Strategists in Human Capital!
Affinity International Consulting presents Futurepoint

Monday, March 31, 2014

Introduction to Game Theory

A great introduction to game theory from the world of economics
and a great site for education at the Khan Academy.
Nash - Game Theory

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Dealing with Criticism

Every once in a while during your career you will face some kind of performance review also called job appraisal. Most people dread these meetings as they might seem like someone sits you down in an office and tells you all the things you are doing wrong, inadequately or failing to do at all. But it doesn't have to be like this. There are things which you can do to assist in making the process go well e.g. reacting maturely to criticism.

In the following lines you will find a few tips on how to respond to criticism – during an appraisal or in other situations in your life.



The right reaction to criticism

Poorly conducted appraisals will often focus almost exclusively on the things that have gone less than perfectly. However any appraisal is going to spend some time on difficulties – it goes with the territory so to speak – and you must be ready to deal with this. Three intentions should be uppermost in your mind in this respect, over and above a general desire to put the best complexion on everything. These are:



1) Achieving accuracy

Here your intention is to ensure that the right facts are considered. Beware of the appraiser using vague statements like “You’re never on time with anything”. This is unlikely to be true. But what are you late with and what are the implications? It is easier to discuss specifics and questions may well be the route to identify them. Never argue with anything but the true facts, checking what is really meant is the first step to responding to what is said in the right way.



2) Being seen to be objective

If every criticism is seen simply to put you into automatic defensive mode, then discussion will be unlikely to be constructive. Using an acknowledgement to position what follows is always useful. It:

- indicates you feel there is a point to discuss (if you do not, then we are back to achieving accuracy – see above)

- shows that you are not going to argue unconstructively

- makes it clear that you intend to respond in a serious and considered fashion

- gives you a moment to think (which may be very useful!) and sets up the subsequent discussion so that you can handle it better.

Just a few words may be all that is necessary here. Starting with a “yes” gives it power – Yes, there was a problem with that – and sounds right even if your intention is to go on to minimize the problem.



3) Dealing with the points raised

Now the job is to deal with the matter. Mechanistically the options are few and therefore manageable. You may need to explain why a difficulty occurred. Here there are four routes to handling things:

1. Remove the difficulty:if possible, you can explain that what seemed like a difficulty or error was not in fact that. A delay, say, might not have been in an original plan, but caused little problem.

2. Reduce the difficulty:maybe you have to acknowledge that there was some difficulty, but explain that it was of little significance

3. Turn the difficulty into a plus:sometimes it is possible to argue that what might initially seem like a problem is in fact not. A delay might not have been in an original plan, but included for a positive reason – there might only have been a real problem without the delay.

4. Agree the difficulty:after all, there is no point in trying to argue that black is white. Most ordinary mortals have some problems during a whole year of activity. Your job is not to persuade the appraiser that there were no problems, but to persuade the appraiser that, on balance, your year was a good one.



TIP: Remember that the prime purpose of appraisal is to set the scene for successful work in the coming year, not argue about what cannot be changed. None of us can turn the clock back, but all of us can learn from experience. So the key thing to include when the discussion touches on difficulties, is the lessons that have been learned for the future.

The list of implications and actions here is considerable. Failure may have come about because of unforeseen circumstances (and new procedures are necessary in case such circumstances occur again). You may be starting to have to use skills not previously necessary in the job (and training may be needed to quickly add them to your portfolio). There may be lessons to learn, but ultimately the emphasis needs to be on what happens next, and this allows a return to the most constructive elements of the dialogue.

TIP: If there is one area that needs particular preparation it is in your response to criticism. You will surely know what is likely to be raised: be ready for such topics and have a constructive response ready.

Remember that the constructive approach commended as a response to criticism is something that can be usefully deployed in many ways, formally and informally.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Signs of Poor Leadership

People leave their boss not their jobs. Research in the UK and USA has shown that the number one reason a majority of people leave their jobs is the relationship they have with their line manager, who creates an environment which they don’t enjoy, where they don’t feel they are treated fairly and aren't able to give of their best.

There are a number of examples of poor leadership techniques which contribute to the breakdown in relationship between management and staff, here are 10 of the most common:



1)   Not listening while people are talking

How frustrating does it feel when you have the feeling that someone is not really paying attention to what you are saying? How do you think others feel when you are doing this to them? Poor Leaders don’t set aside time to actively listen to their people, instead they will have a conversation, meeting or update with individuals and will multi task by also checking their e-mails, taking phone calls and dealing with a variety of other interruptions at the same time. If you want to make people feel valued take the time to really listen to what they are saying!



2)   Micro managing

How do you feel when someone is watching your every move? Do you get the sense they are just waiting for you to make a mistake so they can jump in and take over? Do you think they trust you to do a good job? People will never give of their best if they have the feeling that they are not to be trusted or that they constantly have someone looking over their shoulder and checking up on them. If you expect the worst of people that is what they will usually deliver, as that is what you are looking for! Also if you spend all your time checking up on what others are doing, how do you find the time to do your own job?



3)   Focusing on the task and not the individuals

Have you ever worked for a manager who was only interested in getting the job done? Did you get the feeling that you were just a number? If a Leader has too much focus on achievement of a task they tend to disregard the individuals involved in helping achieve said task. Their behaviour is impersonal, they don’t tend to have any interest in how their people are feeling, and praise recognition and encouragement are in short supply. In this environment people don’t feel valued and it can quickly lead to disenchantment in the team.



4)   Not enforcing standards

How do you feel when you don’t know what is expected of you? How do you feel when you see people doing whatever they want without suffering any consequences for their poor behaviour? People need to have a clear understanding of their roles and responsibilities, and it is equally important that, having defined the standards that are expected, these are enforced. A poor Leader will fail to take the appropriate action when standards are not met and this then sends the message that the standards are not important or relevant. Once standards are allowed to slip, performance and results also dip. People respect a Leader when they display strength, integrity and a sense of fair play. Not enforcing standards implies these qualities are lacking in a Leader.



5)    Lack of effective communication of expectations

Do you have a clear picture of success for yourself? If you don’t, how do you know if you have done a good job? “If you don’t get shouted at,” is not the right answer! When people understand what is expected of them and how they can meet those expectations they tend to have a greater degree of confidence in their ability to meet those expectations – assuming those expectations are realistic in the first place! A strong effective Leader paints a clear picture of exactly what is expected of their people and helps create the environment to allow them the best chance of success.



6)    Ineffective feedback – positive and negative

When was the last time you received feedback on how you are doing? People find it difficult to give of their best when they are operating in a vacuum. If you don’t take the time to tell people how they are doing, how will they know if they are meeting expectations? If they receive regular timely feedback they will have a greater understanding of what they need to do in order to achieve their objectives, be it a continuance of current behaviour or a correction in their activity. If the feedback is presented in a constructive, objective and calm manner it can be a great development tool to help people grow and improve.



7)    Communicating on a need to know basis only

There is a saying that “knowledge is power” and sharing knowledge helps build people’s confidence and make them feel part of the team. Not sharing knowledge is a quick way to frustrate people by keeping them in the dark about issues that have some bearing on their role in the organisation. If plans and other areas of the business are treated as secrets not to be shared with other departments, how can staff gain an understanding of how they can play an effective part in the achievement of company goals? Effective communication of the company vision and objectives has an important role to play in improving employee engagement.



8)    Making decisions and then asking for feedback

If people are to take ownership of their departmental/team goals they need to feel that they have a part to play in the decision making process. Weak Leaders believe they need to be the one to have all the answers and all decisions need to be made at the top and then handed down to the shop floor. The final decision should rest at the top, but effective leaders can drive employee engagement by canvassing opinion from the relevant sections of the company, before the decisions are made. It is quite often the case that the people at the sharp end will have the experience and knowledge to best know how to handle certain situations, doesn’t it therefore make sense to obtain their feedback before deciding on a particular course of action?



9)    Passing the buck

I know one manager who announced to a new member of staff on their first day that any success they achieved in their role would be down to the manager, but they would get the blame for anything that went wrong! How do you think that member of staff viewed their manager?

The art of good leadership means taking responsibility when it is due and allowing others to take the credit when it is deserved. Poor Leaders look to point the finger of blame away from them at every opportunity, this only has short term benefits for the Leader, as their limitations are soon identified.



10) No sense of humour

If you don’t enjoy your job, why should the people that work for you? A sense of humour is a vital element in the make up of successful Leaders, it indicates you are working for someone who is in control, someone who is relaxed and someone who is confident in achieving success. It doesn’t prevent you from being professional as there is a time and a place to have a laugh, and a time and a place to fully focus on achieving objectives, but a little lightness goes a long long way.

Monday, March 24, 2014

The Engaged Employee

This is not an article about employees about to get married, but that old nugget
about getting employees integrated into the business mission. Here is a business
colleague Sean Mc Pheat's thoughts on the matter.

Many managers struggle to get their employees to be engaged with their
jobs. Comments range from “I just can’t motivate them” to
“They’re only here for the money” to “No-one wants to work these
days”.

Engagement for many is the Holy Grail, the pinnacle of team member
involvement. But how can we get people to actually want to bring their
creativity, their passion, their talent to work and really make a
difference?

According to the CIPD’s latest quarterly Employee Outlook survey, the
UK’s workforce is a “nation of employees who are simply ‘not
bothered’ about their work”, with 58% of respondents reporting only
‘neutral’ levels of engagement with their job.

Peter Cheese, chief executive at the CIPD, drew links between employee
disengagement and recent high profile cases of “unethical behaviours and
corrosive cultures overseen by senior leaders”, emphasising the
importance of establishing positive working cultures from the top down. He
went on to warn:

“We know that strong employee engagement drives higher productivity and
better business outcomes, so such a prominent display of ‘neutral
engagement’ in the workplace should act as a real wake up call for
employers.”

The survey also showed a clear link between levels of engagement at work
and more general well-being outside it. Engaged employees scored much
higher on questions relating to life satisfaction, happiness and how
worthwhile life is, also reporting much lower levels of anxiety than their
neutrally engaged or disengaged colleagues.

The impact of good leadership on employee satisfaction was also
interesting, with a clear correlation between high levels of trust in
senior managers and lower than average levels of anxiety. Employees who
agreed or strongly agreed that they felt properly consulted on important
decisions had much higher levels of well-being than those who felt
side-lined. Quite simply, as Ben Willmott, head of public policy at the
CIPD put it:

“How people are managed on a day to day basis is central to their
well-being beyond the workplace.”

So, as I have said before, managing people is not going to get the results
you require. Only by showing leadership of your people will they respond to
your ideas and concern for results.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A Great Cover Letter Is Possible!

10 Tips for a Better Cover Letter
May 7th, 2011 by Steve Pavlina

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Recently I’ve been reading through dozens of letters from people who are interested in working together, and I want to share some insights regarding what makes for an effective cover letter and what doesn’t.

If you consider these tips from the employer’s perspective, I think you’ll agree that most of them can be considered common sense. However, my experience thus far suggests they aren’t commonly applied. Because most people make these avoidable mistakes, I’ve been rejecting about 80% of applicants based on their cover letters alone.

Most of the time, the mistakes people make in their cover letters are actively disqualifying them. So I don’t even need to look at their resume or CV.

While these tips are based on my recent personal experiences, I believe they’re general enough to be of value to others.

1. Avoid spelling and grammar mistakes.
Nothing says loser like a cover letter filled with spelling and/or grammatical errors.

What do such mistakes convey to a potential employer? They suggest that you do sloppy work, that you don’t pay much attention to detail, that you don’t care enough to do a good job, that you’re uneducated, or that you’re not very bright.

That one minor typo that sneaks through even after proofreading probably isn’t a big deal. Some may see it as a negative strike, but employers understand that mistakes happen and that perfection isn’t a realistic standard. However, if you have several spelling mistakes in your letter, or if your grammar sounds like you haven’t passed the 3rd grade, that’s likely to hurt your chances.

What if you’re applying for a job that isn’t in your native language? I still think you should make the effort to provide a quality cover letter and resume without spelling or grammar mistakes.

I’m used to communicating with non-native English speakers because 50% of my readers live outside the USA, and I’ve been doing business internationally since the mid-1990s. On a personal level, I’m impressed with people who can communicate in multiple languages. That said, it still makes a poor impression when you send a cover letter and resume with more grammar and spelling mistakes than most native speakers. This suggests that you may have difficulty communicating with other team members.

I’m not saying that you need perfect English skills. I’m simply saying that you shouldn’t let yourself be disqualified so easily by sending a poorly written cover letter. Don’t let your use of language betray you.

Take the time to have a native speaker proofread your cover letter and resume and correct any mistakes. This doesn’t take much extra time, but it could mean the difference between getting a follow up call vs. being disqualified as a poor communicator.

Think of it this way: If an employer has to decide between you and another equally qualified applicant, and the other person has an error-free letter while yours contains many mistakes, who has the advantage?

Speaking personally, I’d be very unlikely to follow up with someone who sent me a cover letter that showed poor English skills, even if it was obviously sent by a non-native speaker. I’m going to favor people who show they can communicate well in the primary language of my company.

This is an easy mistake to avoid, so don’t be foolish or lazy here. If you simply provide an error-free cover letter and resume, that alone is probably enough to place you in the top 50% of applicants. Not doing so puts you in the bottom 50%; that’s the half that won’t get a callback.

Someone may think it’s ironic that I give such advice when my articles often contain typos. I do fix typos when people report them, but the nature of my work makes typos a lesser concern; I don’t compete with other bloggers to minimize typos. But perhaps I’d be interested in hiring people with a better eye for catching mistakes than I have. :)

2. Express long-term interest.
Businesses are built by people who stick around. From an employer’s perspective, there isn’t much value in working with someone who only wants to work for a few weeks or even a few months.

Hiring someone new is expensive. It takes time to filter applicants, interview them, and find suitable people. It takes more time to train and mentor them. Initially many employees produce negative value — they drain more value out of the company than they can provide.

High turnover is a problem for many companies. If you have a turnkey business that relies on unskilled workers who get paid minium wage, then high turnover may simply be par for the course. But for many small businesses or for businesses in creative fields, having stable, long-term workers is much better.

Suppose you’re an employer. One applicant says they’re looking for a summer job before they go back to school. Another indicates that they’re looking for long-term employment in your field. Who are you going to favor, all else being equal?

I received one letter from a man who wanted to work together for just 3 weeks, during a specific window of time he’s available. It doesn’t make sense to follow up with someone like that when there are other people looking for serious long-term work.

I’m not suggesting that you lie. If you’re only available for the summer, then be up front about that, and seek out seasonal positions. But if you see some possibilities for working together with an employer long-term, it’s wise to indicate that you may stick around if things work out. If you do the opposite by suggesting you probably won’t be around long, then it’s riskier for an employer to invest much in you.

If you position yourself as a high turnover employee, you’re also likely to depress your income. High turnover jobs tend to be close to minimum wage. If a job pays well, it’s probably not a high turnover job. So if you’d like to earn more money, position yourself as someone who will likely be around for years if you like the work.

No one expects you to commit up front to years of employment with a new company. You’ll have to feel each other out first to see if you’re a good match for each other. But at least suggest the possibility that if things go well, you may stick around. This makes you seem like a better investment. It can’t hurt your chances.

This of course assumes that you truly want to build a serious career, not just find a job. If all you want is a job, then read 10 Reasons You Should Never Get a Job and then see if that’s still what you want.

3. Apply locally.
If you’re applying for work far from where you live, you’d better explain why in your cover letter. And your explanation should sound plausible.

Otherwise the employer may wonder: Why is this person looking for work so far from home? Are they unable to find work locally? They must not be very good.

Wanting to move to a new city to expand your horizons is a good enough reason. Lots of people move to New York City or San Francisco because they want the experience of living in those places. But if you’ve been living in your current city for years, and if there doesn’t seem to be a good reason for a major relocation other than the fact that you need an income, that just makes you look desperate and unworthy.

When I get applications from people in other countries for positions that would require relocation and a special work visa, I cringe a bit. Hiring someone from out of the country is riskier and more complicated than hiring a local. It doesn’t make much sense to look so far away unless I’ve already exhausted local possibilities, first within my own city and then within my own country.

Las Vegas isn’t a city for everyone. I wouldn’t want to be responsible for having people relocate here just to see if we can work well together. Naturally I’m going to start with local applicants for work that would be done locally.

The only reason to go outside my city, state, or country is if I’m looking for people to work virtually (over the Internet), or if I need people with such talents that the local workforce cannot provide. All else being equal, I’ll hire someone local to me before I give serious consideration to working with people in other cities or countries. It doesn’t make sense to go beyond local if I can find good people locally.

4. Paint a clear picture of your intended position.
Some people send me employment-related letters that are so vague I honestly can’t tell what sort of work they’re interested in doing. These letters included phrases like, “I can do pretty much anything you need done.” Their resumes show a work history that has little or nothing to do with my field.

Since these people fail to specify what they want, they put the onus on me to use my imagination.

Unfortunately for them, I simply imagined myself dropping their letters into the recycle bin. That was fairly easy to visualize.

If you don’t know what you want, you should develop a clearer picture of that first before you go around applying for work. Don’t expect potential employers to figure it out for you.

It seems that some people mistakenly assume that raw enthusiasm and a willingness to work is enough to get them in the door. It isn’t.

Even if you’re looking for an internship, specify what type of internship you’re seeking. Are you a marketing student looking for a marketing internship? A programmer seeking a programming internship? Or an unfocused drifter looking for whatever? If you’re not clear, you’re positioning yourself as the latter. There aren’t as many quality internships for unfocused drifters.

If I get a vague letter from a local applicant who seems otherwise intelligent, and it’s easy to meet with them, I may do so if I’m not too busy. Perhaps we can have a nice chat, and maybe we’ll figure something out. But for the most part, I’m just being social when I do this. The person hasn’t given me sufficient cause to seriously consider working with them, at least not yet. If we share common interests, I may meet with them just to see what comes of it and because I have that kind of flexibility. But if I’m busy or if this sort of thing comes from a non-local applicant, there’s no reason to follow up.

Contrast these types of letters with someone who suggests something very specific in terms of working together. I received some great letters from web developers who want to upgrade my website. Their portfolios show a history of making websites for small businesses. It makes sense to follow up with these people. I don’t have to stretch my imagination to figure out how we might work together. They shared something clear and concrete to consider, something I can say yes to.

You might think you’re limiting your chances by being too specific. But look at this from the employer’s perspective. If I get a few letters each week from people who are offering to do “pretty much anything,” they’re all going to blur together. None of them will stand out. This approach is generic and warrants a generic rejection.

Now suppose I get a letter from someone offering to serve as my Logistics Coordinator for live events. They give me a list of things they can do. They build a good case for why they’re qualified to do this. Their resume shows some relevant work history. This makes it easier for me to imagine how I might fit this person into the company as a whole, making it more likely that I’ll follow up. If I don’t need to hire such a person just yet, then obviously I won’t hire them. But even in that situation, I’m likely to file their letter in case I need such a person down the road or if I decide to expand capacity in this area by bringing on a new person. And I may also follow up with something like, “Check back with me in 6 months. I may have something for you then.” At the very least, I’d be more likely to follow up with this person in some fashion.

If you’re too vague in specifying what you want to do, you’ll be passed over. Employers are too busy figuring out how to hire, train, and integrate people who actually do know what they want. They don’t have as much time to help you figure out what you want. Figuring it out is your job, not theirs.

Remember that most jobs are never advertised anywhere. You have the power to design and create your own position instead of merely responding to what’s being advertised. The advertised positions are generally much more rigid than what you can design for yourself, and they’ll also attract a lot more competition. When I ran my games business, I was able to find and hire everyone I needed without advertising any of the positions. I filled every position through my network of contacts.

If you have any difficulty grasping the importance of defining your own work position, and especially if you disagree with it, read How to Order.

5. Build your case to win.
Think like an attorney building a case as to why you should be hired. Make sure your case is a strong one.

When you’re seeking a rewarding long-term career, understand and accept that lots of other people are looking for the same thing. It’s a competitive situation, so you need to play to win. Being good isn’t enough. You need to be the best among the other applicants for your position.

In a criminal trial in the USA, the mantra is “innocent until proven guilty.” This means that you’re assumed to be innocent unless the prosecutor can prove your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Some people apply for work as if “employable until proven incompetent” is the mantra that applies. They provide pretty good cover letters and resumes, figuring that as long as they satisfy expectations and don’t screw something up, they have a reasonable chance of getting hired. They’re careful to avoid the obvious mistakes, and yet quite often they still lose. They lose to people who are willing to be unreasonable — unreasonably good, that is.

That’s because the mantra that applies in the world of work is closer to the standard in civil cases as opposed to criminal cases. In a civil case, the standard is “the preponderance of evidence.” This means that whichever side builds the best case wins, and the other side loses. One side may build a great case and still lose if the other side builds a slightly better case. This may not sound fair, but such are the vicissitudes of life.

Some people send me very good applications. However, a few surpassed the standard of very good. They provided something excellent — like a significantly longer letter explaining in detail how we might specifically work together. They didn’t merely offer up enthusiastic ramblings; they built a strong case for what we could accomplish together.

If you hold yourself to an unreasonable standard of going well beyond what most people do, then even if you don’t come out on top, you’re more likely to get a follow up. The employer might even add an extra position to accommodate you.

People with higher than normal standards are very valuable in the world of work. What employer would want to hire someone very good if they could hire someone outstanding?

Being too close to the average (even the good side of average) isn’t such a great idea if you want to be hired for a competitive position. You want to be at least one standard deviation beyond that. If you’re good-average, you’re still in the slush pile. It’s too easy for a more competitive candidate to knock you out of the running simply by trying harder.

If someone else could easily beat you by spending an extra half-hour on their cover letter, you’re probably going to be beaten.

If you claim certain skills, back them up with solid evidence. Explain how you developed skills that aren’t conveyed by your education and work history. Don’t claim general skills like being a hard worker or being well-organized unless you can back them up. Share a quick story to explain how you’ve applied these skills. Otherwise you’re doing what so many other people do, and someone else that includes such evidence will make you look like a second-rate applicant.

You don’t have to like the competitive aspect, but don’t ignore it either. If you’re going to compete, then compete to win; otherwise don’t bother.

6. Be professional.
Present yourself as a competent pro — or at least an amateur on the rise. Employers want to hire competent professionals with strong skills. It’s too risky to hire people who position themselves as emotionally immature and unprofessional.

I received several letters from people who:

complained about their previous employers
complained about their history, upbringing, current life situation, etc.
shared what types of work they’re sick and tired of doing
explained how under-appreciated and misunderstood they felt
told me how fed up they are with their unfulfilling lives
This sort of thing may seem honest and open, but it’s really unprofessional. If you do anything like the above, you’re positioning yourself as an emotionally immature man-child or woman-child, not a serious professional. In my view any such applicant is an easy no, instantly disqualified.

I sympathize that you may be looking to improve your life situation, and you may have had real problems with previous employers. Let’s give you the benefit of the doubt and say those problems were beyond your control. Even so, it’s unwise to position yourself as someone who needs rescuing. This doesn’t make you look like a quality hire. It makes you look irresponsible. A new employer can’t verify that your ex-boss was an idiot.

When an employer sees the above, they’re likely to assume:

If this person had conflicts with previous employers, they’ll probably have similar conflicts here.
If this person is willing to complain about their previous employers, they’ll eventually complain about me.
This person is unappreciative, ungrateful, and disloyal.
This person has an unreasonable sense of entitlement.
This person has a negative attitude.
This isn’t someone I’d want on my team.
Again, I sympathize if you really are in a rough spot, but it isn’t appropriate to vent your past resentments in a professional cover letter if you’re looking for serious work.

Put yourself in the employer’s shoes. When one applicant sends a letter complaining about their “poor me” situation, while another equally qualified applicant writes positively of how much they learned from previous employers and why they moved on without burning bridges, which person would you invite to join your team?

A potential employer isn’t your therapist. Put your best foot forward if you want to be hired. Do you want sympathy, or do you want to work?

7. Inject your personality.
Cover letters and resumes are typically very bland. It’s likely that your potential employer will be looking at several other applications at the same time. I’ve been going through them in stacks of 10-15 at a time.

If your communication style is just as bland as everyone else’s, it won’t help you stand out. But if you inject some originality and personality in your cover letter and resume, this can help you.

For one, it makes you more memorable. If your letter is more memorable, you have a better shot of getting a follow up.

Some of the letters I received expressed a lot of personality, such as a quirky sense of humor. I can’t speak for all employers, but I appreciate it when people do this, as long as they’re expressing positive aspects of their personality.

You take a bit more risk when you do this, but I think it’s a reasonable risk. I respect people who do this. It gives me a more realistic sense of what it would be like to work with you. If you express your geeky side, your humorous side, or your creative side, then I can more easily visualize you as a real member of the team as opposed to a faceless applicant.

A friendly tone is generally good, but don’t be so casual that you seem unprofessionally goofy. Make sure that each paragraph of your letter contains substance and value; cut the fluff.

Another thing you can do to personalize your cover letter or resume is to include a photo. Since most people don’t do it, it’s one more easy thing you can do to make yourself stand out from the crowd. Even a grayscale photo is nice. If you’re worried about discrimination based on how you look, then feel free to decline this suggestion, but keep in mind that if you do an in-person interview, your employer will eventually see what you look like anyway. If you show an employer what you look like, it’s easier for them to visualize working with you. I think this is a risk that should generally work in your favor.

If you can express some of your skills through your cover letter and resume, do that too. Follow the mantra “Show me; don’t tell me” when possible. If you claim to have strong design skills, make sure your resume reflects it. If you claim to be highly creative, but your cover letter and resume look very bland and typical, that’s a mismatch that can work against you.

On the other hand, I don’t recommend expressing aspects of your personality that could work against you. Try not to position yourself as someone dark and creepy who’d be difficult to work with in a team environment. For instance, don’t share your interest in collecting firearms unless it’s relevant to your work.

8. Don’t play the destiny card.
If an angel came to you in a dream and said you’re going to work for this company, or if you receive several synchronicities about applying for a certain position, please don’t put that in your cover letter. It may be exciting for you, but it can come off as immature and manipulative if you convey this to a potential employer.

One problem is that when you do this, it’s not unique. It won’t impress any but the most gullible employers. Most of the people who play the destiny card aren’t going to get hired. So when you claim that your application was divinely mandated, you’re actually triggering a “don’t hire me” pattern by grouping yourself with others who weren’t hired. This is more likely to hurt you than help you.

Another problem is that from an employer’s perspective, this sort of thing can come across as manipulative and border-line desperate. I’d like to believe that I have the free will to hire or not hire you according to your skills and qualifications. If you suggest that I’m supposed to hire you or that I’d be wrong, foolish, or mistaken to do otherwise, you’re going to trigger my B.S. detector. And I’ll drop your application into the recycle bin right along with the other divinely inspired ones.

If I happen to experience a major synchronicity with respect to hiring you, then great; by itself that wouldn’t be enough for me to say yes, but it might nudge me to take a second look. But your synchronicities are yours; they mean nothing to me. If you frame our potential working relationship as something that’s fated to happen, then I’ll provide you with a lesson in free will. Perhaps you were fated to apply and get rejected, so you can learn how to avoid this mistake in the future.

We may choose to work together, but we aren’t fated to do so. Don’t try to subvert a potential employer’s ability to decide. If you seek to be the best choice, then earn it without playing the destiny card.

9. Express your greatness.
Don’t position yourself as weak, timid, desperate, or needy. Do position yourself as an excellent choice in a competitive field.

What do you excel at? Why should an employer hire you instead of someone else?

Identify one or two qualities you possess that you’ve developed to a much greater degree than most people. Emphasize those qualities. Present them as strengths, and center your application around these strengths.

For example, if you believe you’re very creative, then send an application that you’d expect to be the most creative one an employer will see this year. Otherwise you’re just blowing smoke; your creativity claim is weak.

If you claim to be an excellent video editor, then why would you send a plain text cover letter? Send a video application, and make it shine. Or at least send a letter with a link to a video.

Share that which makes you stand out from the crowd. If you’ve won some awards, share that. If you’ve published some articles in your field, share that too.

If you can’t share anything that makes you seem different and better, someone else will. They’ll get hired. You’ll get ignored.

10. Apply for work that matches your skills and experience.
Don’t apply for work for which you aren’t qualified with a “what have I got to lose?” attitude. You’re just wasting people’s time.

Apply when there’s a strong match between the position and your skills, experience, and goals. Otherwise don’t apply at all.

One thing that’s actually impressive is when you share where else you’re applying to. If you send an employer a letter that you’re applying to them as well as 5 of their top competitors, they’re more likely to take notice of you. Some employers may want to hire you partly to keep you from joining their competitors, especially if you’re well qualified. This is particularly true in technical fields.

Even if you manage to get a job for which you’re a mismatch, it’s unlikely to work out in the long run. And while you’re stuck in that mismatched job, better opportunities will pass you by because you’ll be too busy to notice them. Meanwhile, you probably won’t be very productive in a job you don’t really want to be doing.

You’re responsible for your own career development. Don’t put the onus on potential employers to figure out who you are. No one else can give you a life purpose; you must figure that out for yourself.

If someone applies to work with me, but their education and work history shows a mismatch with what I can provide, I can’t really take them seriously. I’ll hold out for a more qualified applicant. I’d rather keep a position vacant than fill it with someone who’s a mismatch.

If you know that your resume won’t seem to be a good match for a new position for which you’re applying, you’d better explain that, and your explanation had better make sense. Otherwise it seems like you’re branching out in desperation because you couldn’t find work in your intended field. It also suggests that you don’t really know what you want, and you probably won’t be sticking around for long.

Decide what kind of work you’d like to do. Build your education and skills in that direction, whether through formal university education or self-education (both are equally valid in my view). Then apply for positions that match your current skills and which will help you continue your career development.

* * *

I don’t think anything above is particularly controversial if you simply consider the hiring situation from the employer’s point of view. This POV is important to consider because it’s the POV that decides whether or not you get hired.

You have the ability to create an amazing career for yourself, but only if you step up and do what it takes to make it a reality. Most people are unwilling to pay that price, and so they wallow in unsatisfying work. The price of fulfilling work may seem high, but it’s still affordable for those who accept that fulfilling work deserves a premium price.

This article assumes that you seek meaningful and fulfilling work — a consciously chosen career that challenges you as opposed to a cog-like job to pay the bills. You aren’t likely to find such career positions advertised anywhere; it’s up to you to define and create them. But if all you want is a job, there are plenty of frappuccinos in dire need of frapping

Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Writing a good "resume"

A very old school article on writing a good CV.
It is still amazing how little mistakes go unnoticed.

Eight things your resume needs

At some point in your career you’ll need a professional resume. If you hope to find a new job or a better job, a resume is a must-have if you want to land an interview. You should also have an updated resume at all times because you just never know when a great career opportunity will come your way and you don’t want to have to scramble to put together your resume.

Try these 8 tips for writing a professional resume:

1) Gather your information ahead of time

The toughest part of writing a resume is gathering all the information for it. If you do this ahead of time, when you’re ready to sit down and write the resume you can just use a template to fill in most of your information.

Make a list of your past employers, dates you were employed, positions you held with these companies, etc. Make a list of colleges, universities, and trade schools you've attended, the dates you attended, degrees earned, and major areas of study. Next, list all the work you have done (both paid work and volunteer) that relates to the job (or type of job) you wish to find. Next, list your job skills and qualifications.

Gathering all this information will also help determine the best resume style for you – a style that makes the most of your education, skills, and work background.



2) Choose the best format or style for your resume

There are several different formats or resume styles to choose from. The most popular is the chronological resume. However, if you have little or no previous experience, this style will not be the best style choice for you. Evaluate which resume style or format would put your particular experiences, education, and background in the best light.



3) Use a template

Once you've decided the best style or format to use for your resume, find a template for that particular style. That way, since you've already gathered your basic information, now you can start writing your resume by filling in the template with that information. Getting started is the toughest part of writing a resume. Once you get started, it won’t be difficult to finish writing the resume.



4) Avoid using “I”

Since a resume is all about you (or the person you’re writing the resume for), there’s no need to use the pronoun “I”, as in “I created lesson plans, taught classes, and graded papers.”  You don’t need to worry about using complete sentences either. Resumes are meant to be short and to-the-point. Use phrases like this: “Created lesson plans, taught classes, graded papers.”



5) Use plain, simple English

You’ll want to use plain, simple English in your resume. However, use words that give the reader a clear understanding of what you have accomplished in the past. Study sample resumes you can find online for the verbs and phrasing used to make an applicant’s background and qualifications really stand out. Use these types of verbs and phrases in your resume.

6) Use bulleted statements/points

Your resume should include plenty of white space, so it’s easy for prospective employers to read and tell at a glance if you have the background and experience they are looking for. Keep sentences and paragraphs short. Use bulleted points to emphasize key information. Just be sure the structure is parallel when using bulleted points.



8) Proof your resume one last time

Revise and then proof your resume one last time, making any necessary corrections or changes before sending it out to prospective employers. Even with the best education, experience, and other job skills, you won’t impress anyone if your resume includes typos or punctuation and grammatical mistakes.



To add it all up

Check off each item on this list before submitting your resume for review:

1. The resume includes all relevant contact information.

2. The resume is attractive and easy to read.

3. Key skills, training, and experience are highlighted.

4. The resume is free of spelling mistakes, general typos, and punctuation and grammatical errors.

Good luck with your application!

Sunday, March 2, 2014

How To Be The Employee Your Company Wants To Promote

Are great employee qualities disappearing in the workforce? If so, then you should quickly see if you can adopt some of these traits and make yourself competitive.

How To Be The Employee Your Company Wants To Promote

Don’t wait to start improving how you work! Some great employee qualities bosses appreciate include:

1. Self-Managed

Manage yourself by knowing your roles and responsibilities in your company. In addition, understand what it takes to go a step beyond what your current role entails. Know what makes you a competitive advantage to your boss. How do you improve yourself? Do you know your key strengths you can play up? Weaknesses you should seek to lessen via training or even self-learning?



2. Manages Up

Perhaps one of the more important great employee qualities is being able to manage your boss. That does not mean sucking up to him/her. It means knowing his/her likes and dislikes, and how he/she works. For example, if he/she likes to be updated via e-mail, he/she is perhaps a very visual based person. On the other hand, if he/she likes being updated verbally, he/she’s probably more auditory. Learn how to break bad news to him/her, prepare him for meetings, and the unexpected. You will soon become a key competitive advantage in his/her team.

3. Managerial

Even if you are in the lower rung, make sure you have a managerial attitude. This is one of the important employee qualities. Behave like a manager and see to it things are done the way they are supposed to be done. Manage expectations of everyone in the team, from the boss to colleagues and peers within the department. Stick to time lines, follow up with next steps after every meeting, and have progress reports ready even if they are informal ones like an e-mail.

4. Productive

Prioritize your work and manage your time well. Know when to do what. Do not procrastinate on work, especially when they involve cross department participation. Your delay will affect other people’s work. Great employees know how to manage their time well (even know how to manage their boss’s time well).

5. Goal-Oriented

Work with objectives in mind. What is the overall objective of the project? Everyone must contribute towards that goal. You must learn to get results and expect high performance of yourself. Do not just do enough to get by. This is one of the most important “great employee qualities.”

6. Driven

Great employees have the stamina to do outstanding work. They set the pace for others to follow. If you want to be great at what you do and be appreciated by the boss, look for ways to outdo yourself. Be the best you can be. Even if perfection is elusive, go out and get it.

7. Patient, But Hardworking

Have a “can do” attitude. Ever worked with someone who is always so negative? Do you catch yourself making the same mistake? Have a “can do” attitude. Have the courage and patience to work things out and figure things out even if it sounds very challenging. Bosses trust people who have a “can do” attitude in approaching work.

8. Detail-Focused

In everything you do, strive to be the best you can be. Take the initiative to ensure things are going right and make sure the details are tied down. Spend time doing what everyone else takes for granted.

9. Passionate

Peter Drucker, the management guru said, “Those who perform, love what they are doing.” They know each step, and that each detail builds on another and helps achieve the company objective (even if it means routine work). A boss can feel whether employees enjoy their work or otherwise. Someone who enjoys their work will naturally bring their best to work.

10. Positive

A great employee takes personal responsibility for everything they do. To be a great employee, you must contribute positively to the organization. Take initiatives, give suggestions, or even be the silent hero who solves challenges quietly. That is how a great employee works. They work to help achieve greater goals for the organization.

11. Social

Having great working relationships across departments and ranks is one of the important great employee qualities. It means you can get a lot more cooperation from the staff to help you get your work done. Your boss will have less people problems, too.

Do you have these great employee qualities? If you don’t, start to see which of these qualities you can adopt and start on first. It will help you move up the corporate ladder a little easier.



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