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Wow. We’ve made it through another whole year and it seems like they’re flying by faster and faster. As I take a moment to reflect on my personal and professional highlights of 2014, I’m reminded of how much can change in a year. It’s a nice reminder of what can be accomplished, but also that there is still so much more to do.
From a personal standpoint, I moved from Charleston, SC, to Boston, MA. After over a decade of dreaming about travel, I finally took my first European trip to Paris and Rome. I took the leap and became a puppy parent. And I made plans to finally tie the knot with my long-term fiancé in 2015.
From a professional perspective, I continued to build my strategic skills for the talent acquisition space, specifically in recruitment planning and employment branding. I finally had an opportunity to attend a human capital conference, which I absolutely loved. I was even able to meet professional contacts I connected with via social media over the years. Currently, I’m in the process of switching my employer/career, but that will come in due time.
As for blogging, here are the most viewed blogs posted in 2014:
- LinkedIn Mistakes Job Seekers Make
- Recap: HCI’s 2014 Strategic Talent Acquisition Conference
- Recruiter Spam and Other Recruitment Fails
- Why Sourcers are Crucial for Talent Acquisition
- Flexibility in Leadership
Overall, I was both surprised and happy to see that my top post of all time was one of the first ones I wrote on this blog back in 2012: Basic requirements: A candidate’s search for a qualified employer. Since writing this post, my professional career has changed so much. I’ve learned more than I could imagine, gained so many new skills and really saw my potential. I was challenged often and always found a way to rise to the occasion, no matter how impossible it may have seemed.
As I restart my job search in 2015 and finally have a moment to reflect, I reviewed this specific blog post from 2012 and realized that even years later, the things I want from an employer still ring true today. I’ve had a great opportunity to work for a company that hit most of these points for the last 2+ years, letting me know that these companies really do exist. I’m hopeful and looking forward to seeing what 2015 has in store for me.
Happy New Year!
While in college and early in my career, it was beat into my head that startups were not a viable choice as an employer. My peers and I were taught that startups were unstable and hard work. We were told that they couldn’t offer the desirable things that big corporations could, such as career growth, benefits and a retirement fund. But as years went by and people within my social circles matured, I’m now suddenly surrounded by individuals who have/are creating startups, work for one or have a desire to work for one. And by learning from them and comparing corporate experience against startups, I’m starting to wonder if we were all taught wrong.
Yes, startups are hard work. As some have told me, there are a lot of challenges when it comes to working at a startup. There are times where one day things are going great and then the next day you could be out of a job. Long days and late nights are common. Also, let’s not forget the anxiety of the daily uncertainty that comes with working at a startup. However, despite all of it, these individuals still prefer that environment over a corporate one… and for good reason.
Startups can be a great experience for recent grads and young professionals who are still developing themselves. Even if you have 5+ years of experience working in an established company, an experience with a startup might not be a bad thing to consider. In fact, the experiences one would face at a startup might be the very things that help you progress in your career faster than in a traditional setting. Here’s why:
- You learn to be resourceful and independent: Unlike in established organizations, things in a startup aren’t neatly mapped out for you with standard operating procedures and extensive training. Additionally, you may not have experienced professionals to turn to if you have a problem or need help. Even though this might seem like a negative, it can actually be considered a positive because you’d have to learn how to be resourceful through research and self-education. Being independently resourceful, working closely with others and experiencing trial and error can boost your critical-thinking skills more than learning through traditional training. Critical-thinking and problem-solving skills are among the most desired skills by employers, even more so than actual job experience sometimes.
- You’re exposed to new job functions: Because a startup is typically in a development, maintained or growth state, organizational structure might not be set in stone yet. Also, many job functions may not have been established yet due to lack of capital resources to put towards those full-time salaries. It’s not uncommon for people in a startup to wear multiple hats in order to keep the company afloat and progressive. Because of the blending of roles and the fact that multiple departments will work together, you could be exposed to new skills and knowledge. Diverse skills can help you become better-rounded and understand business on a deeper level. Also notable, it might boost your engagement because you aren’t strapped down to a monotonous job function. Consistently being challenged is very important when developing yourself professionally.
- You learn a sense of accountability and loyalty: Since startups are generally small or mid-sized, there tends to be a level of transparency in the organization. Not just about the company details but also how your contributions make an immediate impact. Some of the laxed atmospheres of startups also allow people to voice opinions and suggestions and work to make them happen. Having a voice and seeing how your work directly impacts the business can create a sense of accountability and loyalty. Suddenly, you know exactly how you’re making a difference and that can be something to be proud of. You can see how you’re valued. In larger organizations, it might be a bit harder to get that feedback and see how you are helping the company. Also, some might feel like they can be easily replaced because the lack of transparency.
- You have more control of measuring your results: Going off of accountability and seeing your personal impact, this can also help you measure your results better. Because you’re deeply involved in processes from start to finish, you can have better insight into measurable results. This can not only help you improve processes but also gives you a better look as to how you are progressing in your role. Having control over this and truly understand how it’s being measured may offer better feedback than a traditional performance review.
- You can keep your integrity: For me, this one is a big one. We’ve all seen it in the news; major scandals in large corporations; employees being mistreated; leaders stealing from pensions; unethical business dealings… just to name a few. Competition can get the better of companies and suddenly they’re overpromising to secure business and end up under-delivering. Boosting bottom lines can mean compromising the moral fiber of the company and then these leaders expect their workers to support those skewed values. It’s a pretty terrible feeling to compromise your own integrity just because the company culture has shifted into something lacking basic values. With startups (at least good startups that haven’t been tainted), people still believe in the greater good. They’re working towards something that matters. Yes, making money and staying afloat matter but egos, pressure and cockiness seems to be less present.
Of course, the aforementioned isn’t true for every startup or every traditional organization. The key is to be sure to do your research. There are plenty of types of startups out there, from small to mid-sized, shipping to funded and more. It’s important to know what your basic needs are to support your livelihood and understand what qualities you respect in an employer. Knowing these things can help you find the right startup culture for you and hopefully that can help you build the skills you need for a stronger professional path.
Looking for a job at a startup? Check out StartupHire.
Before I take my brief blogging hiatus during holiday madness, I felt that the last blog of 2013 should focus on reflection and resolutions. January brings us a new year and promises new starts, so it’s important to understand what we’ve accomplished this year in order to properly set ourselves up for a successful future. Of course this can mean a multitude of things to different people, but today I’m going to focus on my career in the human resources and talent acquisition world.
2013 has been quite the interesting year for me. I finally settled in with an employer that made me feel like I had control over my own learning and development. Once the year started, I felt like I was beginning to gain momentum in my sourcing/recruiting role. I felt secure enough with the company to get creative in my methods to the point where I was able to be successful in multiple markets and different industries. My searching methods, social media tactics and general sourcing knowledge had helped me hit the ground running every time I changed accounts and I was able to make an immediate impact each time.
My ability to do these things has allowed me to create opportunities for development of the delivery team. During my time on this team, I created a training on social media recruitment methods in which all sourcers and recruiters were able to learn the basics or learn new tricks. In addition to this, taught them the art of personal branding to gain credibility for their current career. This also gave our company opportunities to develop brand ambassadors and SMEs which promoted additional learning and content creation. Most importantly though, I was able to build up a market research spreadsheet for the tech/IT industry which has helped my co-workers ramp up faster in this market (which isn’t easy).
I eventually graduated from the delivery team and found myself on the marketing team around September. I wasn’t sure what to make of this job promotion, mainly because my background had focused solely on HR and recruitment. I was apprehensive about whether or not I could be successful in this and wondered if my education and experience in HR/recruitment would become stale. After four months of being in this role, I soon found that I actually learn MORE about the HR and recruitment industry than I did in previous roles. Also, I was able to surprise myself when I discovered the areas I was naturally good at and the things that seemed to interest me.
Which leads me up to my next point.
Although I’m still developing my role, I am beginning to realize the things that I enjoyed in HR can still be achieved in this marketing role. Of course, priorities change within the company and industry so I’m sure that some of these things might be propelled forward while others are put on hold. But a girl can dream right?
Employment branding is something that inspires me. As the months went on, I felt myself gravitating towards this topic more and more. I’ve even caught myself researching and silently critiquing a company’s employment brand. Lately, I’ve been given opportunities to investigate related things in my current job. I’ve had to research brands, find positive things, identify where brands are falling short and provide insight and suggestions. I love the fact that my research and input can potentially influence how a brand is able to attract candidates and retain current employees.
The other area I’m hoping to get more involved in is on a global scale. As my company expands into Western Europe and eventually Australia, I’m excited about the opportunity to get an inside look at how these companies function. I’ve always enjoyed conversations with HR professionals outside of the US and became intrigued about hiring practices, recruitment initiatives, HR laws and generally how talent acquisition and HR differ between each country. Even just learning about how resumes different from country to country was awesome. I’m looking forward to exploring these topics more.
After this brief break, I’ll be coming back refreshed and renewed with a plan of action to tackle these areas. If there’s one thing I’ve learned about my career, it’s all about how I position myself. It will be interesting to see how I can evolve this throughout 2014.
Photo Source — By the way, I hope I can see the Festival of Lights in person one day!
Alright, the economy really did a number on us as employees. Many of us have lost jobs or were in fear of losing it. We took pay cuts, benefit cuts, and worked extra hard to compensate for being under-staffed. Some of us had to take crummy jobs after crummy jobs just to make sure our mortgages were paid and there was food on the table. Some of us even wondered if we’d ever find a stable job again. I say- enough! I’ve been there before and I know it’s rough. But 2013 is a new year and with last month adding over 100,000 new jobs into the mix, we’re hoping things are looking up. With that being said, it’s time to switch gears and start getting career-minded rather than “job to get by”-minded.
Building yourself up to get ready for your career and achieving your career goals does not happen overnight. It is an ongoing process. So, what should you be focusing on to help you get where you need to be? Here are a few ideas:
- Personal Branding: resumes are becoming redundant and often highlight what you done rather than your career path intentions. It’s time to stand out of the candidate-crowd and get people to know you for what you WANT to be known for. Get involved in activities, groups, or conferences that can help you gain skills and network. Get exposure on social media. Start TALKING about it.
- Be about it: maybe your personal brand won’t land you the dream job right off the bat, and that’s to be expected. Your relevant skills might be a bit rusty or maybe you need to develop new ones to keep up with the way the industry had changed. Internships, projects, and volunteer work are never below you- remember that. Some people’s pride and ego get in the way from taking on these seemingly innocent projects/roles. But the truth of the matter is; these situations help you build the skills you need to be an attractive candidate.
- Learning is continuous: so be sure to add to your talking and doing by learning. Think of it as being extremely well-rounded. Your mind needs to be sharp and up to date. Be sure to find learning opportunities, whether it is to take classes, read business books/blogs, or simply join in a discussion relevant to the career/industry you’re targeting. This can keep you fresh and be ready to contribute useful ideas/insight when you have the opportunity to shine.
- Build your network: doing all of these steps will be pretty useless if no one knows who you are, where you’re located, or what you’re striving for. It will also be useless if you have no idea what feasible options for you are. Build your network of contacts, get to know them and let them get to know you. Simply building and maintaining these contacts can help them reach out to you if opportunity arises or they can even help guide you so you can ensure you’re taking the right steps towards your goal. Your network will be your support, your mentors, your key to opportunity, or just a good conversation.
Your career isn’t a fleeting thing. It is your future, and a long-term future at that. Take care and pride in these steps to help you reach your goal in the most ideal way possible. 2013 will be the year that you will focus in on your potential and strive to be the best version of yourself. Take action!
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In life, sometimes what you set out to do turns out to be different than you imagined it. Maybe once you get involved in your career or degree you realized that it doesn’t spark your passion the way you initially believed. Maybe you’re scared of making the change. Maybe you’re comfortable with what you’re doing and pursuing something new is too much of an effort. Whatever the reason may be, I hope people realize that if you feel in your heart and mind that you want a change, then you should consider it. Making a change towards something that would make you feel fulfilled and satisfied isn’t as hard as you may think.
As I was thinking about this subject, I decided to interview my good friend, Nader Owies. Nader took the plunge and made the change to follow the career path that he was honestly passionate about. Here’s what he has to say about getting courage to take those chances:
Ashley Perez (AP): Why did you decide to change your degree from Political Science to Film?
Nader Owies (NO): “I never actually changed my degree; my game plan while graduating from undergrad was still to go to law school. While in school, I minored in film to fill my elective requirements and I ended up with so many courses I just spoke with my advisor about getting a minor degree, as well. The real decision was after school, when I was applying to law schools. I always had the reservation about what I was getting myself into. The truth was- I hated politics, and law, but working in law or politics paid well and from my experience at school I came to learn that I was good at both, so why not right? That, and my parents chanting the standard,’ Be a doctor or lawyer’ song that all parents learn when they have kids, were pushing me towards it. I don’t remember the exact moment or anything, but my idea of what I wanted out of life kept showing me that I was heading in the wrong direction. Sure, I could be a successful lawyer or politician or whatever else and have enough money to be comfortable. But I didn’t want to sacrifice my happiness for that. I wanted to love what I was going to be doing almost every day for the rest of my life, whether it made me a lot of money or not.”
AP: What are some of the reservations you had about making this change and how did you overcome them?
NO: “My parents were a big factor: both of them being Egyptian, and anyone with foreign parents knows exactly what I’m talking about when I say convincing your parents that you want to go to film school rather than law school is like pushing a boulder up a hill. Beyond them, the only other reservation was the change in lifestyle. I knew what going to graduate school meant: I had to leave everything I know behind, pick up everything I owned and chase my dream. Very few people have the guts to do that, and only about 5% of those people actually succeed at it. However, I kept telling myself, there is always going to be a million reasons not to do something, yet there is always going to be one reason do to it- because you want to.”
AP: What are some challenges you faced during this transition and how did you overcome them?
NO: “Most of the challenges had to do more with the practical things in life rather than the educational journey I was going on. School came easy because it was what I loved; every day I was watching and talking about films. The challenges weren’t anything different than most people go through. Basically it was just becoming an adult and having to deal with things you never had to worry about before. My only advice for anyone going through that transition: don’t put things off for tomorrow, just do them right now.”
AP: What was the one piece of advice that led you to be inspired enough to take this chance?
NO: “I had a professor in college who told me something I’ll never forget. He said in a lecture one day, ‘You will spend the majority of your adult life at your job. If you are simply there to make money you will find that the stress will kill you before you ever make as much as you want and you’ll be miserable the whole time.’”
AP: What are some of the most memorable successes and failures you’ve had while pursuing this new degree and career?
NO: “The good thing about working in movies is that your successes and failures are very apparent. You can literally watch them on a big screen. There are a few projects I worked on here and there that while piecing them together in the edit room, I had that realization that I was stitching together a huge dud. And no matter what I did in the end it would still be a dud. But you live and you learn; take the lesson and move onto the next one.”
AP: What advice would you give college students or recent grads in regard to this?
NO: “Always work your ass off. I’m sure it is this way in plenty of other industries, as well, but in entertainment, your reputation is everything. People will hire you on reputation alone, so make sure you leave a good impression with everyone you work with, and do the best you can with what you’re given.”
AP: What are some realistic factors you wish you knew before doing this?
NO: “How expensive graduate school really is. I always knew the amount, it’s just until I did the math and realized that paying back that amount over ten years that I would actually be paying more than double the amount I initially borrowed. I know that no one would give out loans without interest rates attached, but in the name of education and bettering the human race, someone should make it illegal to charge that much for seeking knowledge.”
I’ve known Nader for several years and always held him in high regard. He has a great head on his shoulders and was the perfect person to trust to give advice about this subject. Yes, he’s had reservations, challenges, and failures. But the point is, he faced these situations head-on because he knew that the end result was going to be worth it. He would rather try to obtain the things that he was passionate about than take the easy and safe way through life. If you have a passion, try to pursue it because if not now, then when?