Early Careerists: Don’t Burn Yourself Out

Post written by: Vera Swain

Did I format my résumé correctly? Should I have included a cover letter? When I follow-up on the application who do I follow up with?! Such are the questions I and thousands of other job-seekers have asked ourselves during our job search, and for some of us, myself included, at times, we’re still not sure of the answers. Such are the trials of the dreaded job search. But these are trials we must all go through at one point, so how do we cope? How do we stay positive when it looks like no one wants us; why do we continue to apply when we believe no one’s reading the multitude of applications we’ve already put forth?

I’ve been applying for jobs since I was 15 years old. I guess you could say I was an über-early careerist. At that age, though, landing a job was a lot simpler. I went down to the local Taco Bell because it was within walking distance, I filled out an application, and I was hired on the spot. Then I went through hell for six months until I was 16 and could apply for a more lucrative position in the bakery of Atlanta Bread Company. Today, the job search could still be done this way. Taco Bell is still open and doing better than ever. But now that I’ve been out of college for a few years and am officially an adult, this isn’t the kind of job search I’m embarking on lately. It seems that once you walk across the stage, diploma in hand, you’re no longer allowed to fill out paper applications for jobs. The job you want involves an online application to which you must attach a résumé and a cover letter and maybe even references. No longer do you complete your application, walk up to the cash register and say, “Is your manager here?” And just like much of your adult life, this new job search is a lot more stressful than it was as a teen.

So, how do we make the process less stressful? How do we see the light when it seems like the end of the tunnel is barricaded by a brick wall, ten feet high? Follow these simple steps and you may be able to survive the job search with your sanity intact:

1. Slow down. I know your instincts might be telling you that you need to apply to as many jobs as possible because with more worms, you’re bound to catch at least one fish. I think, at the height of my job search madness, I once applied for at least 50 jobs in one day. This was when I moved to Las Vegas after graduating college and I was determined to find a job in hospitality. I don’t know about you, but filling out one application is stressful enough; imagine 50! Slow down. Take a break. Do two to three applications a day. You can’t devote the proper attention and time needed for an application if you’re doing this many at a time. Write cover letters. Customize your resume. Breathe.

2. Network, network, network. I’ve found that networking has helped me alleviate some of the strain of the job search because it makes me feel like I’ve got a team on my side. Through networking, I’ve been able to gain access to recruiters and hiring managers I never would’ve found if I didn’t know who I know. Talk to your friends; if they’ve got a job you admire or work for a company you’d like to work for, see if they can connect you to a recruiter at their workplace. Use LinkedIn. I’ve been introduced to several recruiters and hiring managers by a friend who is a very avid LinkedIn user. When your friends and previous coworkers can help you in your job search, it takes a large weight off your shoulders.

3. Read. Do your research on performing an effective job search. There are countless books on the market on how to go about finding a job. These books can help you find new methods when it seems like you’re not doing anything right. In addition to these books, read articles on the Internet. I’ve learned so much about constructing a cover letter, strengthening my resume, and contacting recruiters through articles I’ve read on the Web and books I’ve borrowed from the library.

4. Have a drink and RELAX. Sometimes the easiest way to de-stress is the most obvious. Take a break when your eyes start to blur. Ride your bike. Watch a movie. Go out with friends. Clearing your head will better prepare you to tackle your next round of applications and will give you a new lease on the process.

I know the job search can be stressful. I’m actively searching. But it doesn’t have to be maddening. Use your resources, relax, and breathe. You’ll find the job you’re looking for because you’re experienced and suited to it, not because you drove yourself crazy looking. And when you do, let me know; I’ll treat you to the drink I mentioned above.

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About the writer:

 Vera Swain is a young professional who is active in the job market. Currently, she is seeking a position in Marketing in the Los Angeles area as she is in the midst of relocating from one coast to the other. When not writing and job searching, Vera can be found with her nose in a book on her feet on the dance floor. Always seeking adventure, she is an avid traveler who loves to see and experience new things, especially food. To hear more from Vera, follow her on Twitter at @swverausc214 or check out her LinkedIn profile here.

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Internal Mobility is Good for Your Company

Last night I was involved in another weekly Twitter #tchat (yes, it is my new obsession). Once again, this chat had some great contributors and some interesting information to consider. The chat’s subject discussed how companies and recruiters should focus on internal mobility for filling job openings. It seemed that a lot of the “chatters” felt strongly about this topic and believed that there were many benefits of this promotion track. The common believe was that a solid internal mobility program can be very good for your company.

Here are some informative and useful take-aways I got out of this chat:

Internal mobility can fuel employee engagement. The common theory behind this is: if you invest in your employees they are more likely to invest in you. If you want your employees to be more engaged in their work, make them feel like their contributions have a purpose. Make them know you’re taking notice of them and their efforts. Take time to discuss career goals and offer suggestions on how they can reach them. These things can put a little more pep in their step.

It can reduce turn-over. A good portion of people have admitted to leaving their employer because they felt they had no place to go. Sometimes that may be the case, but a good amount of time there are plenty of lateral or upper positions employees can move into. The issue is: employers don’t educate them on these opportunities. Make your employees aware of this to avoid losing your talent. And if you’re feeling really crazy, allow employees to create and pitch new positions that could be useful to the company (Hello, accountability!).

It can cost less to hire from within than externally. Recruiting and hiring processes are time consuming and expensive. This can be even truer if the candidate that was selected didn’t work out within the first few months. Looking at internal employees might reduce these issues. After all, these employees already know your business expectations and have met them. By now, I’m sure you’ve determined that the employee is a fit for your company. Instead of wasting time looking for diamonds in the rough, consider the gems you already have in your workforce.

Training time can be reduced. Like I mentioned above, the current employees already know your business. They know your systems. They know your managers. They know your clients. They know your mission. Basically, they know everything other than the general duties for the new position. Training them on those duties can be a piece of cake because they already have a clear understanding of how certain procedures affect the company. Think about how quick it would be to train them on those few things rather than an external hire who could take months before they completely understand the business in order to do their job well.

It can increase morale. Nothing can kill an employee’s morale more than watching a position they worked hard for be filled by some random outsider. This situation could even cause some resentment towards the newbie and the company. It is reasonable to say that not all positions can be filled internally. However, to keep the morale up, make sure you offer feedback and mentoring to those not chosen. Even if they don’t get the position, taking time to help them professionally progress can keep their positive feelings about the company intact.

It can make employees feel like they have a goal. Most employees want a job that makes them feel like they’re doing meaningful. They want to be accountable and have a sense of responsibility. However, these feelings can dwindle down if they don’t clearly see how their efforts are contributing to their professional growth. Talk to them about what they want and set a path that helps them progress towards their goal. Productivity could increase once they see how their work is directly correlated with their progression. Moreover, make sure you set realistic timelines and expectations so they don’t get discouraged if things don’t happen right away.

I know that not all job openings can be filled internally. Companies need to throw some new blood into the mix to ensure the workforce does not get stale from recycled perspectives and ideas. External people can bring something fresh into the workplace. However, your internal employees may be able to do the same if you give them a chance to prove it.

If you find this topic interesting, be sure to join in Twitter’s #tchat on Wednesday nights at 7PM EST. Additionally, leave a comment regarding this topic either on here or on the chat.

Links:
Recruiting as an Inside Job- Internal Mobility
Internal Mobility- An Inside Look at Talent

What Gen Y Wants from an Employer

Today’s topic will be about Gen Y and the workplace. I felt that this subject was important to bring up mainly because Gen Y will dominate majority of the workforce by 2025. With that being said, employers need to focus in on the characteristics of Gen Y and develop a plan to attract and retain talent. I also particularly like this topic because I am a Gen Yer and majority of my peers are Gen Yers in the workforce. Needless to say, I am surrounded by discussions regarding this generation and what they want from an employer. Here are some facts, in no particular order:

Gen Y values company culture: I’m sure if you’ve read any of my previous blog postings you can see how much I stress the importance of company culture. I’ve been placed in all kinds of work environments over the last few years, so I’ve had the pleasure of seeing good, bad, or non-existent cultures. My work ethic was affected by these environments. If I loved a company and was proud to work there, it would be evident. My performance would definitely show it and I would not hesitate to broadcast everywhere that my employer was better than your employer (:-P).

I didn’t really realize the importance of company culture until I worked at CreateSpace (an Amazon.com company). They seemed to really know how to celebrate individualism, embrace diversity, and encourage people to be openly innovative. The managers I had were great in the sense that they knew that everyone was different and, therefore, had to be managed differently in order to get the best results. I distinctly remember my Team Lead asking me, “How do you like to receive feedback?” I think my mouth hung open as I processed the fact that my supervisor actually cared enough to find the best way to manage me effectively. The leaders there also celebrated people for a job well done and knew how to make the workers feel like their contributions mattered.

Also, as I mentioned yesterday, Benefitfocus seems to hone in on the fact that culture is valued by this generation. They were passionate enough about it that they actually published a book on the subject. I’ll be receiving that soon, so there look out for future posts regarding it!

Gen Y strives to grow professionally and wants feedback: This generation relies heavy on feedback and mentoring. It’s not because they’re needy and require praise all of the time, but simply because they want to know what they do well and what they can improve on. They want to work hard, grow, and move forward in the working world. They’ll value an employer that gives them suggestions and opportunities to do so. Some of the better employers recognize this and make an effort to give regular feedback, discuss career paths, and present opportunities for employees to gain experience. For example, Apple and Google have classes so employees can continually learn and increase their knowledge. It was nice to see an employer invest so much in their employees’ educations.

Also, feedback is important for reasons other than helping employees grow. I distinctly remember a friend telling me that her company is big on the “no news is good news” philosophy. I was actually appalled by that. How could a company only give negative feedback? Needless to say, the employees of that company were extremely uneasy because they never knew if they were doing things right. Anxiety caused productivity to waver, employees to be less invested/committed in the company, and turn-over. Those who left the company told me that they’d rather be with a company that didn’t keep them in the dark than stick with a company that may unexpectedly fire them for mysterious reasons.

Feedback can help an employee see a future with the company. If no one shows them that a future is there, they’ll move on to greener pastures.

Gen Y wants workplace options: We are a technically savvy bunch which means we hope our employer can find other workplace options for us than just the typical 9-to-5-sit-at-a-desk-workplace. Although having a routine is nice, it can sometimes kill creativity, innovation, and feel like a cage. Technology and portable devices make it easy for employees to be mobile and stay connected. We hope that employers realize this so it allows more freedom: flexible work schedules; work-from-home; flexible workspaces around the workplace; and results-only-work-environments are some options that come to mind.

Although some employers are reluctant to do this for fear that employees will take advantage of these alternative work options, I think they will be pleasantly surprised to find out that Gen Y wants more responsibility. They want to be accountable for their work/contributions to the company. Additionally, they want recognition for their work. So instead of making your company feel like “Big Brother is watching”, consider other ways to measure productivity besides a punch clock. Perhaps adopt a work option that focuses more on end results.

Gen Y wants an employer that has integrity and makes a social impact: We just want you to be like our favorite superheroes. You know; the ones that do things for the greater good. Nothing is more of a turn-off than seeing a company go all “Machiavellian” and only do things that help their personal gain. If your company does good for others, your employees will feel good about working for you. I mean, who wouldn’t be proud to work for a company that somehow makes the world a better place?

Your company will seem trustworthy, which is a big thing that attracts talent. For example, candidates decided to take job offers with Salesforce.com because the company was involved in donating to a foundation and encouraged employees to volunteer and participate in community service. Who would have thought that you can attract candidates because of your social impact strategy?

It’s time to start training your leadership to change some of their practices. There are companies out there that will help you re-structure and develop your leadership efforts to help cater to the changes in the workforce. I’ve actually had the pleasure of networking with Martina Mangelsdorf via LinkedIn over the last few months. Over a course of a few e-mails and Skype conversations, I was able to learn that her company did just that. I was delighted to see that there are people out there that really understood what Gen Y needs out of an employer. So, employers, it is in your best interest to get prepared because Gen Y is coming for you!

Links to read (I apologize that my hyperlinking function isn’t working!):

Martina Mangelsdorf LinkedIn: http://www.linkedin.com/pub/martina-mangelsdorf/1/611/740

Leadership training for Gen Y: http://www.gaia-insights.com/

What Gen Y Wants- Time: http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,1640395,00.html?goback=%2Egmp_4358820

Harnessing the Power of the Loyalty Generation: http://socialmediatoday.com/davidjohnson4/563490/gen-y-harnessing-power-loyalty-generation?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter&utm_campaign=Social+Media+Today+%28all+posts%29&goback=%2Egmp_4358820%2Egde_4358820_member_127717648

Benefitfocus: Winning with Culture book: http://www.benefitfocus.com/culture/

Google Classes: http://www.businessinsider.com/google-11-amazing-classes-that-google-employees-can-take-2012-3?op=1

Apple University: http://www.appleinsider.com/articles/11/10/06/apple_university_revealed_as_plan_to_teach_executives_to_think_like_steve_jobs.html

Companies mentioned:
http://www.createspace.com
http://www.amazon.com
http://www.apple.com
http://www.benefitfocus.com
http://www.google.com
http://www.salesforce.com