just don’t make your resume too available. If you’ve plastered it all over Monster, HotJobs, and various other job sites, there’s a chance your present employer will notice. Getting caught in the act of looking for an outside job is akin to unofficially declaring your decision to leave the company-something you might not be prepared to do.
NEVER STOP NETWORKING
Just because you are happily employed doesn’t mean you should halt your networking efforts. In fact, the best time to network is probably when you are comfortably situated in a job. That way, you won’t be saddled with the weight of a job search or unemployment. Also, you’ll be able to talk freely with your contacts without having to ask them for favors. As mentioned in chapter 3, it’s important to communicate with your contacts regularly, not just when you need their advice or assistance.
Keep track of your contacts and how often you communicate with them. It’s easy to let months, and even years, pass in between phone calls and e-mails. And the more time that elapses, the harder it is to reestablish contact. Use a calendar, planner, or personal digital assistant to help you organize your correspondence. And don’t forget your Rolodex or address book. Keep it updated with the correct phone numbers and e-mail and mailing addresses of each of your contacts.
If you have a long contact list but little time, try to prioritize. Be sure to make time to see in person those contacts who are most important to you. For acquaintances or casual contacts, the occasional e-mail or phone call is an acceptable alternative to a face-to-face meal or coffee break.
While keeping up-to-date with old contacts is crucial to networking, so too is meeting new people. Your new job will mean lots of fresh faces, so don’t be shy about introducing yourself. Stop and chat with your new coworkers at company-sponsored parties. Go for drinks or dinner with your department. If your company sponsors an employee sports team or weekend activity that doesn’t interfere with more important obligations, sign up.
If your company doesn’t offer many opportunities for socializing, invent your own. Ask a few of your coworkers to your house for a dinner party. If time permits, organize a trip to the movies, bowling alley, local watering hole, or a concert. If you want to organize a larger event or to start a club or a sports team, speak to human resources before you forge ahead. You may need the department’s consent and to follow a certain protocol. Nevertheless, human resources personnel are thrilled when employees think of new and innovative ways to bolster company morale. Most will be happy to oblige.
Finally, remember that networking will benefit you throughout your career. According to a recent poll conducted by the Society of Human Resources Management and the Wall Street Journal’s Career Journal, the percentage of jobseekers who rate networking as an effective job search tactic was 78 percent. Referrals from employees also ranked high at 65 percent. Obviously, when it comes to finding jobs and advancing in your career, the more people you know, the better off you’ll be.
STAY ON GOOD TERMS WITH YOUR BOSS
Your boss is the person who will recommend you for a promotion, if the opportunity arises. For this reason and for many others, staying on good terms with her is imperative. Put time and effort into the relationship. Try to think from your boss’s perspective. What drives her? How does she do her job? And more importantly, what can you do to make her job easier? If there’s an important project in the works, for example, don’t hesitate to put in extra hours. Do the bureaucratic tasks that you know your boss detests. Come in early and stay late to make sure you’re always available should your boss need you. If you can lighten her workload in a helpful rather than invasive way, you will make yourself more valuable. In fact, if you can become indispensable to your boss, she will bring you up with her if she is promoted.
But what can you do if, despite your best efforts, your relationship with your boss isn’t working out? One account manager describes his difficult experiences with his former manager. He says, “My boss and I were actually competing for the attentions of his supervisor. My boss’s boss had taken a liking to me and had even given me some of the important duties that would normally have been my boss’s domain. There was some rivalry there, even though I didn’t want there to be. I spoke with my boss about improving our relationship. I thought we could meet once a week for a lunch meeting, just the two of us, to sort of mend our working relationship. But he was opposed to all my suggestions-perhaps he felt threatened-and I realized I would probably need to move on.” As this example indicates, not every relationship can be saved. If you’ve been consistently passed over for promotions, if you’ve been in the same job for a few years despite prospects of upward mobility, if relations between you and your boss are consistently tense or uncomfortable, it may be time to explore other horizons.
If you like your company, one option would be a lateral move. If you take a job at the same level, but with a boss who likes you on a personal level, your chances of promotion will be much greater. Of course, you can also look for employment outside the company.
SPEAK TO THOSE WHO HAVE SUCCEEDED
In your company, or perhaps in your industry in general, you have no doubt encountered people whose work ethic or management style you respect and admire. How did they get to where they are today? What paths did they take? And how do they stay at the top of their game? No matter what level you’re at in your company, speak to those people whose abilities, skills, or drive you can learn from. You can do so informally. Sit with them in the company cafeteria. Introduce yourself after a company-wide meeting. Send e-mails asking if you can stop by their offices. Or you can take a more formal approach and ask for brief informational sessions. Either way, by listening to and learning from others, you can cultivate your own professional growth.
By the same token, you may be the person whom others are seeking out. If there are people at your company whom you can encourage and assist, reach out to them. The more friendships you forge, the more benefits-personal and professional-you will reap.
Above and beyond your job description, what else can you be doing to make the most of your position? Complete the tasks expected of you, then strive to do more. An administrative assistant at a nonprofit organization was eager to showcase his technical skills, which he seldom used on the job. When the nonprofit organization decided to replace its outmoded computers, he volunteered to head up a task force to refurbish the old computers and donate them to a local public high school. “Everyone was impressed by my initiative and my sense of giving. I volunteered my time after work because I believed in the cause. But a perk was that my coworkers and superiors noticed that I was really good with technology.”
There are many ways to make your mark at work. Volunteer to do something small, like record the minutes of a company meeting. Better yet, tackle a larger problem. Organize a team dedicated to finding a solution for a persistent company problem, or volunteer to complete an unpopular, but high-profile assignment. Consistently go the extra mile, as long as doing so doesn’t interfere with your regular workload. Your leadership abilities won’t be lost on those around you.
You’ve found a great job, and you have every right to celebrate. Go out on the town. Eat a good meal with your friends. Make a toast to your own future. Just don’t forget that while you’ve outwitted the job market in the short term, you’ll have to keep your eye on the long term market too. That’s right, outwitting the job market is actually a career-long pursuit. As long as you’re in the workplace, you’ll have to plot and strategize ways of staying ahead. Fortunately, this isn’t as hard as it sounds. The tips below are a good starting point for taking advantage of the opportunities your new job will offer-and creating a few opportunities of your own.
UNDERGO REGULAR CAREER SELF-APPRAISALS
You go to the doctor once a year for a complete physical examination; why not undergo an annual career examination too? The self-appraisal is a way to take stock of your continuing career-related achievements and goals. At least once a year, write down a list of the skills and experiences you hope to be gleaning from your job and where you want to be in the coming year. By comparing this list to what is actually happening, you will be able to determine the rate of your professional growth. If your job is helping you to achieve most of your desired career goals, then you know you are making good progress. If, however, there are sizable discrepancies between your “wish list” and your “reality list” over a reasonably long period of time, you may want to consider renewing your job search efforts.
One management consultant says she takes off a personal day every six months specifically for the purpose of self-appraisal. “I usually spend the day outdoors, in a park or hiking. I take my list with me. Away from work and the usual interruptions at home, I’m able to be more objective. I can be honest with myself about where my job is going, where I want to be, and whether those two directions dovetail.”
Thinking long-term doesn’t hurt, either. Where do you want to be in your career in five, ten, or twenty years? What can you do now to ready yourself for these goals? Considering the distant as well as immediate future can help you to make important decisions regarding your career. Explains a thirty-one-year-old professional who works for a prominent accounting company: “I have a rough idea of where I want to be, using age as a scale. I want to be in a management role by the age of thirty-five, for example. If I’m not there in a few years, I have to assess some things. Why am I not getting promoted? Am I not performing up to the [necessary] level? Or is the company overlooking me because of something beyond my control? [If this is the case,] I’ll have to find another company to stay on track.” For this employee, as well as for many others, short- and long-term career appraisals are a regular part of work life.
PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
Many employers, especially large corporations, consider job performance reviews a standard part of the cycle. Once every six months, or once a year, your boss and sometimes your peers and subordinates too, will review your on-the-job performance based on competencies such as leadership, teamwork, and problem-solving abilities. You will be graded, in a sense, the same way you were graded in school.
It’s natural to balk at the thought of performance reviews. Yet if you choose to ignore them, you will also be ignoring their impact on your career prospects. Indeed, performance reviews are often weighted heavily when promotion time and raise discussions come around. If you’re serious about moving ahead in your field, don’t be passive about performance reviews. Tackle them head-on. Be gracious when your strengths are pointed out, but pay more attention to the areas that need improvement. If your supervisor says that your presentation skills are lackluster, for example, make an effort to improve them. Take a public speaking seminar; maybe your company will be willing to subsidize it. There are plenty of ways to improve perceived weaknesses in your employment performance: Read books. Take classes. Enroll in online courses. Seek the advice of those who are adept in the areas that you are trying to shape up and sharpen. In the process, be sure that your supervisor is aware of your attempts at self-improvement. Don’t assume that she is in the know and will automatically take into consideration your efforts at your next performance review.
And what about those long months between reviews? Don’t wait for your employer to initiate discussions about your job performance. Approach your boss and ask, ‘Am I working up to your expectations? Do you have any suggestions for how I can become a better employee?” Being proactive about your own improvement is a great way to get noticed for the right reasons.
And speaking of getting noticed-the next time you’re praised in an e-mail, letter, or memo, be sure to keep a copy. Keep a folder for the express purpose of collecting items that illustrate your value to the company and your continuing improvement. Keep copies of your performance reviews, too. The next time you begin a job search, this folder will help to convince future employers that you’re worth hiring.
I’m sure we’ve all seen the ads: “Earn $1000′s weekly stuffing envelopes from home!” Have you ever been tempted to send in your money for that one? I have. Luckily I didn’t do it, but I know many people have. It sounds so great, doesn’t it? Sit at home watching television while stuffing hundreds of envelopes, and get a nice check every week. If only such a job existed! Don’t fool yourself, it doesn’t. Why? Companies can easily purchase a machine that will not only stuff the envelopes for them, it will also fold, collate and apply postage in many cases. These machines usually cost a few thousand dollars. Why on earth would they pay you thousands of dollars a month to stuff their envelopes, when they could purchase a machine for a one time charge that would continue to stuff their envelopes for years to come? It makes no sense.
Scammers want you to believe. They know you’re desperate to work at home. They know that Moms would do almost anything to be able to stay home with their children and earn a decent income at the same time. They know that college students need extra money, and retirees are living on a fixed income. And they want your money. They know you’re willing to dish out ten or twenty bucks if it will allow you to earn some good extra cash.
Scammers are very practiced in saying exactly the right words to get you to believe they are real. They’ve been doing it for years, and probably won’t stop any time soon. Too many people fall for their lies, and the scammers are earning a very nice income themselves – by suckering you out of your hard-earned money!
However, there is something you should think about for a moment. Scammers are not the only ones doing the fooling much of the time. We also fool ourselves. We see an ad like the one above, and we begin to dream about how great that would be, to sit home and stuff envelopes all day. We visualize ourselves going to the bank with a hefty check, being able to pay all of our bills on time, and have money left over. We see our children helping us to stuff envelopes so the family can earn even more money. We see ourselves driving a new car, buying a nice home, all from our envelope-stuffing proceeds.
At the same time, a little voice deep inside us starts to speak up, “Wait a minute, something about this seems to good to be true …” — But we squelch down that little voice. We don’t want to hear that. We tell the voice, “You’re ruining my fantasy, shut up. It has to be true; I need this so badly. It would be the answer to my prayers.” So we send our money, get ripped off and then kick ourselves for being so stupid. The scammer merely planted the idea in our heads, we picked it up and ran with it.
Don’t let them do that to you, and don’t do that to yourself! Be realistic about your search for work at home. Understand that working at home means working at home. You can’t expect to get a mindless job and earn great money from it. Most often, you will earn less working at home than you do at a regular job. (Unless you start your own business.)
As a side note, many home business opportunities are guilty of the same tactics when trying to recruit new representatives. They tell you that you will earn great money while having fun. That may be true, but they conveniently forget to mention that you will actually have to WORK. You will have to be consistent in your efforts, and work on improving your skills, both professional and personal. You will need to sell something, either a product or a service. Which means you will need to talk to people, either online, over the phone, or in person. You don’t just sign up and start cashing big paychecks. Keep that in mind when exploring business opportunities.
Ultimately, we are responsible for our own actions. Yes, the scammers are using dirty tricks. But we have the option whether to believe them or not. Fortunately, we can be smarter than they are. We all have this neat little built-in warning system called intuition. Use it. If something seems too good to be true, or you have any doubts at all, listen to that.
Rather than being desperate to work at home, be determined to create a REAL opportunity. Use common sense and learn as much as you can about scams and the genuine opportunities available. There are so many great companies out there that really do want to hire good people to work at home. And as time goes on, more and more great companies will be joining the ranks. This is very good news for us because the more legitimate companies there are, the less opportunity scammers will have. They will slowly but surely be pushed out. What a grand day that will be!
The job search process involves a lot of planning and attention to detail, so it’s no wonder that many people quickly feel overwhelmed and even a bit out of control. The best way to avoid this is to organize your job search so that you have a clear strategy outlined and a structured schedule to keep you moving forward.
Outline your strategy
Start out by creating an outline for your job search strategy. List the tactics you chose and intend to use, and the amount of time you’re willing to devote to each. A typical list might include the following:
· Networking with contacts
· Searching online job sites
· Searching newspaper ads
Some employment experts say that less than 20% of all jobs are found through the newspaper or online, with the other 80% found through networking. Knowing this, decide how much time you are going to devote to your job search, then allocate that time accordingly.
Define the steps
Next, go through each tactic and create a breakdown list of all the steps involved. Here’s an example of what this might look like for the “Networking with contacts” tactic:
· Call the contact
· Ask to meet for 30 minutes to get their feedback and suggestions on your resume as well as your job search strategy
· Confirm the date, time and location of the appointment
· Meet with contact, taking notes on the conversation and collecting one or two referrals to other contacts you might meet with
· Follow up meeting with a thank you note
· Check back with contact after one to two months if you are still searching for a job
Once you have the steps listed, you will have created a checklist for yourself to help make sure you complete each step along the way.
Create a schedule
Now create a schedule of daily activities so that you are doing something with your search each day. A basic schedule might look like this:
- Call two contacts to set up networking appointments
- Write questions to ask during each appointment
- Prepare resume packet for each appointment made
- Prepare and send resumes for job found online or in the newspaper
- Attend networking appointment (if previously scheduled)
- Write thank you note following appointment
- Check one or two online job sites
- Prepare for new week
- Check online job listings
Track each activity
For each tactic, track all of your activity. You can use computer software or a plain notebook with blank pages. The idea is to keep notes on each day’s actions, checking them against your master checklist for the tactic.
Let’s use an example: you’d like to make a networking appointment with Suzy Smith. Begin with a blank page that has her name at the top, along with any relevant contact information. Each time you do one of the steps defined as part of networking (make the phone call, prepare a resume packet, go to the appointment, etc.), mark it down on Suzy’s page. Note the date, time, action taken, and any notes you may have.
Tracking your activity creates two benefits. First, when you have multiple activities happening at the same time it is very easy to get confused or lose track of steps that still need to be taken. Using your tracking log, it’s easy to see at a glance where you’re at with each activity and what step is coming up next. The second benefit is that it keeps you focused, and active in your job search. It’s easy to procrastinate and postpone looking for a job, but if you have to note daily activities in a tracking log you will feel more motivated to get moving and take action.
Finally, keep a separate list of “action items” that need attention right away. If, for example, a contact tells you about an open position at a colleague’s company and suggests you call about it, this goes on your action item list to be handled within 24 to 48 hours. This list is a great way to deal with emergent issues and opportunities, while still staying organized and keeping up with your regular schedule.